Apple Has A Dongle Problem!
Apple has a dongle problem. The MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPhone, and iPad use just two types of ports. Remember 30-pin? Now we have Lightning. Remember USB-A? That's gone too. And, of course, there's the headphone jack. Unless you're using the Mac Mini or an iMac, if you wanna connect something that isn't USB-C or Lightning, you're out of luck. Enter the dongle.
In 2018, the best-selling Apple products at Best Buy were AirPods and the Lightning-to-3.5 mm dongle. Both of these products exist because Apple got rid of the headphone jack. Here's the problem with dongles. They'll never be as simple or as effortless as just having the port in the first place, and Apple's dongles can be really expensive. If you want to connect any of Apple's laptops to an HDMI monitor, you need to spend $50 on an adapter, and dongles like this $70 multiport adapter add unnecessary bulk to the devices that are supposed to be thin and portable. Apple still ships the iPhone with a USB-A to Lightning cable. But if you wanna connect your Apple iPhone to your Apple laptop, you have to buy a dongle. And there's always a chance that you might lose that $20 USB-C to Lightning cable you just bought. It's one more thing you need to carry around or forget at home.
If you're thinking that you can find cheaper dongles on Amazon, you're right. Apple's first-party dongles are notorious for being more expensive than third-party options. But not all adapters are created equal. Cheaper dongles might not work as well as premium options, and many people like the confidence of buying their accessories directly from Apple. Once you've spent a ton of money and amass a collection of Lightning and Thunderbolt 3 dongles, you're locked into the Apple ecosystem even more.
But why do we have this horrible dongle issue in the first place? In 2016, Apple released the iPhone 7 without a headphone jack. It only had the Lightning port. Most people weren't ready for this, so Apple bundled a dongle in the box. But with the iPhone XS and XR, they've stopped including that dongle. If you buy a brand-new iPhone, you have to spend more money to be able to use your wired headphones. And if you do want to use wired headphones, you can't charge your phone and listen to music at the same time. Unless, of course, you buy a bulky dongle, and that costs $40, by the way.
And yes, Bluetooth is always an option. But Bluetooth isn't perfect. Bluetooth headphones are usually more expensive compared to wired earbuds, and the pairing process can be frustrating if you're using your headphones with multiple devices. Unless you're willing to pay a premium for something like AirPods, Bluetooth just isn't as seamless as wired headphones.
But it's not just Apple. Many companies have followed suit and gotten rid of the headphone jack or even USB-A ports on their laptops, but Apple made the switch very abruptly. They got rid of things like the SD card reader, which a lot of people still use for importing photos or videos. And yes, Thunderbolt 3 does have a huge bandwidth and tons of features, but a lot of devices still use other ports. Most monitors are HDMI and devices like mice, card readers, and hard drives still use USB-A ports. Not every laptop owner needs all of these ports, but for each one you do need, you have to buy a dongle or an adapter. If you wanted to use your new MacBook for everything you did with your old one, you would need to spend $158 to get your ports back. And if you don't buy all the dongles, your old accessories are now obsolete.
Apple has created an ecosystem where you have to pay more to add back in functionality. But there is a good side to all these dongles. It's good to have the option to connect to older devices. Apple's DVI or FireWire dongles can be really useful if you need to connect to older displays or hard drives. But no one wants to spend more money on dongles after buying an expensive device. Apple has always pushed devices forward to the next generation of ports.
One day, all devices might use USB-C. But we're not there yet. And it's caused a lot of fragmentation over the last few years. Apple needs to come up with a better option for users, like bundling multiple cables with a device. One day, we'll be able to put our dongles in a drawer with all our other outdated cables, not wanting to throw them out just in case we need them someday.
Phil Schiller: Well, the reason to move on, I'm gonna give you three of them. But it really comes down to one word. Courage.