Tag Archives: macbook

USB-C vs. the headphone jack

I have no problems with USB-C on the new MacBook Pro. It will be a small headache at the beginning, for sure. But because it’s a standard there’s no long-term compatibility risk the way there is with removing the 3.5mm headphone jack.

More on that below. First, Marco Arment doesn’t think using USB-C exclusively is very practical in a pro laptop:

A pro laptop released today should definitely have USB-C ports — mostly USB-C ports, even — but it should also have at least one USB-A port.

John Gruber responds that Apple’s strategy is to speed up adoption:

They design for the future, and in doing so, they bring the future here faster. In the alternate universe where the new MacBook Pros ship with one USB-A port, the transition to ubiquitous USB-C peripherals and cables will happen at least a little slower.

I agree with that. But then he closes with this:

I’m not saying Marco is wrong. I’m just saying Apple’s not wrong either. It’s the same trade-off with the iPhone 7 headphone jack.

I don’t think it’s the same at all. It’s a convenient narrative to group together both the migration away from USB-A and the one away from 3.5mm headphones. There are important differences, though.

USB-C is a standard that is already used in many devices from different vendors. It will become universal. The immediate replacement for the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7 is the Lightning EarPods which come in the box. Lightning is a proprietary cable that will never be used in non-Apple phones, and in fact is not even used on Macs.

You can argue that more and more people will use Bluetooth headphones, but I doubt they will be as common as wired headphones for many years, and there’s no guarantee that an all-wireless future will ever arrive. There is a very clear migration from USB-A to USB-C. The move to Lightning headphones and Bluetooth is much more complicated and not directly comparable.

MacBook Air and Europe trip

The MacBook Air is the first Apple product to come along in years that I don’t want to buy. It looks great, the multi-touch trackpad is cool and unexpected, and I like Remote Disk. But it’s just not significantly different than a MacBook to me, and I don’t travel enough to make the thinness or weight really matter. To “upgrade” from a regular MacBook to an Air just seems wasteful.

The “new Apple” has been doing a great job of eliminating duplicates in their product line (only one tower, only one of each size of iPod). If the Air had an 11-inch or 12-inch screen it would be a much easier sell because it becomes clear why the product exists: buy this if you want something small.

For two months in 1999, my wife and I travelled through Europe with only a backpack each and a PowerBook 520c to share between us. That machine was very small (just a 9.5-inch screen), yet she did contract work for Apple on it and I coded and released new versions of Mac software, dialed up to the net via modem from hotel rooms and hostels in the days before wi-fi. It was much heavier than an Air but for traveling light it was still a great choice.

It feels like Apple missed an opportunity at Macworld yesterday. I’m not particularly disappointed, though, since I wasn’t one of those hoping for a sub-notebook.