No, Apple did not switch to USB-C on its new MacBook Pros to profit from dongle & adapter sales

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited December 2016
Apple's full embrace of USB-C has led to numerous user complaints,?many of which are legitimate. However, there's one common refrain that keeps cropping up: A conspiracy theory claiming Apple switched to USB-C in order to make gobs of cash from selling users new adapters, dongles and cables. There's just one problem with that narrative -- it's complete nonsense. Here's why.




tl;dr: Think Apple's USB-C cables and adapters are a user-hostile profit scheme? Buy cheaper alternatives on Amazon and shut up.

There are plenty of reasons to gripe about Apple switching to USB-C, just as there are justifiable reasons to be upset about the headphone jack being eliminated from the iPhone 7.

The existing full-size USB port has been around for many years, meaning virtually any user is going to run into problems connecting any of their accessories (including an out-of-the-box iPhone) to their Mac. The switch to USB-C is, at the very least, a minor inconvenience for the vast majority of users.

And so the fact that people are upset about the new MacBook Pro going all USB-C is not surprising. But why people are upset is another matter entirely.

Apple did not create USB-C

The USB-C connector was created by the USB Implementers Forum, a nonprofit organization that has overseen the Universal Serial Bus since 1995.

While Apple is a member of the USB-IF, it isn't even a part of the organization's top-level brass. Instead, the USB-IF Board of Directors is comprised of personnel from companies like HP, Intel, Microsoft, and chipmaker STMicroelectronics.




USB-C is an open standard, meaning any electronics maker can use it. Within a few years, virtually every new computer sold will feature USB-C, whether exclusively or in tandem with full-size USB-A ports.

Apple has played a major role in establishing new connectors for computers in the past. It partnered with Intel to help create Thunderbolt, and previously the company spearheaded the creation of FireWire, and both of them are open standards.
Within a few years, virtually every new computer sold will feature USB-C.
There is some speculation that Apple again played a significant part in the development of USB-C. It's been suggested that Apple has not been vocal about its part in the creation of USB-C because the company wants the port to be embraced across the computer industry, and the suggestion that it's an "Apple port" might inhibit adoption.

Regardless of how accurate those characterizations may be, USB-C was approved by an independent, nonprofit governing board that has no vested interest in the success of Apple's Mac lineup.

The reasons for Apple -- or any computer maker --?to push USB-C so strongly are clear. It's a thin and reversible port that can handle power, data and video on a single cable.

Once USB-C adoption is near universal, the painful switch from USB-A will be quickly forgotten. Until that happens, however, some early adopters may find themselves in dongle hell. Here again, user complaints are largely misguided.

Apple does not profit from USB-C

What's the profit margin gonna be on all the Thunderbolt/USB-C dongles Apple puts out for the new MacBook Pro?

-- Samit Sarkar (@SamitSarkar)


Yes, Apple sells a handful of USB-C cables and adapters. Yes, they are generally more expensive than some of the other options available.

Apple's own cables and accessories have always been more expensive than the competition. And so have its products.

But because USB-C is an open standard, there are a plethora of inexpensive USB-C cable, dongle and hub options available. A quick search on Amazon shows plenty of well-reviewed off-brand cables for under $10, and known name-brand cables for around $15.

If Apple truly sought to "lock in" users to its own manufactured or licensed cables and ports, it would have designed an entirely new port to compete with USB-C.




If Apple's new MacBook Pros came with an array of Lightning ports rather than USB-C, suggestions that Apple is only interested in milking more money out of their users would carry some weight. But we don't live in that alternate universe.

Still, seeing a potential public relations nightmare as the angry Twitter mob sharpened their pitchforks, Apple slashed prices on USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 accessories this fall. The temporary discounts will last through the end of March 2017.

The outrage over the fact that Apple would make money off of its products and accessories is a strange one (Apple is a publicly traded company whose main purpose is to sell products and make money). And with a relatively tiny portion of the overall PC market, it's not like computer users have a lack of alternatives to the Mac.

Regardless, perhaps the best evidence that the switch to USB-C is not about Apple selling cables or adapters comes from the 12-inch MacBook power brick --?a truly proprietary USB-C accessory that customers must buy through Apple (at least if they want to ensure their MacBook does not burst into flames with a cheap knockoff).

The 29-watt USB-C power adapter that ships with the 12-inch MacBook can be purchased separately for $49. And if you prefer to use Apple's USB-C charge cable, it costs $19, bringing the total cost of replacement to $68.




In contrast, the 45-watt MagSafe 2 Power Adapter for the MacBook Air -- the computer the 12-inch MacBook has superseded --?cost $79, or $11 more. And since the MagSafe cable is permanently attached to the power brick, if the cable frays (which it frequently does), you'll need to pony up the full $79 to replace it.

Since the USB-C brick for all new MacBooks features a removable, replaceable cable, any fraying would require a more affordable $19 replacement. And that cost would be even less if you used a third-party USB-C cable.

It turns out that switching to USB-C made the power brick on your MacBook easier and -- most notably in the case of the 12-inch MacBook --?more affordable to replace.

Apple does not ship the iPhone with a USB-C cable

This is another valid complaint with a complicated answer. If you want to connect your iPhone to a new Mac, you either need a USB-C to USB-A adapter, or an Apple Lightning to USB-C cable, both of which are sold separately.

While only Apple can officially say why the company does not ship the new iPhone 7 with a USB-C to Lightning cable, the numbers speak for themselves.

Apple's best quarter ever for the Mac was the September 2015 frame, when the company sold 5.7 million computers. In contrast, projections call for the iPhone to sell nearly fourteen times that --?reaching nearly 80 million units --?in the current holiday quarter.

Simply put, the number of people buying iPhones vastly outnumbers the number of customers who purchase new Macs.




Switching to USB-C on the Mac, while admittedly painful for many users, is a simpler change to make, because Apple sells far fewer Macs than it does iPhones.

If Apple were to switch the default cable and wall adapter in the iPhone box to a Lightning to USB-C cable, users would be outraged, because they wouldn't be able to use the cable with their existing computers, wall adapters, car adapters and other accessories that rely on the full-size USB port. The outcry from such a change would be far louder than current complaints about USB-C on the latest MacBooks.

It's for similar reasons that Apple can't switch from Lightning to USB-C on the iPhone or iPad themselves -- an entire ecosystem has been built up around iOS devices, of which Apple will sell nearly 100 million this quarter. Lightning may very well prove to be the last input port on Apple's iOS devices, before it is replaced by wireless connectivity and contact charging and accessories, like the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro.

Consider that the last time Apple switched ports on the iPhone, from 30-pin to Lightning, user outrage lasted for years. Though that transition took place with the debut of the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was reminded of how annoyed users were by the switch by comedian Stephen Colbert, in an appearance on The Late Show three years later, in 2015.

"It's the same charger, right?" Colbert asked Cook about the then-flagship iPhone 6s. "Because I will stab you in the neck with a fondue fork right now."
stevehty@icloudnocreatorbluemacguiRayz2016Deelron
«134567

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 125
    Had apple shipped a usb C cable with the iPhone, these same people will say that they now need an adapter to connected to usb A only computers.

    Also, apple is not the only seller of adapters, ya know.
    common sense will tell you as much,, but I have seen many people who simply never think.
    EG, mac rumors.
    ty@icloudandrewj5790mwhitewatto_cobranetmageDeelronjbdragon
  • Reply 2 of 125
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    johnbearMplsPdws-2razormaidnubuselijahgpulseimagesneo-tech
  • Reply 3 of 125
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 2,741member
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    This might sound really stupid to you (and others), but packaging? Apple is all about putting things in the smallest box possible and making it look pretty. That cable would have made the box larger. This means they'd need a larger box which means they can't ship as many from China. I wouldn't be surprised if this is exactly why they didn't ship the extension cable with the 12" MacBook and new MacBook Pros. That cable would not fit in the box it ships in and they don't want to ship a larger box. 
    Ironheaddm3
  • Reply 4 of 125
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    Apple hasn't said, but if I had to guess, it's probably to avoid user confusion. USB-C and Lightning are similar sizes and shapes. I could see casual users, unfamiliar with USB-C, at best being confused by the cable, and at worst trying to forcibly insert the USB-C end into their iPhone. Presumably Apple will wait until USB-C adoption is more commonplace before pulling the trigger for the iOS lineup.

    I could also see Apple switching the iPad Pro lineup to USB-C cables in the box first, but waiting another year or two on the iPhone. I already use a USB-C to Lightning cable with the 29-watt 12" MacBook power brick with my 12.9" iPad Pro, because the USB 3.1 charging is *significantly* faster than with the in-the-box power adapter. Ideally, the 2017 iPad refresh would include that 29-watt power adapter in the box, because the standard charging times for the large iPad are unacceptable.
    pscooter63ty@icloudpulseimagesStrangeDaysration alnetmageDeelron
  • Reply 5 of 125
    "Simply put, the number of people buying iPhones vastly outnumbers the number of customers who purchase new Macs"

    Why didn't they just throw on in each laptop box, not with each iPhone?
    freethinkingspaceraysnetmage
  • Reply 6 of 125
    AI_lias said:
    "Simply put, the number of people buying iPhones vastly outnumbers the number of customers who purchase new Macs"

    Why didn't they just throw on in each laptop box, not with each iPhone?
    I like this idea, actually.

    When testing USB-C-based MacBooks, I never ran into a problem connecting my iPhone, because the truth is I just don't typically connect my iPhone to my MacBook. I charge through a dock, and syncing to iCloud is wireless. Everybody's use case is different, of course.
    Deelron
  • Reply 7 of 125
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    Again, the numbers. A high percentage of people will use the headphone jack adapter while ONLY MacBook and 2016 MacBook Pro users would care to use such an adapter (probably in the single digit millions). It's pointless. 
    stompyty@icloudStrangeDayswatto_cobranetmageDeelronbb-15welshdog
  • Reply 8 of 125
    AI_lias said:
    "Simply put, the number of people buying iPhones vastly outnumbers the number of customers who purchase new Macs"

    Why didn't they just throw on in each laptop box, not with each iPhone?
    This is a better answer than putting one in everybiphone box, I think. 
    elijahgpscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 125
    nhughes said:
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    Apple hasn't said, but if I had to guess, it's probably to avoid user confusion. USB-C and Lightning are similar sizes and shapes. I could see casual users, unfamiliar with USB-C, at best being confused by the cable, and at worst trying to forcibly insert the USB-C end into their iPhone. Presumably Apple will wait until USB-C adoption is more commonplace before pulling the trigger for the iOS lineup.

    I could also see Apple switching the iPad Pro lineup to USB-C cables in the box first, but waiting another year or two on the iPhone. I already use a USB-C to Lightning cable with the 29-watt 12" MacBook power brick with my 12.9" iPad Pro, because the USB 3.1 charging is *significantly* faster than with the in-the-box power adapter. Ideally, the 2017 iPad refresh would include that 29-watt power adapter in the box, because the standard charging times for the large iPad are unacceptable.
    Yes it's absolutely unacceptable that the 12.9 inch iPad Pro ships with a 12 W adapter. I bought the 29 w adapter along with a Lightning to USB-C cable because I couldn't deal with the charging times. Unacceptable this isn't included in the box considering how expensive this stuff is. Apple leaders say they're all about UX and customer sat but these are the kind of things that piss people off and make them think Apple is nickel and diming them.
    elijahgavon b7Ironhead
  • Reply 10 of 125
    croprcropr Posts: 550member
    The move to USB-C is the right move, so I don't mind that the new Macbooks have a USB-C ports.  But the devil is in the details, and the details are not right. 
    • I have 3 different offices and the number of dongles I have to carry in my professional life as an iOS app developer is ridiculously high (5 for the moment). At least once a month I forget one of my dongles.  When will Apple realize that 1 dongle is an light inconvenience, 2 is a inconvenience, 3 is painful and more is a REAL PITA.  Dongles are not the solution, they are the problem.
    • The fact that in a 2 months time you release an iPhone 7 and an MBP that cannot communicate without an extra cable is disrespectful for the iOS developer (and I could have used another word).  Apparently Apple has lost the global vision it was known for in the Steve Jobs era, where all its products worked seamlessly together. Now products are developed independently from each other, a strategy some software company from Redmond is famous for.  


    elijahgIronheadspaceraysnetmageneo-techbb-15
  • Reply 11 of 125
    nhughes said:
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    Apple hasn't said, but if I had to guess, it's probably to avoid user confusion. USB-C and Lightning are similar sizes and shapes. I could see casual users, unfamiliar with USB-C, at best being confused by the cable, and at worst trying to forcibly insert the USB-C end into their iPhone. Presumably Apple will wait until USB-C adoption is more commonplace before pulling the trigger for the iOS lineup.

    I could also see Apple switching the iPad Pro lineup to USB-C cables in the box first, but waiting another year or two on the iPhone. I already use a USB-C to Lightning cable with the 29-watt 12" MacBook power brick with my 12.9" iPad Pro, because the USB 3.1 charging is *significantly* faster than with the in-the-box power adapter. Ideally, the 2017 iPad refresh would include that 29-watt power adapter in the box, because the standard charging times for the large iPad are unacceptable.
    Yes it's absolutely unacceptable that the 12.9 inch iPad Pro ships with a 12 W adapter. I bought the 29 w adapter along with a Lightning to USB-C cable because I couldn't deal with the charging times. Unacceptable this isn't included in the box considering how expensive this stuff is. Apple leaders say they're all about UX and customer sat but these are the kind of things that piss people off and make them think Apple is nickel and diming them.
    Even weirder that Apple doesn't push or even really acknowledge the faster charging capabilities of the 12.9" iPad Pro. The average consumer has no idea this is possible — they're just annoyed by how long it takes to juice their iPad.
    elijahgavon b7Ironheadration al
  • Reply 12 of 125
    cropr said:
    The move to USB-C is the right move, so I don't mind that the new Macbooks have a USB-C ports.  But the devil is in the details, and the details are not right. 
    • I have 3 different offices and the number of dongles I have to carry in my professional life as an iOS app developer is ridiculously high (5 for the moment). At least once a month I forget one of my dongles.  When will Apple realize that 1 dongle is an light inconvenience, 2 is a inconvenience, 3 is painful and more is a REAL PITA.  Dongles are not the solution, they are the problem.
    • The fact that in a 2 months time you release an iPhone 7 and an MBP that cannot communicate without an extra cable is disrespectful for the iOS developer (and I could have used another word).  Apparently Apple has lost the global vision it was known for in the Steve Jobs era, where all its products worked seamlessly together. Now products are developed independently from each other, a strategy some software company from Redmond is famous for.  


    If you have 3 offices.  Why not buy 3 dongles?  That would sold the problem of you having to carry around a bunch of dongles.  Or even better.. just buy a dock for each office.  That way you can still use your older devices.. with your newer devices.  I kid you not.. I have 4 (yes four) MagSafe chargers for my 2015 MacBook.  2 of them were left over from previous MacBooks and use the MagSafe2 adapter.  One I bought on my own.  And one was included with the 2015 MacBook.  Why do I have 4 Magsafe chargers?  Because I use my MacBook in 4 different places any given day of the week.  One in the bedroom, One in the basement office, One by the living room couch and the final one is at work.  And carrying a charger to different places in the house on a daily basis gets real old, real quick.

    While I agree it would be nice for them to include dongles in the box.  At the end of the day all of these consumer electronics are luxuries.  And as with any other luxury.. you have to pay to play.  If you can pay $1000 for a brand new iPhone7.. then surely you can pay $19 for a Lightning or USB-C cable.  Want a brand new shiny device?  Then be prepared to pay the asking price of being on the bleeding edge of technology.


    edited December 2016 apple jockeystompynetmageDeelronjbdragonbb-15
  • Reply 13 of 125
    Of course Apple didn't discard the other ways to connect  peripheral devices to the MacBook itself. Dongles are really a  Midstep between a new way to connect all of your devices together. 

    Apple has a MacBook dock they are working on.   But nobody wants to talk about that new technology yet.  most likely, it's built into the MacBook in based on Intel technology if they were really smart when they read what I said in the email addressed to Tim Cook  about why I cannot access the three USB ports on my laptop in a virtual machine but I can only Use one of them in macOS. 

    This might be a very difficult item for most people to understand, however I am Malcolm Tucker.   You could read about in a published book, watch me watch me in a movie, or see me in a popular television show in Britain.

    that is all.
    apple jockeyIronhead
  • Reply 14 of 125
    satchmosatchmo Posts: 2,699member
    Given people have different connection needs, one solution would have to include a voucher to claim a USB-C to "x" adapter inside each box. 
    Printing out a voucher (heck, make it an online PDF), is cheaper than including an adapter someone might not even need or use.
    netmage
  • Reply 15 of 125
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 118member
    Peter Schiller said in an interview that "in 5 years USB C will be the standard." I don't doubt this is true and no one disputes these benefits. But what is also true is that for the past 20 years and more importantly, today, USB A is the standard. At a recent trip to the Apple Store, I found exactly USB C devices that weren't dongles, and one of these was a dual USB A/C flash drive. Even Apple itself isn't embracing the future it supposedly espouses. As others have said, there is no reason they couldn't have included a combination of USB C and USB A ports. What apple did is was completely forsake usability in the present for it's vision of the future. (I also find it a bit ironic that his timeframe of USB C becoming standard is beyond that average laptop lifespan)

    A laptop is intrinsically a computer with compromises, but you make those compromises for convenience (size, portability, etc.) Not including USB A ports significantly compromises the convenience and usability of the device for at least the next 1-2 years. To voluntarily design a laptop to make it more inconvenient is just moronic. But at least they have courage. 
    edited December 2016 nubusurchin11Ironheadnetmagetwa440
  • Reply 16 of 125
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 3,656member
    MplsP said:
    A laptop is intrinsically a computer with compromises, but you make those compromises for convenience (size, portability, etc.) Not including USB A ports significantly compromises the convenience and usability of the device for at least the next 1-2 years. To voluntarily design a laptop to make it more inconvenient is just moronic. But at least they have courage. 
    USB ports themselves are becoming obsolete (up to a point) for most people.  Most printers are WiFi/AirPrint capable, cloud storage, AirDrop, AirPlay, etc... what the heck is left for people to require a USB port for other than docks, Thunderbolt devices, external monitors, etc..

    I don't know many people that plug anything into their USB ports anymore.  Sure, there are exceptions... quite a few, including me, but the reality is if people here are complaining about USB-A to USBc, seriously... cry me a river.
    designrchiapscooter63StrangeDaysRayz2016netmage
  • Reply 17 of 125
    MplsP said:
    Peter Schiller said in an interview that "in 5 years USB C will be the standard." I don't doubt this is true and no one disputes these benefits.

    I'll actually be a little surprised if it takes even 5 years. I predict that in as little as 2-3 years the greater need will be for the reverse dongle (to attach USB-C devices to older computers people have) while all new computers (and devices) are shipping with USB-C as the primary port.

    Ultimately this dongle-whining seems nutty to me. I'm considering a new MBP myself. Started to investigate what dongles or cables I need to replace. So far I've arrived at two: A new cable ($29) from laptop to external monitor (USB-C to DisplayPort) because I'm not ready to replace the monitor and something like this USB-C to USB-A adapter: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015Z7XE0A

    Total cost: $40.

    Inconvenience? Minor.
    chianetmageDeelron
  • Reply 18 of 125
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,875member
    nhughes said:
    AI_lias said:
    "Simply put, the number of people buying iPhones vastly outnumbers the number of customers who purchase new Macs"

    Why didn't they just throw on in each laptop box, not with each iPhone?
    I like this idea, actually.

    When testing USB-C-based MacBooks, I never ran into a problem connecting my iPhone, because the truth is I just don't typically connect my iPhone to my MacBook. I charge through a dock, and syncing to iCloud is wireless. Everybody's use case is different, of course.
    I'm not a fan of the included adapter. While this is unarguably the least wasteful adapter they could have supplied, if they did it for USB-C-to-USB-A then people would bitch about it not including other adapter they also want. It's $9 so it's a not big deal.

    That said, I've argued that Apple could potentially increase their MB and MBP sales and help spread good will about the transition and an falsely assumed nickle-and-diming by offering a set timeframe for new buyers to switch out Apple cables with USB-A for cables with USB-C for certain products that are registered to their name. Since we know they keep a good records of this, it's not a big deal. Switching out the PSU is more costly, but that would be nice, too, but chances are people have a lot of Lightning-to-USB-A cables, so having that extra Lightning-to-USB-C cable to keep with in your bag to charging via the Mac would help ease some tension and reluctance.

    Still, it's a short term issue and they can't sell these Macs fast enough so it's probably not a big deal to Apple. USB-A worked out for them with the original iMac so I do believe Apple knows what they're doing.

    PS: I'd love for Apple to stop including PSUs with their iPhones. They didn't include one with the AirPods, which is nice, but for that I would have preferred they also didn't include a Lightning cable.
    edited December 2016 macguianome
  • Reply 19 of 125
    macxpress said:
    Is there a reason Apple didn't ship a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box? We got a headphone jack adapter in the iPhone 7 box. What's the difference?
    This might sound really stupid to you (and others), but packaging? Apple is all about putting things in the smallest box possible and making it look pretty. That cable would have made the box larger. This means they'd need a larger box which means they can't ship as many from China. I wouldn't be surprised if this is exactly why they didn't ship the extension cable with the 12" MacBook and new MacBook Pros. That cable would not fit in the box it ships in and they don't want to ship a larger box. 
    have you seen the size of the box Apple Watches ship in? total waste. 

  • Reply 20 of 125
    ...for me the Apple dongles have been pretty impressive, with the one exception being the lack of DisplayPort support in the TB3>TB2 adapter... 4 out of 4 Apple employees I spoke to assumed that should work, and I understand it is supposed to be part of the TB3 spec...

    Hopefully this is 'in the works' (software/firmware) and any insight into this would be most welcome...!

    The other wish is for target display support for all retina iMacs, which from what I understand (bandwidth limitations) may be possible with an MST (multi stream ie. 2x TB2>TB3) connection - again hopefully in the works (?) - that for me might get back to 'it just works'...

    Such also has me asking if 5K is really worth the apparent plethora of issues, vs 4K which seems surprisingly, pleasantly + mostly ubiquitously supported on older macs...? I haven't had the 5K pleasure, so again I would simply ask the question...
Sign In or Register to comment.