Apple has reduced the variety and number of ports on its devices over the last few years, and a side effect is we now live in dongle hell.Image: LIli Sams/MashableBy Stan Schroeder2018-03-14 18:42:33 UTC
It’s 2018, and the No. 1 issue I have with the multitude of Apple products I own is not how fast they work or how well they’re built: it’s the fact that they all come with the wrong connectors.
This seemed like a temporary problem, or one that could get fixed by throwing money at new peripherals, accessories, and yes, more dongles. But it didn’t — it just keeps getting worse.
Here’s a sample of what I’m dealing with. My iPhone X doesn’t have a headphone jack, and I keep forgetting the tiny Lightning-to-3.5mm-audio-connector dongle that came with it. Theoretically, everything should be wireless by now, but it’s not. Yes, I have a pair of wireless headphones, but my best headphones are a wire-only model. In fact, I constantly deal with gadgets that don’t support the Lightning connector or any sort of wireless connection. My old Denon receiver. My 2008 Ford Focus. A pair of old Logitech speakers in a homemade gym that I share with some friends.
In the end, I “fixed” this problem by constantly carrying an Android phone with a headphone jack, stocked up with music. Guess I’m a two-phones guy now.
The situation is worse with my 2017 Touch Bar MacBook Pro. It’s connected to two external monitors, an external hard drive, a card reader, a keyboard and a mouse (because, yes, I prefer wired mice to wireless mice) via an absolute mess of two hubs and a multitude of various dongles and adapters.
I knew this would happen — I wrote about it a little over a year ago — but the situation is way worse than I anticipated. I just didn’t expect I’d need so many accessories that aren’t USB-C in my daily life. In addition to all of the above, I currently have an old Epson laser printer, a Blue Yeti mic and a bunch of USB sticks (USB-A, of course).
Guess how many USB-C accessories I own, or use daily? None.
It’s not just a matter of owning all these dongles and cables (though I did pay a pretty penny for them). This situation is making my user experience a lot worse. Whenever I connect a USB stick into one of the hubs, all of my screens go black for a second. Lights flicker. Some of the connected gadgets inevitably disconnect. After a few seconds, it typically all gets back to normal, but it feels like it’s now just a matter of time before I lose work due to a crash of some sort.
Apple isn’t completely to blame. Even if the MacBook Pro had nine ports (remember when Apple laptops actually did come with that many ports?), there would still be the occasional gadget that just doesn’t fit. But having just two types of connectors (four USB-C connectors and one headphone jack… God have mercy on anyone with the the MacBook Pro variant that only has two USB-C ports) is making this problem so much worse.
This is especially true on business trips. I’ve gazed longingly at ethernet cables while trying to make a crappy Wi-Fi connection work. I’ve politely declined USB-A sticks and instead scribbled my email on paper, hoping a company rep would remember to send me a press release. Yes, I have a pretty versatile adapter (this one by Satechi is the best option I’ve found) but no adapter covers every possible situation. Especially when it stays in your other bag.
The dongle hell issue isn’t new; it’s been around since the first new-gen MacBook and the first headphone jack-less iPhone, the iPhone 7. But that’s precisely why I want to draw attention to this: It hasn’t gotten any better. An issue that was present a couple of years ago is painfully present now. I’m not beating a dead horse. The dead horse is beating me.
The infamous dongle that has come with every iPhone since the iPhone 7.Image: Raymond Wong/MashableI can’t really do anything about it. I could go and pay thousands of dollars for new monitors with USB-C connectors, but little would change — I’d still need at least one hub for a card reader and some of the gadgets that I use and that simply don’t exist with a USB-C cable. Well, alright: My desk would be a tiny bit tidier.
I’m well aware that the chances of Apple bringing a card reader or a USB-A port to its next MacBook Pro, or the headphone jack to the next iPhone X, are slim to none. But it would still be the right move. The bright future where every gadget has a USB-C connector is years away. Other manufacturers, like Huawei and Samsung, have laptops and phones that are thinner than Apple’s and have a better variety of ports. These companies are (still) giving their customers the options they need. It’d be cool if Apple did that, too.