29 October 2016
Since the Apple event, I’ve read a lot of complaints about the inability to sync Apple’s flagship phone to its flagship laptop, the iPhone 7 and a new MacBook Pro, without buying adaptors. In summary, the iPhone ships with a Lightning to USB Type-A cable which is obviously incompatible with the USB-C only MacBook Pro.
First off, this is not a new predicament. Apple has been shipping USB-C only laptops for almost two years, since the 12-inch MacBook’s debut. Apple is yet to bundle a USB-C Lightning cable with any iOS device. Internally, Apple would have already been mulling the issue for a while (longer if you account for the behind-the-scenes product development period).
Two iPhones have launched since the first USB-C MacBook and the company hasn’t changed what’s included in the box. They’ve obviously made a decision not to and I wouldn’t expect anything to change until the next iPhone; I really doubt Apple would mix up the accessories mid-cycle.
I don’t think Apple is wrong either. The vast majority of iPhones sold today are received by people who have no computer at all, a Windows machine, or an existing Mac. In other words, owners of computers that don’t have USB-C ports. Changing the cable to USB-C is a trade-off to satiate the early adopter MacBook crowd and annoy everyone else. The most sensible choice is to keep the USB-A as is. Apple’s new MacBooks come at a time of transitions and this is why they sell the 2015 models still. If you desperately require old-style USB ports, you can buy a Mac laptop with them. It’s not an ideal situation but it is available.
Unlike the early years of iOS, the operating system is sophisticated enough such that syncing to a computer is not a requirement. In an imaginary world where adaptors and dongles didn’t exist, you could still use an iPhone 7 and a MacBook pretty damn well. Moreover, saying the iPhone can’t be synced to the new Mac is simply not true. You can sync over WiFi ever since iOS 5. As Apple forges fearlessly into the wireless world, “just don’t use the cable” is the easiest retort to the dissent. It’s a pretty good answer too, I always use WiFi to sync and backup to iTunes. The wired cable is for charging at a power outlet.
Syncing to iTunes is hardly a thing anymore, regardless of connection type. Services like iCloud and Apple Music have supplanted the need for an iOS device to be symbiotically linked to a specific PC.
It’s not ideal being caught in a chasm between two standards but I don’t think it’s terrible and I don’t think it’s a sign of Apple’s dire incompetence, as some have made it out to be on Twitter. I would classify it as awkward and a little irritating.