Is it worth living the dongle life for the new MacBook Pro and iPhone 7?

First Apple killed the headphone jack, followed by the USB and SD card ports. Apple product launches are always A Big Deal, but the releases of the new iPhone 7 and long-awaited MacBook Pro this fall were the subjects of even more attention than usual, not because of what they offered, but because of what they did not.

Apple at this point is well-known for eliminating widely used standards in favor of lesser-known but more advanced ones, sometimes to the chagrin of its customers. There’s a whole list of examples here. In many cases, the reasoning is the same: removing the standard means the company can make stuff that’s smaller, lighter, and consumes less power. But when Apple removed the DVD drive, it didn’t recommend people carry around a portable DVD player. And when it killed the 30-pin, only one adapter was required. The most recent changes all but guarantee you’ll need more than one adapter at some point.

Needless to say, people aren’t happy about the idea of buying and carrying around more stuff at a time in our consumer tech history when the promise of “simplicity” has reached hyperbolic levels. And people are right to be unhappy about this. They’re right to dig their heels in and hold off on upgrading.

But here’s the thing: I’ve determined that dongles actually aren’t something to make a snap judgement on. You have to live with them for awhile in order to see how well they work, how well they fit into your tech life, and how often you’re going to lose them.

The little dongle that comes with iPhone 7 so you can use your old wired headphones? Way too easy to lose. I’ve already made one trip to the Apple Store for more. (I still haven’t upgraded from the iPhone 6S, for what it’s worth, using an iPhone 7 loaner for testing instead.) But a set of dongles that you leave in the same spot on your desk, where you set your laptop up almost every day? Not as much of a hassle as I’d thought it would be. I will absolutely feel differently when I’m traveling and want to get photos off of my SD card and don’t have the right dongle, but in a stable environment, I haven’t been debilitated by the lack of ports.

Really, the cost of all these extra dongles might be the most offensive thing about the new products. Well, that and the new MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 and still doesn’t have a processor that’s based on the latest chip architecture. Progress, it seems, will have to come in increments, not definitive strides.

Video by Tyler Pina and Vjeran Pavic.


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