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Apple recently revealed the new MacBook, and it’s a jaw-dropper. Available in silver, gold, and space gray, the new machine features a full-width keyboard, a modern 12″ chassis, a new Force Touch trackpad and a glorious Retina screen How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] These days, people are crazy about the Apple Retina Display. Supposedly, it does wonders! A completely non-pixelated screen? Who would have ever thought?! However, many questions loom the supposedly revolutionary technological advancement. Is it really... Read More while being lighter than an 11″ MacBook Air.

But it also has only a single port. Was this a blunder? Or a sign of the future?

USB-C

Interestingly, the port that Apple chose to include on the MacBook is USB-C What Is USB Type-C? What Is USB Type-C? Ah, the USB plug. It is as ubiquitous now as it is notorious for never being able to be plugged in right the first time. Read More , the most recent iteration of the venerable connection technology. Before the new MacBook, Macs (and pretty much everything else) came with USB-A ports. These are the ones you’re used to; rectangular, and a pain in the ass to figure out if they’re right side up.

USB-C is reversible, a monumental step up from the directional ports of yesterday.

macbook-port

And it’ll also bring an increase in performance: faster charging, faster data transfer, and bi-directional power, meaning that the same port that’s used to charge your MacBook can also be used to charge other things from your MacBook battery. It’s also smaller than previous USB connectors.

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But still, using it for a single port? What was Apple thinking?

A Well-Planned Move

It turns out that Apple had done a lot of thinking about this particular change to the MacBook lineup. And, in contrast to many of their previous hardware changes (the Lightning cable 7 Great Lightning Cables To Charge Your iPhone Or iPad 7 Great Lightning Cables To Charge Your iPhone Or iPad One of the most common problems faced by iPhone and iPad owners is a frayed and unusable Lightning connector. Surely there must be tougher, more ruggedized aftermarket options available? Read More , for example), this is a move away from proprietary technology, a very rare thing for Apple.

Moving away from MagSafe and Lightning technology is a great thing for consumers, as more developers will be able to develop technologies that will work with Apple products without worrying about using Apple-specific gear.

macbook-gold-2

So USB-C is a good idea, both for Apple and consumers. But what about dropping all of the other ports? Surely that can’t be good for anyone? Well, the answer is slightly complicated. First, we’ll look at Apple. What does Apple want you to connect your MacBook to? An iPhone, an iPad, and Apple TV, all things that support wireless communication, either via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or AirPlay.

Their peripherals are largely the same — Apple’s wireless keyboards and mice work seamlessly with Apple computers, and look good doing it, too. As technology improves, Apple displays will likely support AirPlay soon, further obviating the need for a cable.

Whether or not you think the move to a single USB port is good for consumers depends largely on what you do with your computer. The MacBook looks a lot more like an iteration of the Air than the Pro, meaning that its highest priority is portability and battery life Calibrate & Maintain Your MacBook Battery For Best Performance Calibrate & Maintain Your MacBook Battery For Best Performance If you correctly calibrate and maintain your MacBook battery, it's possible to improve performance and put off replacing it for as long as possible. Read More . It’s listed as an impressively scant 2.03 lbs., lighter than the 11″ Air.

 

So what will users be losing? Professional photographers and designers are probably using desktop Macs or MacBook Pros, not Airs, for the increased processing power, memory, and storage.

SD cards 3 Cool Ways To Use SD Memory Cards 3 Cool Ways To Use SD Memory Cards SD memory cards are one of the most common forms of mobile storage, but they also tend to be very specific in their purpose. On their own, these cards tend to be less useful than... Read More are primarily used for cameras—and casual photographers are increasingly using their phones 10 More Tips & Apps For Better iPhone Photography & Videography 10 More Tips & Apps For Better iPhone Photography & Videography There are no shortage of tips and applications when it comes to iPhone photography and videography. In this article I would like to share tips for quick shooting paparazzi style, backing up your Instagram photos,... Read More , which means iCloud or Dropbox is even easier than an SD card port. Ethernet cables have almost completely disappeared over the past few years. HDMI has been replaced by AirPlay and streaming sticks. Thunderbolt is cool Why Apple's New Thunderbolt Port Is Awesome [Technology Explained] Why Apple's New Thunderbolt Port Is Awesome [Technology Explained] I/O ports aren’t a technology that folks spend a lot of time thinking about. Let’s face it – they’re not sexy. Still, ports are important. As the interface between your computer and everything else, your... Read More , but not that many people used it in the first place.

In fact, the only time that I use both USB ports on my MacBook Air is when I’m charging something, which could just as easily be accomplished from a wall outlet in 90% of cases.

Suddenly, a single-port laptop doesn’t sound so crazy.

A Potentially Difficult Transition

That being said, there are going to be plenty of difficulties for users of the new MacBook. First of all, USB-C isn’t a very common technology yet — though Apple’s adoption of it is sure to catapult it to the top of most manufacturers’ priority lists.

Until then, everyone will need an adapter; Apple sells one that lets you plug in a USB-C cable, a standard USB cable, and HDMI into the port at once, which significantly increases the flexibility of the port. It’s expensive, at $80, and still only gives you a single standard USB port, though other adapters will become more common.

apple-usb-c-adapter

Another potential difficulty is found in the battery life of the MacBook. While a 13″ MacBook Air is rated as up to 12 hours of wireless web browsing, the MacBook is only estimated at nine hours. And while that’s plenty of time, you can be sure that if you have two or three Bluetooth or AirPlay devices connected to your computer, that’s going to drain the battery fast.

This means you’ll want it plugged in most of the time, which occupies the port. This could cause problems for the road warriors it seems targeted at.

The Future

Apple doesn’t make changes this big to its products without a lot of planning and foresight, and the examples that I’ve set out above make it fairly clear that the future lies in laptops with fewer ports. But still, a single port?

The new Chromebook Pixel incorporates USB-C, but it has two of those ports, as well as two standard USB ports, and an SD card slot, though it doesn’t have the svelte lines of the MacBook.

macbook-gold

All in all, it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing a steady decrease in the number of ports on laptops. Though they won’t be completely going away anytime soon—you can still get a MacBook Pro, which weighs in at 3.5 lbs (1.6 KG) for the Retina version Is The New Retina MacBook Pro For You? [Opinion] Is The New Retina MacBook Pro For You? [Opinion] When Apple announced the MacBook Pro with Retina display a few weeks ago, I was pretty sure it would end up being my next laptop. I’ve waited a long time to upgrade and after being... Read More , and have all the ports you want. This is likely what many people will opt for in the near future, especially if they use a lot of peripherals.

But don’t underestimate the trend-creating power of a new MacBook — the fact that Apple is committing itself 100% to USB-C and wireless technologies could very well be an industry driver to this configuration within the next few years.

What do you think of the new MacBook? Will you be upgrading to it anytime soon? How do you feel about being limited to a single port? Share your thoughts below!

  1. Leo Iannelli
    August 31, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Moving away from MagSafe is a very, very, very, very, very, very bad thing (for me).

    • Dann Albright
      September 2, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Why's that?

      • David Fear
        July 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm

        If you trip over a magsafe cable, then 99% of the time no damage will be done to the macbook, magsafe port or the charger. If you trip over the charger cable of most laptops then there is a very high chance that damage may be done to either the laptop, the power socket or the charger.

        • Dann Albright
          August 11, 2016 at 2:43 pm

          You know, that's what I thought too, but the last few times I've seen a MagSafe cable get kicked, the charger has come out of the wall and the MacBook has at least slid a few inches. It seems to me like MagSafe isn't quite as good as it could be. Obviously it's safer than a standard cable, but I think the degree to which it provides protection is a bit overstated. Obviously it's better to have a safer cable, but I think the commenter above overstates its usefulness. Also, there's always the option to not buy the newest Mac for this reason; but if the benefits outweigh the potential risks, it'll be worth it!

  2. Heyap P. LeBlome
    April 22, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I have personally already been using this magical One USB process on my custom 13" macbook air for the last year! then again, this is only because someting fried on my logic card and only the right sides usb 3.0 port works. and i had a family member work in engineering and corporate coverups and he couldnt even get it replaced for anything less that the bullhonkey $789 certified repair cost, i even had apple care(the mac itself with its upgraded specs cost $800). i personally use my mac to program arduinos, and other embedded processor boards, and this has made my work incredibly hindered.

  3. Daekar
    March 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Basically, this design is an admission that most people who buy products from the cheaper end of Apple's lineup don't really do much with them. This is low-capability hardware in a high-cost pretty wrapper, and the Apple faithful who don't care about the value proposition relative to other brands are completely fine with that - it's the hardware they actually need with the logo they want to maintain their social status. That's fine, and that market has made Apple billions.

    It doesn't make the MacBook a capable product, but they never pretended it was. It's simply a well-targeted "meh" product with an emphasis on form over function and a price that guarantees excellent hardware profit margins.

    The masses will not and were not intended to buy these things - it's Apple's core market of middle and upper class customers who need a machine for the basics and like a thick coat of brand prestige layered on top of their electronics.

    • Dann Albright
      April 1, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      That's an interesting way of looking at it. In my experience, the MacBook does provide good performance on basic tasks, and decent performance on higher-load things, like running statistics. It's not great for heavier stuff, but it handles the rest just fine. As I'm looking to do more photo editing in the future, I'm looking at a MacBook Pro, which seems to be targeted a bit more toward people who need the extra power.

      Thanks for the insightful and interesting comment!

  4. Doc
    March 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    "And it’ll also bring an increase in performance: faster charging, faster data transfer, and bi-directional power..."

    Sorry, the Macbook's port is "USB 3.0" (5Gbps) rather than the full 10Gbps, according to Ars Technica's review. A lot better than USB 2.0, but still not "state of the art."

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:32 am

      Ah, thanks for pointing that out. That's too bad. Though a quick search online suggests that's nothing new; a lot of 3.0 devices aren't maxing out the 3.0 speeds. Though getting significantly faster than 2.0 is still a bonus. I'd say it certainly qualifies as an increase in performance!

  5. Hildegerd
    March 29, 2015 at 8:20 am

    This article reads advertisement. Do not like.

  6. Chuck Kahn
    March 28, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Can I connect a USB 3.0 drive to the USB-C port and get USB 3.0 speeds?

    • Dann Albright
      April 1, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      I'm not exactly sure, but from what I've read, it sounds like you won't be able to get top-tier 3.0 speeds, as the 3.0 ports don't always deliver them anyway. If I find any more information on this, I'll let you know!

  7. likefunbutnot
    March 28, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I'm still fairly annoyed that I have to use a Thunderbolt adapter to make my MBP moderately useful for anything besides web browsing and remote desktop sessions.

    My company has a mixture of PCs and Macs. We already have an investment in Thunderbolt hardware for the Macs. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if one of the first devices that comes in the door after someone gets the brilliant idea to buy one of the slow new Macbooks is a USB-C to Thunderbolt adapter.

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:28 am

      A USB-C to Thunderbolt adapter is already in the works, I'm sure. And I can see how a company would be annoyed by Apple's constant switching between technologies. As I've mentioned in a couple comments above, though, I think USB-C will be used across a wide range of devices, and it'll make for very versatile cords and connections.

      That said, yes, switching will definitely not be fun. Or cheap.

  8. dragonmouth
    March 28, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Let's not forget that Firewire was also an Apple "innovation." How far has that gone?

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:27 am

      I think I've used a FireWire cable maybe five or six times in my life. That didn't go so well for Apple. I really think this one will, though—people are pretty excited about the new USB tech. Faster, reversible, smaller, and it looks like it will be supported by a lot of devices. It could bomb . . . but I'm confident that this one will be a good one!

  9. Goofy
    March 28, 2015 at 11:16 am

    " a pain in the ass to figure out if they’re right side up"
    Ehhhmmm... Or you could just use your eyes? 50/50. And if you get it wrong you just turn it over.
    Don't get me wrong. The new one is better, but do we have to use such a strong language for a minor thing that is not even a problem? If we REALLY feel pain and IRRITATION then I think it's time for the shrink.

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:24 am

      Being a sufferer of chronic major depression, and having been helped through some extremely tough times by a therapist, I'm insulted by your ignorance around "shrinks." But since this is a tech blog, I'll leave that alone for the moment.

      You're right, I could use my eyes to look at the end USB cord. If I'm using my laptop in a well-lighted place. I'm often not. And yes, if you get it wrong, you just turn it over. That works about 95% of the time. But this has been a criticism of USB for years; and with other technologies moving to reversible, it's reasonable to expect that USB would, too, which is why a number of people are happy about the new plug. Even The Guardian was saying that the new Type C would end "trying and failing to plug in USB connectors the right way up first time round."

      So while you may be fine looking at your USB cord or re-trying to plug it in, a lot of people around the world are pretty stoked that they don't have to do it anymore.

      • Rich Rector
        October 16, 2015 at 2:17 am

        On most laptops the USB-A ports are configured so that the two little holes on the connector are 'deep' and facing up. So I have pretty good luck plugging in the ports on the laptop. But on my desktop the ports are arranged vertically and there's no good way to guess which way they go. Worse, they are kind of misaligned so it's not easy to plug in the cable anyway. So yes, totally agree it's a pain in the ass.

        The magnetic power connection is by far the most irritating connector on my laptop. The magnets attract little bits of metal, the connection itself is super fussy requiring almost perfect alignment to work. I've left my laptop plugged in over night, reach down to pick it up, and when the plug disconnects the power dies because it wasn't really charging that whole time. And the plug at times is so hot that it will scald you.

        I'd buy the new mac laptop SOLELY because it has a reasonable power connector. Wireless on everything else is fine.

        • Dann Albright
          October 20, 2015 at 11:07 pm

          Interesting! I've never had problems with my magnetic connector—though I don't work in a place where there are little pieces of metal around to get stuck to it. I'm really curious about the new connector; the MagSafe one has definitely saved my laptop from a few crashes to the floor, and I'd be a little nervous about giving that up.

  10. Christopher
    March 28, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Great. MakeUseOf is censoring my comments now.

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:17 am

      We have an automated spam filter on our comments—if your comment gets flagged by the filter, it goes into moderation. If it's approved by our comments moderator, it'll get posted.

  11. DBC
    March 28, 2015 at 3:12 am

    Actually, Photographers do use lap tops, as in tethered, location, and on the road, one port is pretty stupid, good design should not create problems!

    • JonGl
      March 28, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I think if you are a photographer, you should probably be using a higher res retina display anyway, and a larger screen, but yeah, this would be tempting except for the USB port issue. :-)

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:16 am

      Photographers certainly use laptops, but I would imagine that they either have a dock and a larger monitor at home or an entire desktop for editing. But I'm sure there are some out there with only a laptop . . . even so, the lack of an SD card slot and USB-A on this particular laptop will likely cause problems for them.

  12. Christopher
    March 27, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    This is bad news. I'll not be purchasing a $1300 computer that won't let me use a USB stick while charging it without some stupid dongle. This is the same move Google made when they designed the Nexus 7 without an SD slot. They're just wanting everybody to store everything in their cloud.

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:14 am

      You're not alone in thinking this way. While I use the USB port on my computer every once in a while, I use the SD card slot quite often to lessen the sting of my 128 GB SSD. That's not much space, and having a 24 GB card to put things on is really helpful. Things are moving to the cloud, but you're right—it does feel like the companies are pushing a little hard.

  13. RFausto
    March 27, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I guess Apple has to do it slowly... Lots of devices and peripherals aren't using USB-C yet.

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:13 am

      You're right—but I think they could have done it even a bit more slowly. Including one USB-C port and a USB-A may have been a better way to go. People would have been motivated to use the USB-C because of the increased performance—or at least I think they would. I don't think it'll take too long for people to switch to USB-C. It sounds like a big improvement.

  14. Jon
    March 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Just adding at least ONE more USB-C port would greatly lessen the sting of having to have an adapter to use any of our existing Lighting and USB 2/3 peripherals. At least that that point I could have power while plugged in.

    My rMBP constantly has at least one thing plugged into it. I suppose I'm just not the market for this unit.

    • Silverlokk
      March 28, 2015 at 5:07 am

      I'd also like to see more USB-C devices that are daisy-chainable. That was the promise of the previous USB iterations, but I've seen only keyboards with USB ports.

      Then I wouldn't mind a single USB-C port as much

    • likefunbutnot
      March 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      @Silverlokk,

      That is factually incorrect. USB has always been designed as a hub and spoke configuration. Firewire was intended to be daisy chained. Modern-day Apple would very much like everyone to forget that Firewire ever existed.

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Jon, I completely agree. I can't imagine that it would have been that hard to include a second port—but maybe I'm wrong. And it's possible that Apple is trying really hard to push everything to Bluetooth and wi-fi connections. I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing reviews of this laptop and finding out how other people find it!

  15. JonGl
    March 27, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Apple's dongle is awkwardly shaped to be too useful. I can well imagine someone coming along with something much sleeker, and more of an "in-line" shape, which will be much more useful--and with solely USB ports on it, maybe--even better if solely USB-C, (as that would take minimal space. I can well imagine that USB-C devices will start coming quickly enough. For now, we may need to use awkwardly large dongles for things like monitors and legacy devices, but as soon as one can get cables that have USB-C at one end, and the older ports at the other, and monitors with USB-C, a small inline device/dongle like my mind envisions would be absolutely useful and cool. I don't think the single port bothers me at all, to be honest. (also, it would be interesting if someone made a thing that you can plug the current power cord into, and that has just one USB-C female and one male, so you can get power, and also use one USB-C port for running everything else off of--another short-term solution.) I have some cool mental images of how some of these things would look like, and I'm sure that real companies are already working on these things...

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 6:10 am

      I agree—while Apple's adapter is big and ugly, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there working to make a better one (probably including Apple themselves). I like the idea of a single adapter that lets you power your MacBook while still plugging something else in. I think that's crucial for success; while I don't usually have things plugged into my own computer, I know a lot of people who do, so it seems like a no-brainer to me. Thanks for your comment!

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