Apple is rumored to be preparing a refreshed MacBook Pro—if not for WWDC next week, then hopefully sometime this year—and even though these new models are expected to be thinner and lighter thanks to USB-C, not everyone’s excited.
USB-C has been touted as a new standard for connecting accessories and peripherals, but compatibility across the board is still hit-or-miss. And Apple putting only one USB-C port on the refreshed 2015 and 2016 MacBook models has caused headaches for Mac users. So much so that 9to5Mac even issued a public service announcement to warn us about how the “USB-C landscape as far as accessories and compatibility with your Mac is an absolute mess.”
First of all, the final specs for USB-C weren’t even finalized until after the 2015 MacBook came out, so any accessories that were released then may not meet the final standard. Apple updated its own accessories for the 2016 MacBook launch, and it even had to recall and replace some faulty USB-C cables.
But not all accessory makers have generous warranties and replacement programs, nor can they upgrade the firmware on their earlier products, so it’s possible that USB-C accessories you purchased before 2016 won’t work with the most recent MacBooks.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple also changed USB-C power protocols with the 2016 MacBook to require at least 18W battery packs, so the 5W to 12W packs that could be used with the 2015 won’t work either. We’ll follow up with more testing soon.
Why this matters: If you thought that owning a new MacBook meant that you could simply pick up any USB-C accessory, think again. This messy compatibility really dampers the idea that USB-C is the new gold standard for computer accessories. Hopefully, if Apple does refresh the MacBook Pro this year, USB-C will be one of the option but not be the only choice. Until accessory makers can get a handle on USB-C’s final specs and create products that can get firmware upgrades, Apple’s new MacBook Pro is better left with the standard suite of ports—including USB-C—that can handle more than just one type of compatibility.
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Computers and Peripherals
Oscar writes about iOS, mobile culture and digital music. He also hosts 'The iPhone Show' from Macworld's San Francisco HQ.