USB-C in 12-Inch MacBook Adds Limitations but Opens Up Possibilities

Apple's newest MacBook is one of the first computers to take advantage of the USB Type-C specification, which was finalized in August of 2014. USB-C uses a small reversible connector that's similar in size to a Lightning connector, but slightly larger.

In addition to delivering power to the Apple MacBook (it's capable of delivering up to 100 watts at 20 volts), USB-C has a DisplayPort alternate mode for connecting monitors, cables, docking stations, and more, plus it supports USB 3.1 data transfers up to 5GBps (Apple is using Gen 1 USB 3.1) and it also has support for VGA and HDMI connections. It's able to deliver bi-directional power, meaning it lets the MacBook be charged and through the same port, it lets the MacBook charge other devices.

usbtypecports
USB-C is an upgrade from USB-A, the standard USB ports that many of us are used to on our computers, and USB-B. USB-B is used by many of us in portable devices that take advantage of micro-USB, but it is also commonly found in peripherals like printers. In addition to its impressive data and power transfer rates, USB-C has the benefit of being easy to plug into devices, like the Lightning cable.

Apple's adoption of USB-C might seem like something of an annoyance because it requires users to buy expensive adapters and adjust to an all new connection, but it's actually a huge step forward for the company that opens up the possibility of a whole range of new Apple-compatible accessories and devices.

retinamacbookusbcport
USB-C is the first non-proprietary charging system that Apple has introduced. MacBooks use MagSafe and iOS devices use Lightning connectors, both of which were designed by Apple, giving Apple strict control over how they're used.

Apple lets product developers incorporate Lightning connectors and ports through its MFi (Made for iPhone) certification program, but the company does not have a MagSafe licensing program and has not allowed hardware manufacturers to create products that use the MagSafe connection in MacBooks.

This forces manufacturers who create items like MacBook backup batteries to use the actual connectors from Apple's AC adapters, grafted onto their products. Apple has not looked kindly on this practice in the past, and has levied a lawsuit against at least one company using this method to create hardware for the MacBook.

usbtypecretinamacbook
With the USB-C port in the MacBook, Apple will not have control over the products that are developed for it, paving the way for a whole range of accessories that were not possible before, like backup batteries.

The future of USB-C is bright, but for early adopters, the USB-C experience might be somewhat frustrating because the notebook has a single USB-C port. Apple sells adapters, but the adapters only include one USB-C port, meaning it's not going to be possible for MacBook buyers to charge their devices and use a product like LaCie's new USB-C Porsche Design Mobile Drive at the same time using a USB-C port.

USB-C adapter

One of Apple's new USB-C adapters

Presumably manufacturers are already at work creating hubs that will include multiple USB-C ports for use with the myriad products that are going to use the new specification, but currently, someone wanting to use a USB-C storage drive would have to decide between charging and accessing data or using the older USB-A port for data transfers.

USB-C is a brand new technology, but with Apple embracing it, it won't be long before we see tons of companies racing to produce USB-C compatible products. Apple will also undoubtedly spur its competitors to adopt the standard as well. It may not be long before we're able to charge a whole range of our devices with a single cable, ending the days of having to carry around MagSafe chargers, USB cables, Micro-USB cables, Lightning cables, and more.

Tag: USB-C

Top Rated Comments

Goldfrapp Avatar
78 months ago
I guess in the future, Apple will "reinvent" their laptops once again by getting rid of the stupid dongles and having all the necessary ports back on-board.
Score: 100 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vander Avatar
78 months ago
The macbook should have had two USB-c ports not one!
Score: 85 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macnerd93 Avatar
78 months ago
An interesting concept, but there needs to be at least two or three ports on the device.
Score: 65 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nagromme Avatar
78 months ago
I think we can all agree that cordless computing is the future, but for some people it's not the right choice at present.

Therefore: Apple should NEVER have included this machine in their lineup. The best way to reach the future is to embrace the past--forever! If anyone wants the future now, there should NOT be an option for them.

Apple was wrong to ditch floppy drives. They were wrong to make optical drives an external option. They were wrong when they first made USB standard while the rest of the industry was still embracing serial ports.

Now they are wrong to think people will be willing to use a laptop without a power cord attached. We MUST have a power cord, we MUST never change to a better USB port, and we MUST have multiple corded devices hanging off the smallest portable model.

Please, Apple, give us something like the old MacBook Air. Put a new processor in that, instead! The FUTURE is NEVER!
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sualpine Avatar
78 months ago
A note to the nay-sayers: Calling something too soon just means that YOU aren't ready for it. That doesn't mean others aren't ready for it.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tgwaste Avatar
78 months ago
I said it once, ill say it again. Its not the port that bothers me, its the fact that the adapter doesn't come with the laptop. At $1300 to START there is no reason what-so-ever (except pure greed) that it doesn't. That thing cost $2 to make.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
iphone 12 pro display video

BOE Rumored to Supply iPhone 13 Display Panels After iPhone 12 Failures

Monday February 22, 2021 9:54 am PST by
Display manufacturer BOE will be one of the main suppliers of OLED panels for iPhone 13 models, according to a new report today from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. BOE is said to be working with touch panel manufacturer General Interface Solution (GIS), part of the Hon Hai Group to develop OLED panels. Multiple iPhone 12 rumors suggested that BOE would supply some panels for the devices,...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...
iPad Pro Mini LED

New iPad Pro and MacBook Models With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Taiwanese company Ennostar will begin production of Mini-LED backlight units for an upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the late first quarter or second quarter of this year, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. Ennostar is a holding company that was jointly established in January 2021 by LED-related manufacturers Epistar and Lextar Electronics. Apple is expected to unveil the new ...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
steam apple logo

Valve Ordered to Give Apple Information on 436 Steam Games As Part of Epic Games Legal Case

Thursday February 25, 2021 1:50 am PST by
Valve, the makers behind popular game distribution platform Steam, will be forced to hand over aggregate historical sales, price, and other information on 436 games hosted on the store to Apple, as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case. As reported in a paywalled report by Law360, during a virtual discovery hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that...
scott forstall original iphone

Epic Games 'Attempting to Locate' Former iOS Chief Scott Forstall to Testify in Ongoing Legal Battle with Apple

Tuesday February 23, 2021 4:22 am PST by
As part of its ongoing legal battle, Epic Games is now seeking testimony from Apple's former iOS software chief, Scott Forstall. Forstall left Apple in 2013, in what was widely reported at the time to have been a forced exit, largely because of the botched early launch of Apple Maps. Since then, Forstall has kept a very low profile and has only made a few media appearances in the past few...