Tag Archive for ‘USB-C’

Anker PowerPort III Charging Bricks ➝

Marius Masalar:

At my desk, I’ve been able to replace two of Apple’s standard 29w charging bricks with Anker’s new PowerPort III alternative, freeing up an outlet slot.

Though it’s only slightly larger, Anker’s charger provides more than twice the power output and can balance charging between both connected devices. If there’s only a single device connected, it can take advantage of the full 60w to really speed up charging—a 13” MacBook Pro can be fully recharged in just over two hours.

This charger also has another trick up its sleeve: interchangeable plugs.

I received this charger as a gift for Christmas and it’s quite nice. Having a single unit that can power a couple of devices is really handy, especially with both ports being USB-C — my cable connector of choice. And although I don’t have any immediate travel plans in the future, the ability to switch plug types will be clutch when Automattic starts having meetups again.

I don’t have any experience with the 20w model that Marius mentions in the piece, but I expect it’s great too.

➝ Source: mariusmasalar.me

Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim ➝

This has become the default charger for my 2018 MacBook Air, replacing the PowerPort Atom PD 1 I was using previously. The Atom III Slim is incredibly compact, matches the power output if the Air’s included charger, and looks quite slick. I wish that the USB-C port was pointed away from the wall when plugged in, instead of being adjacent to it, but the foldable plugs more than make up for that.

➝ Source: anker.com

The iPad Pro

iPad Pro

I’ve been waiting for a new iPad release since last fall. The iPad Air 2 that I’ve been using as my primary computer since early 2015 was starting show its age. Bluetooth was becoming less reliable, the system itself felt sluggish, and battery life was getting pretty poor. It had served me well over the past five years, but I was very happy to retire it in favor of the newly released iPad Pro.

The announcement of the iPad Pro wasn’t exactly a surprise, it had been rumored for a few months at least. But with the state of the world at the moment, it wasn’t obvious exactly when or how Apple was going to actually end up announcing it. When I first saw the press release, I glanced through the product pages to get a feel for what it offered and then immediately placed my order.

I ended up with the 11-inch, 128GB, WiFi-only, space gray model. I haven’t spent more than 30 minutes with one of the larger, 12.9-inch Pros, but that was enough for me to know for sure that it wasn’t the right size for me. The vast majority of the time I’m using my iPad, it’s lounging out on the couch and I think the 12.9-inch size is better suited for iPad users that spend most of their time at a desk. Or perhaps artists that want a bit more canvas to work with. Given how I planned to use the iPad, the 11-inch was a natural choice for me.

As for the decision to go with the WiFi-only model. While I travel a few times each year for work, at the moment I don’t even plan to bring my iPad with me on these trips. I’m so busy doing my standard day-to-day tasks, working on in-person projects, and socializing in real life with my distributed teammates that I don’t really have time to use the iPad.

On my last work trip I brought my work laptop, iPad, iPhone, and Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo Switch never got powered on and I only ended up taking my iPad out once or twice. But I could have done everything from my iPhone, so I’ll be leaving my iPad at home from now on.

If that changes, though, tethering with my iPhone works just fine for connectivity when WiFi isn’t available. It’s not as slick as having the cellular networking built-in, but it doesn’t cost me a cent more to use and, in my experience, offers great speeds and reliability.

I was very happy to learn that Apple increased the base storage for the iPad Pro. The iPad Air 2 that I was coming from had 64GB of storage, which has been fine. But for the sake of future-proofing, having a bit of extra breathing room is a nice touch. I mean, I used the Air 2 for five years and I expect I’ll use this new iPad Pro for roughly the same amount of time. 64GB might be fine today, but I can’t say for certain that will be the case in 2025.

When the iPad actually arrived on March 25, the most striking difference between it and my previous iPad Air 2 was the lack of home button. I went through that transition on the iPhone side of things this past fall when I upgraded my iPhone 8 to an iPhone 11 Pro. So far, it has been smooth sailing. It only took me a day or two before using an iPad with a home button felt foreign to me.

I miss Touch ID quite a bit, though. It was relatively slow on my iPad Air 2, but it almost always worked. I keep my iPad in landscape mode and it was very comfortable to rest my right thumb on the home button whenever I unlocked the device. But on the iPad Pro, my left hand tends to obstruct the Face ID system. iPadOS notifies me with a handy little indicator, but it’s such a pain.

Do most iPad users actually use their device in portrait orientation? I suspect not and that means that the majority of iPad Pro users end up running into this “Camera covered” notice several times each day. I hope Apple eventually makes the switch to thinking about the iPad as a landscape-first device — rotating the logo on the back and moving the front-facing camera to one of the longer edges.

I’ve really enjoyed the Pro’s 11-inch display, when compared to the 9.7-inch display of the Air 2. It’s such a cozy size. The entire device is barely larger than the iPad Air 2, but still features this stunning display. Watching YouTube videos, viewing photos, and typing with the on-screen keyboard are a much better experience when you have more surface area to utilize. I haven’t found the increased refresh rate of the ProMotion display to be too impressive, though. I just don’t see the difference in normal use. Perhaps my eyes aren’t capable of perceiving that type of improvement.

Speaking of the on-screen keyboard, though. It was jarring at first to have those additional keys on the virtual keyboard. I found myself miss-typing because I’d sort-of lose myself on screen. It only took a day or two before it felt okay to me, but it was a weird couple of days. But I sure wish they didn’t include a caps lock key. I still haven’t hit that thing on purpose and in the extremely rare circumstances where I want it, isn’t double-tapping the shift key good enough?

The overall hardware aesthetics of the iPad Pro have been a pleasant change when compared to the iPad Air 2. I wasn’t too sure about the flat edges, with my primary concern being that it would be difficult to pick up off of a flat surface. But its no more difficult to pick up than the iPad Air 2 was. The benefit, though, is that its significantly easier to adjust the volume on the Pro because the buttons aren’t hidden from the front by the curvature of the device.

The camera bump is less than ideal. When laid flat, the device sits off-kilter and it has a bit of a wobble when tapping near the adjacent corners. But I’m very glad to have an improved camera available to me in this device. It isn’t quite as good as my iPhone 11 Pro — no telephoto lens — but it is close enough in most circumstances.

With a little one in the house, I take a lot of pictures now. And prior to the iPad Pro, I would have to reach for my iPhone whenever I wanted to take a photo. With the improved camera system, though, I can quickly take a snapshot regardless of what device I’m using and know that I’m going to get good results. This hasn’t occurred too frequently, but the peace of mind is worth it. Josh is only going to be a baby once and I don’t want to miss capturing any of these precious moments because my iPhone wasn’t within reach.

I’m ecstatic to have another device in my life that features USB-C. It lets me use the same power adapter with my iPad Pro as I do with my MacBook Air and means that most accessories I purchase for either can be utilized on both. This brings a couple of thoughts to the forefront, though:

  • When is the iPhone going USB-C? I love Lightning, but I’m ready to move on and hope my iPhone 11 Pro is the last iOS device I own that uses an Apple-specific connector.
  • Why aren’t there any power adapters that have more than two USB-C ports? I want the cables that I use to charge my devices to also be able to connect those devices to my iPad or MacBook Air. I’m not interested in power adapters that offer a mixture of USB-C and USB-A — I want to go all-in on USB-C.

And on the topic of connecting devices, Sidecar has become one of my favorite iPadOS features. It wasn’t available on my iPad Air 2, so I’ve only had the opportunity to use it with my iPad Pro. Over the past week, there have been numerous occasions where I’ve connected my iPad via Sidecar and threw Slack or a second browser window on my iPad. It’s just so darn handy to get a little bit of extra screen real estate when you need it.

But getting back to using the iPad directly, this thing is a screamer. It was a little disappointing to learn that the A12Z offered next to no improvements when compared to the previous iPad Pro’s chip, but most people that buy the new iPad Pro are going to be coming from a much older model. For me, the iPad Pro is about three times faster than the iPad Air 2 in single core tasks and over four times faster in multi-core tasks, based on Geekbench 5.

Here are the benchmark results for all my devices, averaged over two runs:

Single Core Multi-core
iPad Pro 1120 4602
iPhone 11 Pro 1328 3179
MacBook Air 819 1600
Mac Mini 547 1234
iPad Air 2 373 1045

With the exception of my iPhone 11 Pro in single core performance, the iPad Pro is the fastest computer I own. By a lot. And it feels that way too. Everything on this device is so snappy that it has me wishing I could run Handbrake on it. Converting ripped Blu-ray discs would be a much nicer experience if I could run the app on my iPad Pro instead of one of my macOS devices.

I think the iPad Pro will serve me well as my primary computer for several years. It has more than enough horse power available, an excellent camera system, and a modern charging and accessory port. But Apple also announced a new keyboard for the iPad Pro, which features an integrated trackpad.

The upcoming Magic Keyboard with integrated trackpad will capitalize on the revamped pointer support added in iPadOS 13.4 and give users the opportunity to interact with their iPad like a traditional PC. I plan to purchase the accessory when it’s released, but I don’t think it will become my default interaction method.

Currently, I spend most of my time with my iPad on the couch, browsing the web, managing email, reading news, and occasionally publishing links here on Initial Charge — no physical keyboard, mouse, trackpad, cover, or case. None of that will change with the introduction of the Magic Keyboard. What will change is my setup during longer writing sessions.

When I sit down to write a longer piece for Initial Charge, I set my iPad in a Studio Neat Canopy and type on Apple’s wireless Magic Keyboard. This gives me a more comfortable typing experience for the longer stretches. But up until iPadOS 13.4, I would disconnect the hardware keyboard and edit the text using the virtual keyboard. This let me meander throughout the house while reading and gave me a more ergonomic way to move the insertion point for edits.

With iPadOS 13.4, I’ve started using the Magic Trackpad 2 while editing, which let me type the corrections on the physical keyboard without uncomfortably reaching for the screen to move the insertion point. It’s been nice. So when I purchase the Magic Keyboard with integrated trackpad, I’ll retire the Studio Neat Canopy, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad setup in favor of Apple’s new iPad Pro accessory.

But I’m a little unsure about the dual hinge nature of the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Will it feel unstable? Was it given the second hinge for the sake of balance? Would the iPad be too top-heavy without it hovering over the keyboard? Will I be able to push the iPad back so that the silhouette is more akin to a traditional laptop?

Those questions are still left unanswered for the time being. But I can say with certainty that the iPad Pro is an excellent computer. It’s the most powerful I’ve ever owned and runs the most exciting operating system on the planet alongside my favorite applications. If you’re looking to jump into Apple’s tablet offerings or have an iPad that’s starting to feel a bit dated, you won’t regret buying the iPad Pro.

Anker’s Atom PD 1 Charger Ships This Month for $29.99 ➝

Nick Statt, reporting for The Verge:

Anker, once known as a leading accessory maker and now a multi-faceted consumer electronics company, hasn’t abandoned its roots as a supplier of some of the fastest and highest-quality chargers around. The company’s newest line of ultrafast chargers, the PowerPort Atom series, is set to start shipping its first device later this month, the company announced today during CES. The Atom PD 1, as it’s called, was originally announced back in October, but the product was ultimately delayed a few months. The company now says it should be available for the same price of $29.99 later in January, though a concrete ship date has not yet been set.

This looks like it’s going to be a killer product. And I couldn’t be more excited that it’s capable of powering my MacBook Air.

But I suspect the model coming out later — the PowerPort Atom PD 2 — is going to become my go-to charger while traveling. The PD 2 is a 60W charger with two USB-C ports, which will feel right at home inside of my tech bag that’s slowly transitioning to USB-C everything.

Lightning Everything

It’s safe to say that I was a bit concerned when the Wall Street Journal published a piece that indicated Apple would be removing the Lightning connector from future iPhones and replacing it with a USB-C port. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of an open standard for charging — having a single cable that will work on Android phones, iPhones, MacBooks and potentially iPads would take a huge step towards simplifying the charging process for everyone.

My concerns were primarily selfish in nature, though. Just a few weeks ago I started the process of transitioning everything in my travel bag to replacements that charge over Lightning. The primary goal was to reduce the amount of cables I needed to bring with me and eliminate the frustration associated with finding the right cable for each device when I’m riffling through my bag.

Imagine my surprise when I read that Ming-Chi Kuo had clarified the rumor, saying that future iPhones would retain the Lightning connector, but that it would gain USB-C capabilities — much like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which supports USB 3.0 transfer speeds and faster charging when used with a Lightning to USB-C cable. This was great news. I could continue transitioning to Lightning everything without the worry of reverting my bag to a mess of cables when I purchase the next iPhone this fall.

You may be wondering what I could possibly have in my bag that allows me to go all-in on Lightning. There certainly must be something that requires, at least, a micro-USB cable. Well, no, everything in my bag has a Lightning connector.

My bag contains my entire everyday computing setup. I’ve been able to pare it back considerably since I’ve switched to iOS, but I’m still able to get everything done on these devices without ever needing to interact with a non-Lightning power cable. I specify “power” because I still have to carry an HDMI cable with me for the times when I want to watch video content on our hotel room’s television.

The first, and most obvious item in my bag is the iPad Air 2. It’s my primary computing device and where I do the vast majority of my work. It’s powered over Lightning, like the iPhone in my pocket, and every other iOS device Apple makes. And will make for the foreseeable future, thankfully.

Next, we have the Magic Keyboard and the Aukey 3600mAh Portable Power Bank. The Magic Keyboard isn’t anything particularly special. I’ve only had it for a few weeks and I’ve been lukewarm on it so far. The slim design and Lightning charging port are fantastic, but I still find myself getting a little lost in areas of the keyboard — especially the arrow keys. I haven’t found the shallow key travel to be as irritating as I was worried it would be. The pleasant clicking sound of the butterfly mechanism more than makes up for their lack of travel.

The Aukey Power Bank is a unique product, though. It’s the only external battery I’m aware of that charges over Lightning. It doesn’t appear to feature MFi certification, so my impression is that Aukey made it without Apple’s blessing. That would explain why no one else is making portable batteries with Lightning ports. But this is a tremendous product. It isn’t going to give you multiple-days-worth of charge for your iPhone or iPad, but its small enough to fit in your bag without adding much weight and the convenience of the Lightning port is unparalleled.

For trips when I expect to have a fair amount of downtime (which is rare) I have the SteelSeries Nimbus. It is, what I’d consider to be, the absolute best MFi controller available. I can prop up my iPad in the Twelve South Compass or plug it into whatever television is available, with the Lightning to HDMI adapter, and play some of the best games that iOS has to offer. And when I’m finished gaming, I can recharge the controller using the same cable I used with my iPhone.

The Future

There are two more Lightning-powered items that I’d like to add to my kit — AirPods and the Beats Pill+ (or a similar, Lightning-powered Bluetooth speaker). I’ve already ordered the AirPods, but Apple’s having serious supply issues and the estimated ship date isn’t for another five weeks. I’m hoping, by some miracle, that Apple will get them to me sooner than that. I’m growing tired of fighting with wires and I’d like to take them with me on a weekend trip in early April.

Everything I’ve read about AirPods have been positive overall and I imagine my experience with them will be no different. I’m ready for this courageous, new wireless world and a pair of Bluetooth headphones that charge over Lightning and are built on the W1 chip seem like the absolute best way to go.

I wish Apple offered a similar solution in the Bluetooth speaker market. The closest device available is the Beats Pill+, which charges over Lightning but isn’t built on the W1 chip. It’s a nice speaker, by most accounts, but I would hate to spend over $200 on a speaker that could be replaced by something significantly better sometime this year.

Luckily, I don’t find myself wanting a Bluetooth speaker too often. I think I’ll be able to hold out until later this fall to find out if Apple releases one with the W1 chip. If not, I’ll probably end up with the Beats Pill+, if only because its powered over Lightning.

To recap, here are the Lightning-powered devices that I currently have at my disposal, or plan to have in the near future:

As I said, that’s my entire, everyday carry computing setup. I do have a Mac mini at home that I occasionally use for tasks that require a Mac, but those are few and far between. And of course, I always interact with the Mac mini over VNC using Screens on the iPad — I almost never need direct access to the machine, I can do it all remotely, wherever I am.

I couldn’t have been happier to hear that Apple isn’t going to leave Lightning behind anytime soon. With everything in my bag being powered by the same cables, I can reduce clutter and limit the total number of cables required to power all of my devices. For the foreseeable future, I don’t expect to need more than two Lightning cables and a single, two-port charger when I travel. And that is something to get excited about.

Apple May Replace Lightning Connector With USB-C in iPhone 8 ➝

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

The Wall Street Journal has outlined their current thinking on the next new iPhone from Apple, colloquially dubbed the iPhone 8. They believe that Apple will replace the Lightning connector on the bottom of the phone with a USB-C port, ditching its own propriety connector with an industry standard.

I hope this rumor is inaccurate. In an effort to simplify my travel setup, I recently started transitioning all of my portable accessories — external battery, wireless keyboard, and headphones — to models that charge over Lightning. Only needing to pack one type of cable is a big deal and I’d like to keep it that way for more than six months.

At the very least, I’d prefer Apple move to USB-C in only the rumored iPhone Pro and iPhone 7s Plus models, rather than the entire line. This would give me an additional two years with a single type of cable in my bag.

I’m all for moving to a more open standard, but I think it would be a mistake transitioning so soon after they doubled down on Lightning as the only connector on the iPhone 7.

Apple Slashes USB-C Dongle Pricing Following MacBook Pro Backlash ➝

Joanna Stern, reporting for the Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. announced Friday it will significantly cut the prices of the USB-C adapters it sells in its stores, following backlash to the lack of full-size USB, SD card or HDMI ports in the new line of MacBook Pro laptops. […]

Among the price cuts, the much needed $19 USB-C to USB adapter will now cost $9. The $69 USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter drops to $49. And a 1-meter USB-C to Lightning cable—the only direct way to connect an iPhone to a new MacBook—drops from $25 to $19, the same price as a standard USB to Lightning cable.

Remember when Apple dropped the original iPhone’s price by $200 just a couple months after release? That was weird.

Apple Designs for the Future ➝

Marco Arment:

We’ve had the standard USB plug (USB-A) in widespread use for 18 years, and it’s going to take a few more years for USB-C to become so ubiquitous that we can get away without USB-A ports most of the time.

A pro laptop released today should definitely have USB-C ports — mostly USB-C ports, even — but it should also have at least one USB-A port.

This may have been the more pragmatic approach from Marco’s perspective, but it all depends on what Apple was trying to accomplish. Maybe Apple was determined to push the industry towards USB-C and wireless as quickly as possible. If that’s the case, including a USB-A port would have been detrimental to their plans — prolonging the lifespan of a dying technology.