Skip to main content

An iPad Pro with a USB-C port is fantastic news for the whole mobile industry

While we were all talking about the OnePlus 6T and Google screwing up wireless charging, over in Apple land there was this "little" announcement about new Macs and iPads. You might have heard something about it, even if you usually don't follow Apple news. One of the show-stealers was an all-new iPad Pro. Available in two sizes, they are more powerful, have bigger and better displays, and are aimed at people who would otherwise be thinking about buying a Surface or Chromebook. In other words, the new iPads have moved beyond what most people think of when they hear the word "tablet."

Before you get feisty and tell me to stop talking about Apple, I want to mention the very best thing ever to have come from a stage where new Apple products were being shown — an iOS device with a regular USB-C port. The same type of USB-C port your phone probably uses, or your Chromebook, or your Windows computer. Oh — and your MacBook.

Hands-on with the new iPad Pro

Granted, it would be better to see an iPhone with a USB-C port (that will come, too, eventually) but Apple supporting the socket in any way with its "mobile" operating system is great news for everyone using an Android phone. That's because even though Apple may not be the company that makes the most mobile devices or has the highest market share, it is the only tech company with the brand power to move an entire industry. And that means mobile accessories are going to finally get a little more homogenous and maybe, just maybe, more things with a USB-C port will appear and they will "just work."

If you were an early adopter of USB-C headphones and didn't have a Motorola phone you might have witnessed first-hand how messy it can be. That's because companies that make products with a USB-C connector can be fully within the standards but don't universally work. Audio accessory mode comes to mind — it's the part of the standard needed for analog audio passthrough from a USB-C connector — as does the different phones that didn't support it. Meanwhile, many different models of USB-C dongles and headsets required it be supported.

More: The best USB-C headphones you can buy

This happens because the parts of the USB standards that need to be followed to be compliant really only affect the electrical safety and data transfer. Other parts, like video output or Power Delivery or the aforementioned accessory mode, are extra features that can be implemented, but don't have to be. All you can count on is that a USB-C input port can transfer power and a basic two-wire data stream that's backward compatible with older USB connector specs. And that gets messy when companies making devices like phones want to save as much money as possible.

Apple will limit some of the USB-C feature set, but the parts it implements will soon become the industry "standard."

Apple will surely limit the feature set of the USB-C connection. We already know that it is limiting external storage to exclude hard drives. But we do know it isn't limiting audio or video output and the iPad Pro can send digital or analog audio, as well as 5K HDR video, through its "new" connector. Companies making products designed to plug into a USB-C connector are going to comply with whatever Apple is doing because companies making accessories also make money if those accessories are certified for Apple devices.

Companies that make phones will follow. Partially because many also follow Apple's lead, but also because once accessories get more standard they want all of them to work with the latest phone, too. USB-C headphones are starting to get here already. Chances are if you have a phone from 2018 and buy a set of headphones or dongle from 2018 things will work when connected. But USB-C offers so much more, and photos of iPads connected to DSLR cameras or MIDI interfaces mean that one day soon Android phones will be able to do the same. Not because of Android — it already supports such connections — but because the companies making the phones will ride the wave.

I still have my doubts about using a mobile operating system for hardcore productivity, no matter how much Adobe and Autodesk promise me that I can. I think an iPad is much like a Chromebook and great for 95% of everything we do, but Autocad or NBA2K are still going to need a desktop platform. But seeing USB-C's arrival for iOS has me thinking that these are the best iPads ever.

USB-C and the iPad Pro: Everything you need to know

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

13 Comments
  • Agree on the USB-C take. And you're right. iPads are not a productivity tool. Still, they're really great tablets and a whole lot nicer than any tablet out there of Android heritage. And iPad Pro will still outsell the Chrome Slate, no matter how nice that is.
  • Yep, first thing I thought when I heard about this new iPad was "awesome! Now that Apple has 'invented'USB-C, I'll get more accessories for my android phone and Windows laptop". It's mindboggling to me that Apple is actually including USB-C ports on mobile devices while Microsoft is still omitting them from almost their entire surface line though... Microsoft really need to get their shít together.
  • Microsoft’s products are still awesome, but the lack of Type-C is easily the biggest downfall.
  • Next year they will be ALL IN with USB C Zachary. I totally understand why they did that however. Most users of Microsoft devices are professionals and still have USB A devices they don't want to have to purchase dongles for. I know they spent thousands on a device and don't want to buy a 20 dollar adapter, but that's how it is in the business world. I am going back and forth now whether to buy a new mabook air, a surface book 2 or a dell xps 2 in 1. I am interested in Mojave on macbook, but I cannot get used to the way it does things, and I have been using windows since 3.11 and it's familiar and home. I tried switching to mac 3 times already, only to loose literally thousands of dollars each time.
  • While Apple never claimed to invent USB-C, they were one of the earliest adopters, when they released the MacBook with USB-C in April 2015, just months after the standard was established.
  • Apple did invent USB-C, then gave it away. You can find plenty of articles out there, that will back this point up. Yes. There was a collaboration with other companies, but USB-C is almost entirely a product created by Apple. Seriously. This may be why Microsoft ignores it, because they still have weirdness with Apple.
  • yeah....no https://betanews.com/2015/03/16/no-john-gruber-apple-did-not-basically-i...
  • Anyone who says Apple makes bad products or that ios is substandard truly suffers from tunnel vision. Androiders have recently bemoaned the notch and accused Android makers of playing follow the leader. However, Apple has for years been slowly but inexorably becoming more androidesque. I mourn the fact that Apple hasn't shed its proprietary nature completely and joined the wider mobile world for the betterment of all.
  • It's good they are going USB C, and them gimping the feature is expected. NFC is there, but only does the limited function that Apple wants for it. I would expect the port to be treated likewise.
  • Meh. I'm buying a Surface Pro 6 instead.
  • Good job Apple invented USB-C.....
  • I ordered mine the day of the event, I like that I can recycle my current one, still not totally sure if I want to go back to a iPhone but really getting tired of waiting for the connected Samsung Galaxy Watch and yes my current watch still works but was seriously looking forward to some of the newer features.
  • I have used every platform on both mobile and desktop. What I am using now (windows based computers, specifically dell 2 in 1's, and apple for mobile) is the best combination of everything I have tried yet. Apple iPhone, ipad and watch just seamless work together with no connection issues at all. Now, with dell's mobile connect app, I can get and send imessages, make and take calls via my computer and it works great. I have been on the fence recently of switching to a new macbook pro, but I cannot justify moving to mac a forth time for somewhat silly reasons. I LOVE my touchscreen windows devices, and have a full touchscreen monitor on my desk as well for editing photos and video. It's a great overall system. If my entire family were not on iphones I would be tempted to try the note 9 with MS launcher etc on it however. That looks like a killer setup.