It's the dongle life for me

Dongles (Image credit: Rene Ritchie/iMore)

Last year, Apple launched the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which came sans headphone jack. It did, however, come with a dongle, which would allow me to continue using my favorite wired headphones with my iPhone 7 Plus. Apple also launched the MacBook Pro, which came sans every type of port except USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. I purchased a dongle for $9 (opens in new tab), which would allow me to continue using my MacBook Pro with ... well, everything else I connect to my computer.

This is the first time in my life that I've had to use adapters in order to keep up my device-using status quo. I've had a few hiccups, like not being able to charge my iPhone while listening to music through wired headphones, but the transition has been less of an issue than I thought would be. The technology that comes along with the future of iPhone and Mac far outweigh my desire to use antiquated cables with older devices.

Transitioning to a life with dongles

With the iPhone 7 Plus, I've had the most problems with using a dongle. I keep my adapter with me at all times, so I've never had the experience of not being able to use headphones or another 3.5mm connected device just because I forgot the adapter. I have, however, had the very real and very burdensome experience of not being able to charge my iPhone while I'm using the Lightning port to listen to podcasts.

You see, my car is old enough to not have any way to connect a smart device without using a tape adapter (Yes, it's so old that it has a tape player). So, my normal routine is to connect the tape adapter, plug the cable into my iPhone's 3.5mm jack and my car charger into the Lightning port, start a podcast playlist, clip my iPhone to a dashboard mount, and drive all night. I can't do that with my iPhone 7 Plus without buying a splitter, adding yet another dongle to my life.

As for the MacBook Pro, I have not yet had an issue with using a dongle. I purchased the $9 USB-C to USB adapter (opens in new tab) from Apple the same day I purchased my new MacBook Pro because I knew I'd need something to adapt all of my USB-A gadgets with.

Even with only a single dongle, I've been able to work seamlessly on my Mac. My experience won't be the same as everyone else's. I don't connect my MacBook Pro to a second screen unless I'm connecting it to my iPad Pro using Duet Display (opens in new tab). When I need to connect another device, like my DSLR camera, I just disconnect the iPad and connect the camera. I personally, haven't absolutely had to keep two gadgets connected to my MacBook Pro at the same time. If I did, though, it would mean having to buy another USB-C to USB adapter, adding yet another dongle to my life.

I wouldn't trade my dongles for any other devices

The payoff, however, comes with the technology improvements in the iPhone 7 Plus and the MacBook Pro. Both devices are far more advanced than my previous devices. My MacBook Pro is lightning fast, has a superb screen, has much better internal speakers, lets me securely log in and make online purchases using Touch ID, and is almost as lightweight as my iPad Pro.

Though I have since switched back to the four-inch iPhone SE, I still use my iPhone 7 Plus regularly to play games, listen to music, and take photos. It is lightning fast, has a gorgeous screen, comfort-inducing Taptic feedback, an amazing Touch ID Home "button," and the camera is unmatched.

Having to keep a couple of dongles lying around so I can connect my antiquated cables is a fair trade for the leap forward in technology. I'd rather have the best MacBook Pro Apple ever made sitting on my lap then a PC that is slow, heavy, and glitchy, oh but has a bunch of different types of ports and card readers.

It's time for the rest of the tech world to catch up

When my friends complain about Apple's newest devices and how burdensome it would be to have to carry around a couple of tiny little dongles, I smile and show them an action shot I took in low light with my iPhone 7 Plus, or securely make an online purchase with my fingerprint and ask, "Can your device do that?"

Instead of complaining that Apple has left the rest of the tech world behind, we should be telling other tech companies that it is about time they catch up. Until then, it's the dongle life for me.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

  • I agree, its slightly annoying to not be able to charge my iPhone 7 Plus while I use the lightning earpods to talk on the phone or listen to music. However, I've recently bought a nice pair of bluetooth headphones (no, not Airpods), so that's no longer a problem. I suppose that's what Apple intended. They want everyone to use bluetooth in both the car and not. By the way, newsflash! You can buy an aftermarket car stereo installed in your car that gives you integrated bluetooth. No more dongles or adapters in the car! (really? a cassette adapter?)
  • I agree, its slightly annoying to not be able to charge my iPhone 7 Plus while I use the lightning earpods to talk on the phone or listen to music. However, I've recently bought a nice pair of bluetooth headphones (no, not Airpods), so that's no longer a problem. I suppose that's what Apple intended. They want everyone to use bluetooth in both the car and not. By the way, newsflash! You can have an aftermarket car stereo installed in your car that gives you integrated bluetooth. No more dongles or adapters in the car! (really? a cassette adapter?)
  • I think I'm missing the 'payoff is worth it' part. I guess if you mean in terms of still buying Apple's products (despite the shortcomings) in trade for the unrelated advantages of the new models, then I'd agree. But, for the most part, this move didn't really gain much, if anything, compared to the previous models with the 'antiquated' ports. In other words, Apple could have kept the ports.... no dongles... and still given you those improvements. I suppose I'll start to agree, once people move on from 'antiquated cables', but right now, it's the new cables that are the odd-balls. And, when it comes to the 3.5mm jack, I might be willing to bet it far outlasts the Lightening port. There is ZERO advantage there..... all downsides for Apple's gain.
  • Apple isn't the only one that's removed the 3.5mm jack, Motorola has, Intel are looking into it and Samsung are rumored to be doing it, albeit other companies are using USB-C and not Lightning, which makes much more sense. Also, no need for the quotes around "antiquated", that's what they are. USB-A ports are, how old now? I don't even want to think about how old they are, but they need to go. USB-C is much nicer, and keeping the ports means that people won't move on and manufacturers won't develop for the new ports. It's much better for people in the long run
  • Yes, if Apple had moved the iPhone to USB-C, then at least it would seem like a somewhat forward-looking (however inconvenient to users) move. However, I see no reason (at this point) why 3.5mm or other analog audio connectors are going away. What's the point? re: antiquated - Yes, in regards to USB. However, 3.5mm jacks, Ethernet, and some other connectors aren't antiquated at all. Giving me an 'up-to-date' 'standard' port to which I have to attach a dongle/dock to be functional doesn't make the former antiquated. I'm OK with it on the laptop, for the most part, as WiFi is commonly used and a dock is actually quite convenient (actually, more) when at a desk. However, there are obvious downsides for some people (ex: when I worked in server rooms, I often plugged Ethernet into my laptop... now that means lugging a dongle). I'm just reacting to this idea that all of this is somehow progress, and we should just be quite and swallow it up.
  • There's two main reasons for getting rid of the 3.5mm jack. One is that, well, it's not needed, there is another port on the device that does the same thing (Lightning, in the iPhone's case). The second is that a digital port allows headphones to have more functionality. For example, headphones could have some sort of sensor on them which delivers data back to the device, something which cannot be achieved with the 3.5mm jack. With Ethernet, at least in terms of portable computers, I think there's a fairly small amount of people that still use it. Most people connect to Wi-Fi because they want to be able to roam freely around their house with their laptop, and that doesn't cause them any issues. I stream HD films, browse the internet, play online games, and other tasks all on Wi-Fi and I rarely have any issues. Not to mention if you invest in a good wireless router you can get speeds close to what you would get with Ethernet. I'm pretty sure that this is good progress, it's just difficult to see at this transitional period
  • If you read the article, I think the author points out at least one good reason for having it. Another, is that I can't possibly see how a Lightning connector will be as reliable after a bunch of flexing in a pocket (that's my main concern, as I listen to a LOT of podcasts with wired ear-buds, and the phone in my pocket). It just doesn't look/feel nearly as mechanically stable. And, I'd rather just use typical gear than have to deal with specialized equipment and/or dongles. While I agree that a Lightning based headphone could have more functionality, there's about ZERO chance of it becoming an audio standard. re: ethernet - I use WiFi a lot as well, but when doing serious work (or even gaming), I much prefer a wired connection. WiFi has certainly improved, and yes, can be pretty fast now... but it's hard to beat Ethernet. I'll just use a dock though. But, for some, not having that port kind of makes it a no-go (I'm just no longer in that situation).
  • The Lightning connector is reliable although the cables that Apple provides fray very easily, I always recommend using one from another brand like Anker, it shouldn't break even with bending. And to be honest I do agree with you that I think it's going to be difficult for Lightning headphones to become a standard, what it should be is USB-C and the iPhone should have USB-C instead of Lightning, that way when more USB-C Android phones come out, your headphones would work on all devices. It's just a real pain that Apple has kept Lightning on the iPhone 7 and decided to replace the headphone jack with something proprietary. Had they removed the headphone jack and changed to USB-C, I would've been perfectly happy with it.
  • I think that would be more the cord, which fails on 3.5mm as well. I'm talking about the connector and jack itself. It would be quite hard to damage a 3.5mm connection, as that is incredibly solid. Lightning seems like it might be a bit more robust than things like mini/micro USB, but it looks like it could be damaged relatively easily (and/or at least wiggle enough so as to lose connection when jiggled. Yes, if Apple had gone USB-C, then I'd have been happier (not necessarily happy). But, I think USB-C might be a more stable connector as well (than Lightning).
  • Please, Motorola isn't a good example. On Android phone market is a big choice of different phones if you don't like phone without 3,5mm jack, choose different one.
    Can you make this same with iPhone? No, if you want latest iOS phone you are forced to have phone without jack socket.
    I will only agree with Apple decision if they leave choice to customer-iPhone 7 with or without jack at the shop till. Sent from the iMore App
  • In answer to the action shot and purchase, a lot of android users can say "yes". Sent from the iMore App
  • Spot on. That line was supercilious statement and ignores that's Apple hasn't been competing adequately in the camera space for quite a few years now.
  • You're ok with carrying around two phones all the time, so I don't think your perspective on this is a good representation of the general population... ;) A good article, though. But I simply have to disagree with the phone (can't speak to the Macbook). The removal of the headphone jack adds absolutely nothing technology-wise. It's change just for change. Yes it will push more people to bluetooth and in a few years (if the headphone jack hasn't come back) Apple will use that as a marketing tool to say they're the reason... etc etc.
  • People seem to always be saying that removing the headphone jack is for pushing Bluetooth, but if that's the case, then why did the iPhone 7 come with wired Lightning headphones? The idea is that new wired headphones that utilize either a Lightning or USB-C port can deliver more features as well as providing higher audio quality. For example, the headphones could have some sort of sensor on them that delivers data back to the device you've got it plugged into, which can only be done with a digital port and not the 3.5mm jack. It's not change just for change
  • Fair point, though won't it be a circus w/o some kind of standards? Anyway, it's interesting to note that the new 'improved' dongle/headphone audio path on the iPhone 7 actually decreased audio quality. That doesn't have to be the case, of course, but kind of drives the point that this had little do do with quality.
  • Well that's a fair point. Android phones are starting to remove the headphone jack slowly, but they're replacing it with something that's not proprietary (USB-C) which would work. But yeah, you're right, it's a bit confusing how they're pushing for Lightning headphones, especially considering that there's no way to use them on other Apple products, which even defeats the whole "everything works within the ecosystem", never mind outside of it
  • Also, there is a LOT of audio connection going on outside the smartphone market. We're talking about digital recorders, camera, cars, stereo systems, mixers or other recording gear, musician equipment, etc. I suppose there is some advantage of coming up with a digital to digital interconnection standard between all these devices (there are already a couple of optical digital connections), but it would take a lot of momentum for the whole audio industry to switch to USB-C.
  • It's a good starting ground to get smartphones switching over, considering that's where most people listen to their music from
  • I guess I keep coming back to, 'switching to what?' Again, unless USB-C is going to become the new standard for audio connection (across industries), then I don't see the point. Specialized devices with more functionality are going to be more expensive, and w/o standards, non-universal in usability. A simple headphone with cable and jack is less expensive and usable everywhere. And, it isn't like one couldn't use those specialized devices pre-iPhone 7. I'm not arguing for ONLY a 3.5mm jack. :) USB audio connectivity has been around now for decades, and outside of special applications, mostly unused. You've got to convert D->A at some point, and moving it external, IMO, isn't the optimal, most universal, solution.
  • It will be switching to USB-C outside of the Apple ecosystem, the same way most portable devices use microUSB for charging at the moment that are not Apple products. I'd like to hope Apple will adopt USB-C eventually, having proprietary ports is silly even outside of the headphone jack debate
  • Agreed on proprietary ports, though IMO, micro/mini USB are pretty horrible connectors, so I can see why Apple went with something better (the 30-pin, at the time, and Lightning are far superior to micro/mini USB). I haven't used USB-C yet, but it looks like a much better connector (UX & durability). re: headphone jack - I'm OK going to something else.... industry wide. In other words, if my stereo, musical keyboard, laptop, monitor, audio mixer, amps, headphones, etc. all switch to USB-C as the standard audio-connection, then I suppose, I'm for it. Yet, there's still something about the simplicity of speakers, wires, connection that would be missed. When something isn't working right, or there are signal issues, etc. that's pretty easy to troubleshoot. And, then there's the aspect that I can pick any kind of headphones, speakers, devices... and they all universally connect (see above).
  • I imagine that having all audio devices connect via USB-C is the direction that this will eventually go, I don't know how long it will take but when USB-C is on most computers and is the only available connector for audio on most smartphones, then there will be a lot of pressure on the audio industry to change to USB-C as well. That way, we would be able to universally connect anything still knowing it's all USB-C. Like I said, I don't know how long the transition will take in terms of the audio industry, but there will be a rising pressure on them to change over
  • I can't tell this to my wife or mother. To spend that much on a machine plus pay for two or three adapters (which will be forgotten or lost) is ridiculous to them. I got my wife a MacBook Air. No dongles required and it's plenty fast plus has 8 GB standard now. It's ashame Apple will never update the screen on the best laptop they ever made.
  • To say that Apple will never update the screen seems a bit exaggerated, they will at some point, and you can always hold out on the upgrade until that happens. Also, if you're spending that much on a machine you would take care in not losing the dongles, by simply keeping them around with your laptop at all times, maybe in a case which can hold the dongles as well
  • No it's not. Stop writing articles like this and demand better Sent from the iMore App
  • I have to disagree, your last paragraph about taking pictures has nothing to do with dongles and sure making purchases via fingerprint can now be done with a MBP. The purchase feature is new, but CES just happened and Lenovo announced soling similar, we'll have to wait a bit to actually see how that works. For me the latest MBP are indicative of what appears to me of Apple losing focus on the computer end. The very fast versatile TB ports on the new laptops don't make up for the battery issues and in my opinion horrible keyboard and the abandonment of all other ports. The price is also just insane, I am returning my 15" MBP which pains me because I love MacOS but as much as I tried I can't justify $4000 (CND) for a laptop I only kind of like. Especially, since the killer feature is the touch bar, something that strikes me as akin to 3D televisions, here today, gone tomorrow.
  • "Especially, since the killer feature is the touch bar, something that strikes me as akin to 3D televisions, here today, gone tomorrow." It's unlikely that Apple will remove the Touch Bar in future releases of the MacBook Pro, as it would be incredibly bad PR for them, at worst it would get replaced with something else (Did I hear someone say touchscreens? :p). But you'd probably be right in saying that no other manufacturer will implement a Touch Bar if they see it as a gimmick
  • Lori love you voice and reviews but common update you car system. Here 40 $ Bluetooth car stereo lol that will fit any old stereo spots lol . We also need to move forward :) not only tech companies hehe
  • And this is why I own the 6s Plus and it may very well be my last iPhone as I don't own MAC products for that very reason as well.