Why the new MacBook Pro doesn't have an SD card slot but does have record orders

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, talking to The Independent:

The new Pros have no SD card slot for a camera memory card. Why not?Because of a couple of things. One, it's a bit of a cumbersome slot. You've got this thing sticking halfway out. Then there are very fine and fast USB card readers, and then you can use CompactFlash as well as SD. So we could never really resolve this – we picked SD because more consumer cameras have SD but you can only pick one. So, that was a bit of a trade-off. And then more and more cameras are starting to build wireless transfer into the camera. That's proving very useful. So we think there's a path forward where you can use a physical adaptor if you want, or do wireless transfer.

Schiller is a huge camera enthusiast, particularly for Leica, so he's well-versed in the limitations and pains involved in image and video transfer. That said, I think the frustration isn't so much that Apple removed the SD card slot — or any of the old ports — but when they chose to remove it.

Nobody thinks we'll be using SDHC or USB-A in a decade, but between now and then there'll be a lot of turbulence and anyone not on the bleeding edge of it will get battered around a fair bit before it passes.

I've been using the non-Touch Bar version of the MacBook Pro 2016 for almost a week. My DSLR uses SDHC cards and, on my last MacBook Pro, I could just pull the card from the camera, plug it into the Mac, and grab my photos or videos. On this one, I'd need an adapter. But here's the thing: I haven't shot with that camera since I got my iPhone 7 Plus. With that, I just shoot and AirDrop. My use case isn't everybody's, of course, but is it an increasing number of people's?

We've been through these transitions before, with FireWire, MagSafe 1, DVI, VGA, and more. I've bought and used dongles every time. No dongle I've ever used proved necessary beyond about a year, though, even when the MacBook lasted me three or four.

How would you describe the response to the new MacBook Pro?There has certainly been a lot of passionate dialogue and debate about the new MacBook Pro! Many things have impressed people about it, and some have caused some controversy. I hope everyone gets a chance to try it for themselves and see how great the MacBook Pro is. It is a really big step forward and an example of how much we continue to invest in the Mac. We love the Mac and are as committed to it, in both desktops and notebooks, as we ever have been.And we are proud to tell you that so far, our online store has had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before. So there certainly are a lot of people as excited as we are about it.

That last part is illuminating.

Sure, there are technological constraints around what Apple could and couldn't do with these chipsets, but there's also a broader marketing question.

Traditional pros were the tip of an iceberg and now that iceberg has largely surfaced, thanks in no small part to computers being made more accessible and approachable than ever, and to technology becoming more mobile.

The kind of people who self-identify as "pro" is broader and more diverse than it was in generations past. Just like making apps went mainstream with iOS, so has photography and videography with cameras like iPhone and services like YouTube. What are the needs of modern pros and how are they balanced against the traditional pro segment that really does want or need a supercomputer in their backpack?

If these really turn out to be record-breaking MacBooks Pros, we'll have our answer.

There are also some fascinating replies to keeping the 3.5mm headphone jack, to the requirements for "Hey, Siri!" on the Mac, and more, so give it a read and let me know what you think!

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

83 Comments
  • 1. Not every Macbook Pro owner owns an iPhone (I'm doing just fine with an Android phone).
    2. Dumping the SD card slot because more camera's ARE STARTING to use wireless transfer is just nuts. Yes transitions hurt, but this is too soon.
  • Apple is always early to transitions from one technology to the next and it always annoys their customers and their customers always get used to it and forget about it a year later. It is a repeating pattern. Apple will take the criticism to get the transition to happen just that much faster.
  • I'm not going to buy a new camera just because I bought a new MBP, so no, I won't get used to it. Also, the price hike will annoy customers a lot more...
  • Corrected for you:
    "It always annoys their customers and their customers always realize that it was a worthwhile change about a year later"
  • Ever thought about that the SD card slot is a permanent storage upgrade of (at least) 128 GB for barely no expense? An adapter which completely vanishes in the casing of my Macbook Pro costs around 20-30 €. Nothing comes out, nothing to be stick in and out every day. A good microSD costs me around 30-40 €, has fare better dimensions, weight etc. etc. than any annoying USB stick. Thus even a big collection of those is much more portable and affordable than a USB device ever will be. No one would deny that USB-C will be the future. But since there is more then enough space on both sides of the Macbook Pro why not add a refreshed version of Magsafe on the left and an SD card slot on the right? It's only utterly absurde.
  • Just buy a $19 Apple USB-C to USB Adapter and attach a SD card reader to it. If it doesn't work then directly attach your camera to the same adapter, every camera provides USB connection. If your camera is just your Android phone then attach it to the same adapter and you may see your Android phone on Macbook desktop as "USB storage device" or in Photos application as "USB Camera", depending on the Android phone's USB settings. This also may help: https://support.google.com/nexus/answer/2840804?hl=en
  • Ah, Good ole Apple, THey are always willing to let me pay them to fix the need they created. I mean, Sure, Very few of us can get stuff that already uses USB-C. But if Apple was doing this to push technology forward, couldn't they have just.. I dunno, Included the dongle in the box.. Like.. the many PC makers that do similar? I'm not one of those enraged people though. I was looking for something to replace my 2014 MBP. I needed more onboard storage space. Apple didn't make the laptop that works for my use case, so I went to a competitor and got a Surface Book. Lucky me, All my pro software is cross platform and has cross platform liscences. As A musician and DJ, I'll miss Core Audio, But To make the MBR work for me, I'd need to spend another $100+ on dongles and/or cables to get the already more expensive machine to work for me.
  • $100 on dongles is a ridiculous exaggeration to exclaim your hate for the new ports. It's a next generation MacBook Pro, it should have next generation ports. Dongles are only needed during the transition, soon there will be an abundance of USB-C devices and accessories so dongles won't be needed anymore
  • Well, except at no point did I say I hated them. I just said I can use them. I need to either purchase several USB 2.0 or micro-b or replace flash drives. Or I need to have a powered USB3.1 hub plugged into the $80 multimedia out adapter, as I would need video out.
  • I don't see why they could not have included at minimum one conventional usb port.
  • Apple are changing convention, that's why. A next generation MacBook Pro should not have any old ports
  • I agree, the comment that the card stuck half way out just speaks of how poorly this slot was implemented on the Mac in the first place, I work with a Dell 6510 and M4700 at work and guess what? The card goes all the way in and is 'clicked' into place flush with the case, so neat and tidy sometimes I forgot it was there until I opened Windows File Explorer and say it listed. The truth is Apple designers won this battle, form over function. The fact orders are up is just a function of pent up demand for any refresh with better CPU/GPU specs, remembering Pro software isn't cheap so abandoning a platform is hard given your ecosystem of clients and partners, etc. The fact is this laptop is still big enough an SD card slot could have been included. Phil's quip about Compact Flash is just FUD, have you tried buying a CF card lately, only speciality stores have them, box stores dumped them a couple of years ago. SD cards are still available everywhere.
  • Your comment about CF cards is nonsense. You can still get these cards at the major retailers like B&H, Amazon, and Best Buy. Many pro-level dSLR cameras use CF cards, including my Canon 5D Mark III. I've always used a card reader to read both CF and SD cards on my iMac.
  • SD card sticks halfway out.... mmmmmokay. Guess this is better. https://www.apple.com/search/SanDisk-Extreme-Pro-SD-UHS-II-Card-USB-C-Re... $50 bucks!!!! WTF!!! Why is Phil allowed to talk. Like seriously...
  • There is a $19 Apple USB-C to USB Adapter. Every camera connects via USB so that $49 card reader is not a must. For Android phones https://support.google.com/nexus/answer/2840804?hl=en
  • Too funny. I'm convinced Apple has OCD and just does not like the mess of any ports. The comment about cameras now offering wireless transfer is a joke. First and foremost, the 2 major camera brands are still in the stone ages electronically (Canonikon) and until they are put out of business by Sony, good luck with doing anything wirelessly.
    But luckily, Photoshop works on both Microsoft and Apple software.
    I'm gonna call Apple's bluff one day -- oh, who am I kidding. I'll just put up with it, like a habit of a spouse that ticks one off, but are not divorce-worthy.
    But luckily, my wife bought me a loaded MacBook Pro 15 last year -- and this will be just fine for the next 5 year of so -- and it still has those dinosaur ports and card slot, that I use every day. And I guarantee that in 5 years, Canonikon will still be in the stone ages.
    For the record, there is an SD card sticking out of the side of my computer right now, and I last took pictures 5 days ago. Not intrusive at all.
  • wow, you haven't used your camera since 7+ and thus it's fine, because you can air drop pictures, and that's what everyone should use a pro machine for $2600+, to move pictures on their phone. this is the problem with apple, they seem to be targeting bloggers, bloggers are the first ones to test drive the machines and your narrow needs and views justifies this machines limited capabilities, which honestly is absolutely perfect for your use. everything is a tool, and a tool is only worth what you can get out of it. now my tool (apple) expects my other tools to upgrade to its new standards, so i should expect Canon and all other camera manufactures to be on the leaping edge of transfer technology? i personally could care less, as what i want my camera to do is to take the best pictures through the glass (which actually has value, camera itself is just a dumb light box). no thanks. try uploading your 7+ pictures to getty or istock, or doing commercial or for pay photograph with your 7+ and see how far that gets you, oh but wait, it actually works witlessly with the new MBP so that's all that matters -- next time i meet with a client i'll try to convince them of that argument, and now that 7+ has bokeh that's all they need! woohoo! and can you explain to me why exactly anyone would need a mouse pad the size of a door mat? what is the need to have increased the stupid thing so much?
  • Listening to Alex Lindsay on MacBreak Weekly yesterday showed me how someone who uses these top of the line products, is being hurt by these changes. Especially with he loss of the MagSafe connector and how he was so disappointed in that. For a pro I think of them as being away from home quite often and in need of getting work done. Going the way of the dongle is such a bad idea. Even for basic needs like ethernet or SD card. I'm not a pro, but since I got my iPhone SE I don't use my digital camera anymore. How I get my photos off is with the iPhone dock and soon as I dock it, my photos go to dropbox then sync with my Mac mini. So the SD card slot on my Mac mini for me is no longer used in a way, but due to my case of having a iPhone. If the new Mac mini came out with just C ports, I wouldn't be happy I had to buy some expensive multi port hub. Like Alex said, I don't care if things are small. I know the hardware inside is getting smaller, but the product still has to be useful and promote workflow. The recent changes really take a hit to productivity I think. Alex mentioned that fear of being on a work site and not having the proper dongle with him, since now you have to carry even more dongles. Missing a dongle, then you mess up the job, don't get it done, and don't get paid. Sorry for the rant. Just still having growing pains with these new changes.
  • Both Alex and Andy made strong arguments for keep what Apple is no viewing as 'legacy' ports. None of them apply to me as my needs are far less industrial. But they articulated what is normally lost in the typical foaming at the mouth diatribe. If the next mini ships with usb-c ports instead of usb-3, I'll feel their pain. As a desktop platform, it would probably keep the other ports. I'd hate to have to buy dongles for a *desktop* or that LG monitor to get my ports back. I think Apple should have waited for the next MBP update to drop change the ports; this move seems too soon to me.
  • I agree with the timing part. I think what most people really wanted right now was just to get all the mac's up to speed. But that 12" MacBook foreshadowed this dark time of change to come. Dark to me at least. I live in the lower end of Apple so I just hope the mini, iPhone SE and air sort of products will stick around. The new HP Spectre is C also but they left one sole USB port which was a nice offering. I just can't go to windows ever again so I hope apple won't be pushing me out by pushing prices way up. I think my 2012 Mac mini will keep on trucking for a long time though. I hope to pick up a 13" air this week also.
  • A few points to consider. Like many, I too would've liked the possibility of a 32GB MacBook Pro. In my line of work, I have Windows and Linux VM's configured through Virtual Box and would love to experiment with more than just two of them running at the same time. Still possible even though I approach memory limits when three are open but still no big deal even on my 2015 15" MBP.
    Thanks to you Rene I now know why they couldn't give us this option, this year. The headphone jack. No problem there for most people. They can leave their old hardware with the 3.5mm on their desk and plug them in when necessary. Apple's vision of the future, isn't one with wired devices anyways. Once the new AirPods hit the market, I'm sure many who complain now, will forget there ever were wired speakers. For those that own expensive Bose, Beats, Grado, B&W headphones, hey you can still plug them directly into your new 2016 MBP. Other ports. It all comes down to transition periods and pushing technology forward. The ultimate setup for many pros may turn out something like this. High capacity MBP when on the road, no dongles, external drives or other stuff. When at home or the office, one TB3 cable over USB-C connected to a 27" 5K monitor and on the monitor a RAID array daisy-chained. Just a simple clean setup.
    Keeping legacy ports around only delays future better technology. Remember the complaints about the removal of the CD/DVD drive? Does anyone really miss them nowadays?
  • Sorry, people, but I'm part of the 99% who has never used the SD slot and never will. Apple builds computers for the masses. The 1% can use dongles. That's just the way it is.
  • Much as I don't like it I agree with this. Apple does build for the masses and hence the lack of the slot. Even with the removal of the rest of the ports, the main thing that grates is the rip off laptop price added to the money you now have to fork out for unsightly and ungainly dongles.
  • I don't mind the dongles considering they're pushing new technology, but they should have been provided in the box
  • +1
  • I'll bet the vast majority of users never used the the Thunderbolt ports on their computers. I never did. Obviously people will use the Thunderbolt 3 because that's the port of choice now. I do think Apple could have fit in an SD card slot that inserted cards FLUSH with the computer. It would have allowed users to add storage to their computer too since SD cards can hold 512 GB (and more eventually). It could have been used as an onboard Time Machine backup. But I also think they should have included one "legacy" USB-A port since everything uses USB-A right now and probably will for awhile. USB-C has been around for over a year and there still aren't a lot of devices using it.
  • It wasn't too long ago that I remember 99% were asking Apple why don't they just add an SD card slot. Suddenly they were in your MBP, iMac, and even the Mac Mini.
  • Sounds like this is an opportunity for iMore to publish an article on which cameras support this wireless transfer to the new Macbook Pro. Also a how to article on how to use them.
  • Maybe for you the iPhone 7 replaces your DSLR, but shooting on a real camera just has a different feel that makes it magical. I'm sure this goes for a lot of others. I thought the same when I got my Lumia 920 years ago. I did stop using my DSLR for a time, but when I started again with it, it was just really nice to shoot with. Even with the iPhone 6S+ I thought I would go back, but now I have to shoot with my mirrorless.
  • Yep. Smartphone cameras are great but not near dlsr quality especially for a Pro photographer. I guess these are the Pros this laptop is for. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Right, and I would guess that most of those guys use card readers to transfer photos anyway.
  • The laptop is for professional photographers as well. Most modern cameras now have Wi-Fi transfer, and as always, using old technology with new technology requires adapters, to adapt
  • Phil's a moron. He doesn't want the SD card sticking out a millimeter yet is perfectly fine with an Octopus of dongles. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • The majority don't use the SD card slot on the MacBook Pro, that's why it was removed. As for the dongles, USB-C is the next generation of USB with great benefits, that is quickly becoming popular
  • Please let me know the source of your survey to obtain this information. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I'm surprised by all the backlash to this laptop. I know it doesn't fit everyone's needs, but it still looks like a great computer. This just looks like a transition to the future. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hey, I agree this is an awesome computer, I don't think anyone disputes that; what is at issue are a bunch of pre-mature design choices that directly effect the 'Pro' users it pretends to be for. This is change for the change itself. Clearly they weren't trimming out features to save on costs to boost margins this thing is very expensive, I think an HDMI port and SD card slot could have been added without too much of a financial hit. Apple just figured out how to boost their margin by forcing you to pay full price for a stripped down laptop and pay again to restore the features they stripped out.
  • "...pre-mature design choices" I think this is exactly the problem. Or a big part of it. I still think Apple should have *one* top tier model that actual imbues 'Pro'. Not every possible bell and whistle— somebody would still have a use for the ExpressCard slot, but really... Maybe the next CPU upgrade will allow for 32G of low-powered RAM. And seriously, drop the 8G minimum and make it 16G across the board. Ethernet. Maybe next year... At this point it feels like this line of MBPs was designed literally *solely* for aesthetics and from, with next to no regard for function, with the results rationalized, not explained. That usually the mantra when Apple drops a feature, but time usually shows that Apple made a reasoned decision regarding functionality, and not a whimsical one. I wish Phil had a set of 'courage' and had said 'We wanted to build the slimmest, lightest, most elegant MBP ever, regardless of the impact on functionality. Deal with it.' Hate to think that would have been more honest, but that's my feeling.
  • Well, it's not just a financial hit. The old legacy ports are larger, which, like the old headphone jack, takes up valuable space inside the machine. The new USB-C ports are quite a bit smaller, which is partly why the ne MBP has such a smaller volume compared to its predecessor. So take your pick... a fatter, heavier machine with the ports you want, or a slim lightweight machine with one port from which you can use a connector. Apple believes most regular people (not the bloggers or tech press) will be in the latter category.
  • +1
  • Bigger doesn't really mean heavier does it?
  • It depends on the materials used, I mean it's always going to be heavier but it could be by a trivial amount
  • So, what is the difference in weight exactly? I'm still on the fence. I have a late 2012 MBP 15". RAM's been upgraded and I've replaced the hard drive with an SSD. It's still a fast machine but I really want a nicer display. Personally, I'm just tired of having to get new cables and adapters every time Apple decides what is better for us. You'd think they cou