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Usability Problem

A plethora of Apple dongles

Image: Gavin's Gadget

Usability Problem: Apple's usability problem

Apple's products don't naturally talk to each other. It's a usability problem.

Jan 19 3 min read Commentary

Because I shouldn’t bother my partner, I needed to pipe my early morning class on my Mac through earpieces. I reached for them in my backpack in the wardrobe close to the bed.

But it’s iPhone 7 earpieces (or EarPods, as Apple called them): not the traditional ones. It has its own proprietary connector type - Lightning Connector, Apple-speak, again.

Image of iPhone 7 from currys.co.uk

I’d just bought an old-stock 128GB 2016 model, which I love especially because of its silver finish. I love my electronics silver or gray or white or black, color only coming in as accent. Do note the year 2016, please: you’ll see why soon.

I got some disappointment now, almost upset, whew, how do I use the earpieces with my Mac? “No way, this is not possible.” O, I remembered there’s an adapter to extend the connector, to make it fit the traditional type. Cool, let me try that, I thought. I did.

A hole for another

I got even more frustrated when I saw that the so-called Lightning to Headphone Jack Adapter is, yeah, an adapter, a hole that can only let the traditional-type earpieces connect to the iPhone 7. You know, I thought it would’ve been a connector to help use these earpieces with the 3.5mm jack, which Apple had nixed from its phones.

You see, my Mac is a 2017 model-year Apple product. It comes with the 3.5mm jack. Back then when I had the iPhone 6S, which I ditched because it was gold color (how did I buy a gold-colored phone?), not as neutral as I love my devices, I comfortably used its earpieces with the laptop. Now I’m fried. I have earpieces I can only use with the phone. I must buy another set or some connector type to be able to use with the laptop.

Apple’s usability problems

You see the problem here? If in 2016 Apple had satisfied its ego that devices no longer needed an old-fashioned technology and so nixed it from its phones, why should same company in 2017 equip its computers with the same technology? Now you have two products of Apple’s, only a year apart, that can’t speak to each other or whose accessories can’t be used interchangeably.

Some people have said Apple is in the dongle business now. I agree. When you have a multiplex of devices that can’t connect or talk to each other or share resources, what do you do? Well, when you got the power, like Apple, you manufacture peripheral devices to do the handshaking. But that’s classic usability trouble for people, people you’re famed to care deeply about.

That morning

I ended up bothering my partner using the Mac speakers because I wouldn’t miss the early morning class. I would complain if she did the same thing when I was still getting my zzz’s and advise she use earpieces, that she should know better! Did I have an excuse because of Apple’s design decisions? I don’t know.

What I do know is that to enjoy the two Apple products I still have, I must either stay modest and not worry about them not making up with each other or put some more money into Apple’s dongle business by buying some of those to complete the holy marriage.

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