Apple's transition to USB-C: Pencil and AirPods now Apple's transition to USB-C: Pencil and AirPods now

Apple is well-known, if not notorious, for disregarding mainstream trends. One of the brightest examples of this attitude is Lightning, its proprietary charging port that is the opposite of universal. However, even Cupertino's tech giant has to fall in line when left no other choice, so Lightning is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Two more Apple products now have USB-C ports instead of Lightning: AirPods Pro 2nd Gen and Pencil.

AirPods Pro 2nd Generation with USB-C

Apple AirPods 2 (snapshot from Apple website)Apple AirPods 2 (snapshot from Apple website)

USB-C-enabled 2nd generation AirPods Pro were released in September 2023. They look and feel exactly like the predecessor, namesake earbuds with Lightning instead of USB-C. Jumping the gun, you may decide that the differences are minor, and the old proprietary charging port is just fine, so there is little sense in switching. However, Apple claims that the new headphones are different in more than just that proverbial port.

Apple retails the USB-C model of its flagship headphones for US$249, while the Lightning version now costs US$189 at Walmart. The new pair, according to Apple, has the inner working reinvented to give the earbuds better durability and improved sound. The former is always a plus, and the latter you probably won’t be able to acknowledge unless all things sound-related are your work and passion.

Thus, AirPods Pro 2nd Generation with USB-C is actually the next iteration of this Apple product, although the company refrained from marketing them as 3rd generation. Regardless, Lightning is the thing of the past now for Cupertino, headphones included.

Apple Pencil with USB-C

Apple Pencil USB-C (snapshot from Apple website)Apple Pencil USB-C (snapshot from Apple website)

This is the latest addition to the array of USB-C-enabled devices from Apple. It retails for US$79, which is considerably less than the US$129 asked for the 2nd generation Apple Pencil with Lightning port.

While the price and the charging ports are the obvious distinctive features of the new Apple Pencil, the key differences it has compared to the 2nd Gen Pencil are:

– lack of pressure sensitivity support, 

– no wireless pairing and charging capability, 

– no support for double-tap that switches tools.

Otherwise, the new Pencil works in the hover mode with M2 models of iPad Pro, and magnetically snaps to the tablet’s side. Thus, the missing features can be put on the “advanced” list, which makes the new Apple Pencil with USB-C a good choice for the masses, especially given its price.

Apple’s migration to USB-C: the background

So, why did Apple decide to replace its time-tested Lightning port (since 2012) with USB-C? The move was imposed by the EU. There, regulators banned all cell phones with chargers other than USB-C. The law comes into force by the end of 2024, but Apple, which was one of the few makers that resisted the USB trend, made the decision to switch earlier rather than later.

Thus, all iPhone 15 models, AirPods, and now Pencil have a USB-C port, which actually makes life easier in most situations.

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