Apple's iPad just turned a major port corner. For the first time in a decade, the base iPad, the one most people probably buy, will not feature Apple's proprietary lightning port. The iPad 10th Generation will feature a USB-C port. It's also, no less notably, dispensing with the Home Button in favor of a power-button housed Touch ID.
Still, it's the port switch that got my attention. With this change, Apple's iPhone line stands almost entirely alone as the last vestige of Apple's decade-plus-old proprietary power and connectivity technology.
If you look at the Apple Store today, you'll see the gorgeous, new 10.9-inch Liquid Retina-display-sporting iPad and its brand new USB-C link alongside the last generation iPad, which still has Lightning. And it's quite the change.
Gone but not forgotten
The fact that Apple is still selling the 9th generation iPad with the classic Touch ID button and lighting port is inexplicable. Why would anyone choose this collection of aging tablet technology? It might be the price. While the base iPad sells for $449 / £499 / AU$749, the last-gen iPad is still just $329 / £369 / AU$549. You read that right, Apple just raised the price on the entry-level iPad.
Apple, it seems, can't move the needle on technology, standards, and innovation without asking for more. That worried me because Apple's entire world is shifting away from its propriety lighting port to USB-C, and yet Apple is still offering its best prices on legacy and soon-to-be outmoded cable and port systems.
No one, certainly not me, should be surprised that Apple made this big move on iPads before it did on the iPhone. Apple has been walking this path on the tablet side for years, starting with the iPad Pro in 2018, then the iPad Air, and finally the redesigned iPad mini. In other words, Apple's been signaling the change for years.
That the iPhone 14 line showed up in September 2022 without a single USB-C model - not even the iPhone 14 Pro Max - was something of a surprise. Apple and other tech firms are facing considerable international pressure to standardize on USB-C on all tech gadgets.
They myth of standards
I have argued, in the past, that this so-called cable and port standard is an illusion. We once thought Serial Ports were a standard (ask your grandparents), and even USB-3 (old-school USB). They have not proven any more permanent than any other technology. USB-C may be the same.
Nevertheless, what Apple has done here, without much fanfare, is a big deal. It (and to a lesser extent the surprising swap from lighting to USB-C on the latest Apple TV 4K remote) marks the beginning of the end for the lighting port.
I can't say I will miss it. The tiny ports are, more so than USB-C, dust magnets. Maybe it's because they're slightly smaller than USB-C slots. In addition, the cables, including those made by Apple, aren't all that durable. Have you ever seen a cable "turtleneck"? I have. It's when the flexible rubber sheath that surrounds the cable stretches, deteriorates and pulls back from the hard-plastic lightning jack body. It's not a pretty look and is a signal that it's time to throw out the cable.
USB-C cables simply don't do that and I'm not sure why.
Overall, you should be pleased with this news. Apple is moving an entire line away from legacy technology and looking to the future. The iPhone will follow next year (or the year after). As for the iPad 9th generation, let's assume that will sell while supplies last.
Still trying to find the best cheap tablet? You can start with this best tablets guide.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.