Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


Apple's charging ecosystem is a mess

This is one area the company should work on streamlining.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple, a company renowned for design and engineering, sometimes looks like it has lost the plot.

Take charging, for example.

Apple's charging ecosystem is a mess.

Take my setup.

Right now, my setup requires Lightning cables, USB-C cables, a specific Apple Watch charger and MagSafe cable. Oh, and there's an option for some of my devices to charge wirelessly, but not others.

These cables connect to a variety of different chargers.

As much as I like the Lightning cable and the new MagSafe cable, I'd much rather if Apple standardized down to a single cable -- the USB-C cable.

It's cheap.

It's ubiquitous.

It's robust and hard-wearing.

And it just works.

Sure, I like the 140W of power that Apple can push down the MagSafe cable to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but I'm also surprised how often I find myself using the slower USB-C charging just because I don't need to have the specific MagSafe cable.

Also: Fully test your USB-C charger with the MakerHawk Type-C meter

Apple's charging mess is further confounded by the fact that Apple wants you to have one charger per device. There's a rumored dual-USB-C charger in the works, and this would help make charging a lot more streamlined.

Sure, there are plenty of third-party chargers out there with two or more USB-C ports, but it's strange that a company like Apple, with an alleged eye on design and engineering, hasn't yet bothered to make one up to now.

In Apple's world, you're either charging each of your devices one at a time, or you've got multiple chargers and cables all over the place on the go simultaneously.

The reason why Apple is bad at getting charging right -- and comes out with abominations such as a mouse with the charging port on the bottom -- is because Apple doesn't really like cables and ports. Rarely does Apple show a charging cable in any of its sales or promotional materials.

It is almost as though Apple's devices are powered by magic. Or at least that's the impression Apple wants to give.

While I'd be happy with Apple standardizing on the USB-C cable for charging and power, a more likely approach is that Apple will go wireless on things like the iPhone and AirPods -- and maybe at some point, the iPad -- and MagSafe on laptops.

Also: MacBook not charging? Here's what to check

Apple's ultimate goal is to eliminate charging ports and buttons. These features are prone to damage and cost money to source and fit.

This is good for Apple but not so good for end users who will need chargers and wireless chargers everywhere they go.

I can see this being particularly annoying when traveling.

And Apple has not really made wireless charging easy either. For example, the Apple Watch uses wireless charging, but it is incompatible with Apples MagSafe wireless chargers (yes, isn't it also rather confusing that Apple reuses the MagSafe name for both wired and wireless charging?) and won't work with any other Qi wireless chargers.

It's almost as though Apple has deliberately made wired and wireless charging as complex and confusing as possible. Part of this is surely down to Apple having a broad ecosystem of products, but it's also hard to overlook the fact that Apple also pulls in a lot of money from licensing things like the Lightning connector to third parties.

So why has Apple adopted USB-C on some devices -- such as the iPad line -- if Lightning was a cash cow?

That's tricky to answer. My guess would be that since Apple is placing the iPad as a laptop replacement, USB-C is ubiquitous on laptops, and the iPad needed this feature to compete (and adding it with a dongle just didn't cut it).

Also: How to use an iPad Pro to power your home office

It'll be interesting where Apple goes with charging over the next few years. My guess is that we're a few years away from a port-less iPhone, but as soon as that happens, we're going to see the Lightning port vanish from everything over the course of a refresh cycle.

Editorial standards