Soon after Apple’s Wonderlust event, it became clear that the company’s revised AirPods Pro with a USB-C case offered more than an updated connector. As detailed in a press release, the upgraded version of the second-generation AirPods Pro “unlocks powerful 20-bit, 48 kHz Lossless Audio with a massive reduction in audio latency”. But how?
Here’s Joe Rossignol, reporting at MacRumors:
In a video interview with Brian Tong, Apple’s VP of Sensing and Connectivity Ron Huang explained why only the updated second-generation AirPods Pro with a USB-C charging case support lossless audio with Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro headset.
Huang revealed that the H2 chip in the USB-C AirPods Pro supports the 5GHz band of wireless frequencies for ultra-low latency and less interference, while the H2 chip in the original second-generation AirPods Pro with a Lightning case is limited to the 2.4GHz band. Apple says it is this 5GHz support that enables the updated AirPods Pro to support lossless audio with the Vision Pro, which is slated for release in the U.S. in early 2024.
You can watch the video below:
The addition of 5GHz wireless makes complete sense in hindsight, and it doesn’t surprise me that Apple prioritized sound quality and latency reduction for a platform where full immersion is key to the experience.
Beyond Vision Pro, however, I wonder whether we’ll ever have any updates on the lossless audio front regarding Apple Music and AirPods Pro.
We know that Apple Music’s lossless catalog supports resolutions “ranging from 16-bit/44.1 kHz (CD Quality) up to 24-bit/192 kHz”. The new AirPods Pro fall short of supporting hi-res lossless playback at 24-bit/192 kHz, but so-called CD Quality lossless playback should now be within the capabilities of the device. Last time Apple gave a statement on the lack of lossless playback in AirPods Pro, they mentioned there are “other elements” to improve sound quality that aren’t necessarily about Bluetooth codecs. Is Apple waiting until they can support full 24-bit/192 kHz playback in future AirPods Pro hardware, or are there more audio-related changes coming with the launch of Vision Pro?
In a video shared earlier today, Tom Hogarty, who’s a Lightroom product manager at Adobe, demonstrated an upcoming feature of Lightroom for iPad – the ability to import photos from external devices (such as cameras, drives, or SD cards connected over USB-C) into Lightroom’s library without copying them to the Photos app first.
Here’s how it’s going to work:
The workflow looks very nice: an alert comes up as soon as an external device is detected, photos are previewed in a custom UI within Lightroom (no more Photos overlay) and they’re copied directly into the app. I think anyone who uses Lightroom for iPad to edit photos taken with a DSLR is going to appreciate this addition. Keep in mind that the 2018 iPad Pros support up to 10 Gbps transfers over USB-C, which should help when importing hundreds of RAW files into Lightroom.
Direct photo import from external USB storage devices was originally announced by Apple at WWDC 2019 as part of the “Image Capture API” for iPadOS. When I was working on my iOS and iPadOS 13 review, I searched for documentation to cover the feature, but I couldn’t find anything on Apple’s website (I wasn’t the only one). Eventually, I just assumed it was part of the functionalities Apple delayed until later in the iOS 13 cycle. It turns out that this feature was quietly introduced by Apple with iOS and iPadOS 13.2, as also suggested by Hogarty in the Lightroom video.
According to this thread on StackOverflow, direct photo import is part of the ImageCaptureCore framework, which is now also available for iOS and iPadOS. I still can’t find any documentation for it on Apple’s developer website.
Chance Miller of 9to5Mac details a fresh update to an Apple USB-C adapter:
Apple this week has quietly released a new version of its USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. This $69 adapter includes a USB-C port, HDMI port, and USB-A port, with the new version making several notable improvements.
The new USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter adds support for HDMI 2.0, an upgrade from the original model’s HDMI 1.4b. This means you can now drive 4K 3840 x 2160 video at 60Hz
4K 60Hz throughput is supported on the iPad Pro, iMac Pro, and 2017 or later versions of the 15-inch MacBook Pro and Retina iMac. Miller also notes that the updated dongle now includes “support for HDR video in HDR10, as well as Dolby Vision.”
I’ve been interested in purchasing the prior version of this adapter for contexts where I’d like to watch a video but don’t have an Internet connection. Since the Apple TV doesn’t support offline downloads, but many apps on the iPad do, connecting my iPad Pro to a TV set via HDMI seems like the best solution. The added flexibility of including a USB-A port, and even a USB-C port to enable power charging, makes this an especially appealing dongle for me.
You can order the new USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter from Apple’s website for $69.
Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac noticed a new addition to the Apple Store today:
Apple is now selling a new generation of the 5K LG UltraFine display. For the first time, the 5K UltraFine is now compatible with the iPad Pro, finally offering a 5K display option for 2018 iPad Pro users.
Previously, the 5K UltraFine display would only work over Thunderbolt. Now, it can output 5K over USB-C DisplayPort, which means it can now work with any of Apple’s current Mac and iPad Pro lineup.
Earlier this year the previous UltraFine 5K was mysteriously discontinued. Many assumed that move was in preparation for Apple introducing its own display option at WWDC. When the Pro Display XDR was unveiled, however, its $4,999 base price meant it clearly didn’t target the same market as LG’s UltraFine. While it’s possible Apple will introduce a lower-cost first-party display at some point in the future, for now the UltraFine is a nice alternative option to have. It’s priced at $1,299, and while nothing else about the monitor has changed, the ability to output from the iPad Pro is a valuable addition.
Update: Since originally publishing, 9to5Mac has discovered a support document from Apple which clarifies that, in fact, this new monitor can only work with the iPad Pro at 4K resolution - 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz – rather than the full 5K available with many Mac models. A disappointing discovery, but perhaps not altogether surprising.
The two devices that first got me interested in USB-C hubs were my iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. With the iPad, the attraction was a single device that could connect an external display, support Gigabit Ethernet networking, and read photos from an SD card with the promise of external storage support in iOS 13. For my 2016 13” MacBook Pro, I wanted a way to easily connect legacy USB-A devices, jump on my wired network, copy photos from SD cards, connect to an external 4K display, and leave other USB-C ports open for devices I only occasionally connect to my Mac.
One of the trickiest aspects of picking a hub is finding one with ports that fit your use cases the best. On top of that, not all connections are created equal. As Federico explained in his story on his iPad setups late last year, there are a variety of USB flavors that support different data speeds and power delivery amounts as well as HDMI ports that refresh 4K video at different rates.
Since early this year, I’ve been using the HyperDrive Slim 8-in-1 USB-C Hub, which has:
- 1 USB-C port with Power Delivery, but that isn’t Thunderbolt-compatible
- 2 USB-A 3.1 ports with 5Gbps throughput
- an Ethernet jack
- Mini DisplayPort (4K at 30Hz)
- HDMI (4K at 30Hz)
- an SD card slot
- a microSD card slot
I haven’t had a need for the Mini DisplayPort connection on the Slim 8-in-1 much, but the hub has handled my other needs well as I detailed in my review. However, one of the biggest problems with the HyperDrive hub is that it has a short built-in cable that can’t be removed. The trouble is that at about 16 centimeters long, the short cord causes the hub to dangle from the side of my MacBook Pro when it’s elevated on Twelve South’s Hi-Rise stand and my iPad Pro when it’s in the Viozon stand I use to write. Both setups look messy and put stress on the cable that I worry will cause it to fail eventually.
That’s why I was intrigued when Twelve South told me they were working on a way to solve the problem. The solution is the company’s new StayGo USB-C hub, which Twelve South sent me to try.
Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors about the latest rebrand in USB spec land:
The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), this week announced a rebranding of the USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 specifications, under the USB 3.2 specification. As outlined by Tom’s Hardware, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 will now be considered previous generations of the USB 3.2 specification.
Going forward, USB 3.1 Gen 1 (transfer speeds up to 5Gb/s), which used to be USB 3.0 prior to a separate rebranding, will be called USB 3.2 Gen 1, while USB 3.1 Gen 2 (transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s) will now be known as USB 3.2 Gen 2.
It gets better though:
If the swap between USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 to USB 3.2 wasn’t confusing enough, each of these specifications also has a marketing term. The new USB 3.2 Gen 1 with transfer speeds up to 5Gb/s is SuperSpeed USB, while USB 3.2 Gen 2 with transfer speeds up to 10Gb/s is known as SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps. The USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 specification with transfer speeds up to 20Gb/s is known as SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps.
Make sure to check out the comparison table on MacRumors to admire the full extent of these changes.
As someone who’s been experimenting with USB-C accessories compliant with the USB 3.1 spec over the past few months, I can’t even begin to stress how confusing for the average consumer all of this stuff can be. It took me days to wrap my head around the differences between the physical USB-C connector, the underlying specs it can support, and the DisplayPort compatibility mode – and I do this for a living. In my experience, if you’re looking to buy modern USB accessories compatible with an iPad Pro or MacBook Pro, you’re better off looking for a technical spec label rather than the “friendly names” such as “SuperSpeed”, which manufacturers often fail to mention in their spec sheets.
Until today, if you wanted to buy USB-C accessories supporting the highest data transfer rates on the 2018 iPad Pro, you had to look for devices compliant with USB 3.1 Gen. 2; with today’s rebrand, the 2018 iPad Pro supports USB 3.2 Gen. 2 for transfers up to 10 Gbps, but not the similarly-named USB 3.2 Gen. 2x2. I’m sure this is going to be so easy to explain to someone who’s looking for the “fastest” USB-C cable for their iPad Pro.
My main Mac is a 2016 MacBook Pro, which isn’t ideal. The problem isn’t really the laptop itself, it’s that my needs have changed. You see, in 2016 I was commuting to downtown Chicago every day and I wanted a portable Mac for working in Xcode and other tasks on the go.
Now, I work from home and my MacBook Pro sits in clamshell mode most of the time. It’s handy to have the MacBook to take with me when I need it, but that’s far less frequent than it used to be. Instead, my Mac drives a 27” LG 4K display, is connected to Ethernet, speakers, a Luna Display dongle, my podcasting microphone, and various other peripherals I need from time to time.
The trouble with the setup is that I quickly ran out of USB-C ports even though my MacBook Pro has four. I’ve tried several different configurations to streamline my setup, but none were quite right. Now though, I’ve finally found a solution that comes closest to meeting my needs and has the added benefit of working well with my iPad Pro. With a couple of minor caveats, the HyperDrive Slim 8-in-1 USB-C Hub is the best solution I’ve tried.
iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.
One of my favorite aspects of working on the iPad is the flexibility granted by its extensible form factor. At its very essence, the iPad is a screen that you can hold in your hands to interact with apps using multitouch. But what makes iPad unique is that, unlike a desktop computer or laptop, it is able to take on other forms – and thus adapt to different contexts – simply by connecting to a variety of removable accessories. The iPad can be used while relaxing on a couch or connected to a 4K display with a Bluetooth keyboard; you can work on it while waiting in a car thanks to built-in 4G LTE, or put it into a Brydge keyboard case and turn it into a quasi-MacBook laptop that will confuse a lot of your friends who aren’t familiar with iPad Pro accessories. In a way, the iPad is modern computing’s version of Kirby, the famous Nintendo character that is a blank canvas on its own, but can absorb the capabilities of other characters when necessary.
Thanks to its USB-C port, the new iPad Pro takes this aspect of the traditional iPad experience even further by enabling easier connections to external devices that don’t come with a Lightning connector. At this stage, the new iPad Pro does not integrate with all USB-C accessories like any modern Mac would; also, connecting to Bluetooth keyboards has always been possible on iPad, as was interacting with external USB keyboards if you had the right Lightning adapter. But the point is that USB-C makes it easier to connect an iPad Pro to other USB devices either by virtue of using a single USB-C cable or, in the case of USB-A accessories, using existing USB-C hubs from any company that isn’t Apple. Not to mention how, thanks to the increased bandwidth of the USB 3.1 Gen. 2 spec supported by the iPad Pro’s USB-C port, it is now possible to connect the device directly to an external 4K/5K USB-C monitor, which can power the iPad Pro and act as a USB hub at the same time.
We haven’t seen the full picture of built-in USB-C with the new iPad Pro: external drives still aren’t supported by iOS’ Files app, and other peripherals often require app developers to specifically support them. However, I believe the removal of Lightning is already enhancing the iPad’s innate ability to adapt to a plurality of work setups and transform itself into a portable computer of different kinds. For the past few weeks, I’ve been testing this theory with Bluetooth and USB keyboards, a 4K USB-C monitor, USB-C hubs, and a handful of accessories that, once again, highlight the greater flexibility of the iPad Pro compared to traditional laptops and desktops, as well as some of its drawbacks.
In addition to Apple’s clear case for the iPhone XR and 18W USB-C adapter, Apple online stores in Europe started selling Belkin’s highly anticipated Boost Up dual wireless charging dock and USB-C to HDMI adapter earlier today.