Apple could be gearing up to replace the Lightning connector on the iPad Pro with the USB-C standard found on Android smartphones and MacBooks. A Monday report claims the company is planning to launch a new tablet with support for the connector, with the ability to output 4K HDR video to an external screen.
The 9to5Mac report claims the new iPad will launch later this year with support for the smaller, reversible USB connector. Its external display feature will be controlled using a new section of the “Settings” app with the ability to control brightness, resolution and other parameters. The report doesn’t state whether USB-C will replace or supplement the Lightning connector found on iPhones and iPads since the iPhone 5 launched in 2012, but the existing connector already supports external displays through a Digital AV Adapter. It’s possible that Apple includes both on the iPad Pro, but USB-C offers the capability to entirely replace Lightning in terms of functionality.
Apple has gradually implemented USB-C into more of its products. The 12-inch MacBook that launched in 2015 used a single USB-C port for charging and peripherals, alongside a single headphone jack. The new MacBook Pro that launched the following year comes with either two or four of the ports, which also act as charging points as with the MacBook. Apple has also included USB-C on the iPad Pro and Apple TV, but it’s stuck with the Lightning connector on iPhone and iPad devices.
Dropping Lightning for USB-C could enable users to access a variety of third-party peripherals and cables. Devices like the Nintendo Switch and many Android smartphones use the connector for charging, meaning Apple users would have more choice on the charger front, while the Google Pixel 2 uses the connector to offer a 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor. Apple made a similar switch with the launch of the iPhone 7 in 2016, but with this year’s iPhone XS release it stopped bundling the adapter with the phone. USB-C could enable other manufacturers to easily offer their own headphone adapters.
Apple has occasionally held an event in October to announce new iPads, suggesting that if the company is going to update its tablet line, a launch could come soon.