/ Technology

Opinion: it’s the ‘Ryanair approach’ to tech

Sleek technology shouldn’t mean paying extra for kit that used to come in the box. Do you agree?

Where Apple leads, other tech firms often (reluctantly) follow. Apple was the first to make a smartphone as we now understand them; first to abandon the headphone jack on its phones and first to ditch a range of ports on laptops in favour of just a couple of USB ports.

So it was a surprise to see the expensive new MacBook Pros had turned back the clock and added not only an HDMI port, but also an SD card slot to three Thunderbolt ports and headphone jack. But given the price (from £1,299), a couple of extra ports is the least you should hope for.

Minimal ports

The move towards minimal ports on devices is increasingly annoying and expensive. My Windows laptop only has two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports plus a headphone jack, so I had to shell out more than £200 on a dock to connect it to my monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam, speakers and external hard drives.

While we’re at it, my phone, like an increasing number of devices, didn’t come with a charging plug, either. I recently spent £30 on an extension lead that has four USB ports. But those are USB-A ports, and the cable that came with my phone is USB-C at both ends. That meant another Amazon trip to buy a couple of USB-A to USB-C adaptors.

I think my next purchase will be a USB charging dock so I can charge several devices at once. Another thirty quid.

A chance to sell us things?

Tech firms say this helps keep devices slim and the absence of charging plugs reduces electronic waste. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s also a good chance to sell us things that used to come in the box.

It’s like the Ryanair approach: take things away from the inclusive price then sell them to you for extra, and tell you it’s for your own good.

I used to joke that Apple’s minimalist approach to ports was because it had a secret strategy to dominate the global dongle market. I now spend almost as much on connectors and plugs as I do on the tech.

What do you think? Are you happy to buy the dongles, cables, and leads separately from your devices, or should you get everything you need in the box?

Should the required dongles, leads, and cables come with your new tech, or separately?
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Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

When I replaced my IPhone it was not supplied with a charger. I did not need one because the charger for my 2014 iPhone was still in good working condition. I was glad to receive a new charging lead and now keep the old one as a spare. As a spare charger I have the one that came with my ten year old iPad. The downside of not supplying new chargers is that there are numerous counterfeit and dangerous Apple chargers on sale. Which? has reported on examples found on sale via well known online marketplaces.

I am encouraged to see the return of the HDMI and SD ports on the new MacBook Pros. I have not missed them on my MacBook Air, because I have a 2014 MBP with these features. Apple does do the occasional U-turn and the new MBP reintroduces the excellent Magsafe power connector, which avoids damage if someone trips over the charging cable. Unfortunately the new Magsafe connector is not compatible with the previous two versions. The one U-turn I would like to see is the return of the user-replaceable battery in Apple laptop computers.

Kate mentioned using a mouse on her laptop. I don’t know about PC laptops but the trackpads on Mac laptops are in my view a better alternative to using a mouse. Out of interest I tried a 13 year old Bluetooth Apple mouse on my MacBook Air and it works fine – not that I’m ever likely to use it. I’ve never seen much point of having a mouse or external keyboard on a laptop, but it’s good we have the choice.

I have always used a mouse with a laptop. I just can’t get along with a trackpad so I am glad the alternative facility is available. Even when I went into hospital last year I was able to use my laptop with the wireless mouse; being able to communicate with the wider world possibly helped to maintain my sanity.

It’s a matter of personal preference, John, but I’ve been using Apple laptops for 22 years and look forward to trackpad enhancements when I replace my computer. There is a bit of a learning curve, but like learning to touch-type it’s worth it. There are settings that allow you to set your own preferences. I would be interested to try the trackpads on modern PC laptops.

Maybe. I had never used a laptop until six years ago and found it a very inferior experience in so many ways. It is only used in an emergency or when I want to look something up quickly when I am downstairs or wish to browse in the garden.

I still have desktop computer (well an iMac) and probably use it as much as your laptop, John. The 24 inch screen, CD/DVD drive and now obsolete interfaces such as FireWire come in useful. I even use a mouse. We have choices, but as Kate has pointed out, these can be constrained by manufacturers.

When my Sony Vaio laptop bought in 2006 became rather slow I replaced it with a desktop built by my local independent computer shop. I use it for all “serious” work with a wireless mouse, keyboard, and Canon printer. I no longer need a portable computer but, for convenience, use an iPad as well. I occasionally miss some of the functions the pc does more easily but when searching online, looking at Convos, checking emails and so on it is nice to do it from the sofa. When out and about my elderly phone does the job. That all seems a useful combination.

Charlie says:
22 November 2021

Vote with your feet. Avoid Apple and Ryan Air.

I’m afraid I didn’t find Kate’s article very well researched. I have a Microsoft surface book 2 laptop and its true it doesn’t come with many ports – but you don’t need to buy the Microsoft £200 dock. I purchased a £25 usb-c adaptor off Amazon (Lemorele 5-in-1 USB C Hub) which provides 2 more std USB ports(keyboard/mouse and webcam) and HDMI connector for an external monitor and a Gigabit Ethernet connector thrown it. All of these connections work flawlessly and there are credible reviews on Amazon for these devices with my Microsoft laptop, so there is little risk in purchasing. From the reviews these adaptors work well with Macbooks too.
As for moaning about phone manufacturers not including chargers I think that’s churlish – who hasn’t got a box of USB chargers sitting in their garage from defunct portable electonic products ?
The tone of the article felt like Kate was looking for something to complain about.

Just as Convos should be, Kate. I think some feel it is negative to post opposing or controversial comments but surely that is the essence of a good Convo from which we might all learn.

I recently spent £30 on an extension lead that has four USB ports. But those are USB-A ports, and the cable that came with my phone is USB-C at both ends.

Why would you recently buy a USB-A hub? Modern technology has been moving to USB-C for several years now, with Apple dragging its heels until October 2020. The problem is buying old technology (USB-A), not Apple’s catching up with everyone else (with USB-C).

That meant another Amazon trip to buy a couple of USB-A to USB-C adaptors.

Why would you use adaptors to convert from USB-A to USB-C? You will lose the fast charging benefit of USB-C at 9V instead of USB-A’s 5V.

I have quite a number of accessories with USB-A plugs and they are still in good condition, so I have one USB-C to USB-A adapter. I also have an adapter that allows me to use SD cards on computers without an SD slot. I agree with Kate.

Those of us who don’t change computer tech until it’s bust or becomes a snail, are annoyed when the eventual update doesn’t let us reconnect all the items we use with it. Currently I’m typing on a battery wireless keyboard and use a battery wireless mouse via a USB socket. I have a monitor plugged into the lap top via HDMI and and an external cd drive in another port. My router is directly connected to the computer via an ethernet cable and I have a USB cable joining my C phone to the A laptop. My printer is also connected by a wire and the external speakers plus another printer and desk top computer (running XP) are connected to the monitor. The Wi-Fi on the laptop is usually switched off, as is the Bluetooth. For this to happen I need all the ports on my laptop plus a four hub extension. Everything works well and I don’t have to pull USBs in and out. Granted things have moved on, but I use my CD interface occasionally for clipart and DVDs and I don’t have much around wirelessly for anyone close by to tap into. You know where you are with a lead. Thus, I welcome as many ports as possible and don’t want a string of extensions running from a single outlet. Quite apart from the lash up, there must be a limit to the amount you can pull from one USB socket, be it A, C, or Thunderbolt.

Even though XP is out of support, the most recent critical security update to address CVE-2019-0708 came out as recently as May 2019:

Given the potential impact to customers and their businesses, we [Microsoft] made the decision to make security updates available for platforms that are no longer in mainstream support [including XP SP3]. These updates are available from the Microsoft Update Catalog only. We recommend that customers running one of these operating systems download and install the update as soon as possible.

The vulnerability is in Remote Desktop Support (RDS) which would allow someone to take control of the desktop and install software. But if the internet router is correctly configured to disable Port 3389, or RDS is disabled – best practice regardless of which version of Windows is running – there is no risk.

I would agree running XP is not a great idea, but it is still embedded in many devices.

@ Kate Bevan. No it isn’t and never was. It still runs the best translator I have ever used and one that will not run on later systems. This particular desk top was built for me in 2006.

Like Vynor, I use old computers offline. My desktop computer is a 24 inch iMac dating from 2009. I use it to run obsolete software including Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator that is no longer available unless you pay for an expensive subscription. The large screen is useful for various purposes. It’s years since this computer was online. I use this computer or a 2011 MacBook Pro (also offline) if I need to use a CD/DVD drive and to run software that will not run on current operating systems.

I understand Kate’s concern because some people do put themselves at risk by using obsolete kit online, sometimes without current anti-malware software.

My desktop was built specifically to operate off line so that, if the other one ever got hacked or encrypted with Ransomeware I would have one that worked. It has always worked in its own little bubble and, until the monitor finally stopped working, it had no connection with any other part of the system. It now shares my main monitor, but with a dedicated lead connection. Naturally, it is never on when the other computer is running and vice versa. It has its own printer scanner and own dedicated wireless mouse and keyboard. XP is still a good, intuitive platform and it allows me to run things from my C.D collection: clip art, 3D design software, and, of course the translator, which can handle complex, lengthy documents and provide a choice whether I address my work to a formal individual, a friend, or more than one person.
This programme has an interesting background. The makers were involved in some fraudulent dealings and, shortly after launching this product, they were closed down. This probably explains why it was never able to update and run on any other Windows platform thereafter. Though I never do now, I can also drive trains and fly aircraft on this computer, but I frequently go back to it to recover old family photographs that I forgot to archive when I bought another computer, my earlier literary work and other stored documents. The elderly Microsoft Publisher still works well.
The internal battery has long since failed, but I can boot it up from scratch of leave it on standby as if the battery were still there. Yes, there’s still life in XP yet!

Yesterday, I took delivery of a new Samsung Galaxy S21 to replace my S10. It’s not a “vanity” purchase. The S10 will be a Christmas present for a new owner, to replace their now aging and unretentive S8 with a cracked screen – an earlier hand-me-down.

The S21 is almost identical in function and design to the S10. However, it does not come with a 13A plug charger, nor a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Not having a charger included is a good thing in my view. If anyone disagrees, they had better get used to the idea; read on.

Back in 2009, there were around 30 different phone charging “standards”. I still have a drawer full of them. Since then, the EU have been working on a voluntary approach to reduce the number of mobile phone charging interfaces down to three, the USB-B (“mini”), the Apple “Lightning” and the newer USB-C standard.

I no longer use plug-in phone chargers. There are USB switch plates in the kitchen, office and bedrooms, with the appropriate cable fixed, so they can’t go walkabout. For travel, I take a 6-way Anker USB charger which has a C8 (“figure 8”) input, so I take a British or Continental cable as appropriate – no travel adaptors required. I also have a couple of rechargeable battery packs. Any new USB phone chargers I have received over the past few years just sit in the box unused.

It seems the EU have finally lost patience with these industry practices, and Apple in particular. They report that in 2020, approximately 420 million mobile phones and other portable electronic devices were sold in the EU. On average, consumers own around three mobile phone chargers, of which they use two on a regular basis. Disposal of chargers is estimated to generate 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually.

There is now an EU proposal out to legislate for a common charger standard for electronic devices by 2023, based on the adoption of USB-C, covering mobile phones, tablets, headsets, portable loudspeakers, digital cameras and handheld videogame consoles. And manfacturers will no longer be allowed to bundle chargers with these products.

As to the loss of the headphone jack, I only use this with an old pair of noise-cancelling headphones when mowing the lawn. I could buy a USB adapter from a reputable source (CPC Farnell) for £3.25. But on second thoughts, it is probably safer to use a Bluetooth wireless pair to avoid getting the cable caught on a branch.

In summary, we really do need to stop bundling unwanted electronics with the main device. I can’t tell you how many cheap keyboards I’ve had to dispose of over the years and I still have boxes full of C13 “kettle” cables, CAT5 “Ethernet” cables, printer cables, ADSL filters, etc., etc., etc. These aren’t all my purchases, but accessories from equipment installed for others.

To return to the theme of the Convo, it’s not that these items are no longer included, but the eye-watering cost of buying them on the after market. Using the Ryanair analogy, paying €3 for a 500ml bottle of water is the problem, not the fact that water iss’t included in the cost of the flight for those that don’t want or need it.

Many phones and other devices have been damaged when the cable gets caught on something. Wireless earphones and headphones are one solution but a standard magnetic connection would also be satisfactory.

I buy accessories only if I’m going to use them, and at Apple prices that makes sense. I have only had one failure, an adaptor to connect my MacBook to the projection systems in lecture theatres. Despite the adapter being a couple of years old and me saying that I had a spare, Apple sent a replacement by the following day in time for my next lecture.

When desktop computers were more popular for home use our local charity shop was desperate for cables, particularly the ‘kettle leads’ that people forgot to include when donating their old computer.

I suppose most of us who have used a variety of devices over the years have loads of connectors of one sort or another. We had a big chuck-out recently and I took a large crate-full to one of the local charity shops. They didn’t want them as much for public sale but they had a man who called round every month or so to buy up any electronic bits and pieces and gave the charity a fair price for them. They also take old cameras, mobile phones, games consoles, tablets, Kindles and other things [including old Alexas surprisingly]. Apparently, even among the charity’s needy customers who are quite happy to buy old jeans and tee-shirts, there is not much demand for second-hand tech kit.

I don’t really have much use for a smart phone these days and mine is getting quite old now. I have decided not to replace it but can’t make up my mind whether to hang on to it or let it go.

Adaptors and leads can be very expensive. Thunderbolt and Lightning – very very frightening.

I like the USB C connectors since they can go in either way. Mine, to my phone, is not a very good fit and I wonder if this is just a poor lead or if it is a general fault with these. My phone was, and is the first gadget which uses USB C and I have had to buy four leads ( USB A to C) and USB plugs in order to charge it where ever I happen to be. I still have a couple of scart sockets in use, a midi sized USB for a camera and a few phono leads for the audio equipment. Like you, I have a drawer in which midi interface and ancient audio leads, lengths of co axial cable, full size jack plugs and ethernet cables reside. A few might still be useful, but most are now obsolete and need to be disposed of. An old screw in fixing (I’ve forgotten its name) now connects my oldest computer to the monitor and it does what it was designed to do. I understand that not all phone and battery chargers are the same and one can ruin a piece of equipment by charging it with the wrong adaptor. I agree that standardisation in this area is overdue and should happen. This week I bought a back up hard drive to replace a faulty one. The lead connecting that to the computer is unique. There are various sizes of SD cards, though the compact flash card on my camera is now obsolete.
Is it correct to assume that now, we have all had enough phones to have a charger that will work with the next one? I didn’t when I changed mine last year. I expect my next one in ten years time will not need a charger. I haven’t bought a charge mat yet for this one.
In my opinion, in general, leads are better than space connections. There is a positive link between components and it isn’t so easy to hack a lead. Of course, this is fine at home, but, out and about, wireless takes over. On the boat, my phone becomes a WI-fi hot spot and I give two fingers to the Marina and its grief stricken server.

My experience is that USB-C plugs fit well, Vynor, so hopefully it’s just a poor lead. I don’t like USB-C on phones because the amount of power that can be delivered is more than sufficient to start a fire in a damaged lead. Sadly, many just yank out their leads after charging. Apple’s Lightning connector for phones is also reversible and it delivers less power.

I agree that the special leads used for external drives are a pain. I have four of one brand, which means that I have three leads that may never be used.

You are right that you could cause damage if you use a charger designed for a different purpose. Most people don’t think about this, never mind look at the specification. I have two Pure radios with mains adaptors that look identical at first glance but produce different voltages. If I swapped them I could fry a radio that cost £200.

Back to the Ryanair analogy, excluding a charger from the box is more akin to Ryanair trying to sell travel insurance than to Ryanair trying to charge fees to take normal-sized cabin baggage on board. In the same way that one might already have annual travel insurance from a previous trip, one might already have a charger from a previous phone. It t is reasonable for Ryanair to exclude travel insurance from fares, and likewise it is reasonable for Apple to exclude chargers from the iPhone box.

I didn’t get a foot pump, with my new car, to top up the tyres.
If you need a charger for your new phone then buy one; presumably the phone retailer will sell OEM products. Along with, if you choose, a case, screen protector, earphones and other accessories.

In the same way that I am using the charger that was supplied with my 2014 iPhone, my tyre pump has been used with three cars. Thankfully I have a spare wheel for my car, unlike many car owners, because the one for my previous car would not have fitted.

I have about four adaptors to connect projectors to different models of laptop computers. There is little point in supplying them as standard accessories because many people would never use them.

It might be worth including earphones with phones because many use them, but I do not. I prefer to be able to choose accessories at the time of purchase.

I don’t agree on including earphones. They are invaribly the cheap in-ear type which I find uncomfortable to wear and unhygenic to share. Another drawer full of e-waste looking for a home.

In fact, don’t include any accessories at all and it can be Christmas every day. Who didn’t experience getting a present that needed batteries and had to wait patiently for the shops to open again on 27 December – assuming it wasn’t a Sunday?

I don’t feel strongly about the earphones other than disliking those who use phones and tablets on public transport without using them.

A lot of the discussion above is about USB-A vs USB-C. I notice that a lot of transport operators, including premium cabins on major airlines, are still fitting old USB-A sockets, whereas nearly all new phones are now supplied with USB-C cables (including iPhones with respect to one end of the cable). It seems like an extraordinarily inept decision to implement USB-A sockets in brand new aircraft cabins.

The Docklands Light Railway is launching new trains in 2023, which will reportedly have USB charging sockets. Expecting a similar bad decision, I asked Transport for London through a Freedom of Information Act request whether the USB sockets would be USB-A or USB-C. Most smartphones with USB-C also support USB Power Delivery (PD), which fast-charges at 9V up to around 80% and then at the more conventional 5V between 80% and 100%. Given that most DLR journeys last only around 10 to 15 minutes, a fast charge at 9V for a shorter time is far more useful than a slow charge at 5V for a longer time.

TfL responded “The current design provides for 5V USB A. The choice of rail approved USB chargers is limited and our supplier is unaware of any in production at this time that meet the fast charge standard. This element has however been designed so that at a later time should new devices become available, the USB facia can be removed and replaced with a different specification USB port of the same size”.

How difficult is it to charge a phone before going out for the day? It works for me.

Even if you charge your battery at the beginning of the day, if you have a busy day out and about, it’s easy to get down to 30%. It would be very useful to be able to add 25% during a 15-minute DLR journey.

It also means that intensive usage during a DLR journey won’t drain the battery, and will instead charge it. For example, you can leave home with 100% in the morning, and still have 100% when you arrive at work etc.

I don’t like the sound (literally) of “intensive usage” during any public transit journey – and nor do other passengers 🙂

And as to @wavechange‘s comment about earphones on public transport, it’s a shame they don’t mute both ends of the conversation. If we have to listen to it at all, we need to hear both ends of the conversation for maximum enjoyment 🙂

You need to switch your fellow passenger to ‘silent’, Em. 😉

Ooh no, let’s hear the whole exchange; keep a journey entertaining. Perhaps other passengers could discuss the content, as in a Convo, and maybe offer advice. Live social media without the ads.

Em, how is intensive usage of any concern to other passengers? For example, watching a film or video via headphones is a particularly power-hungry activity, which I see plenty of passengers doing. Hardly anyone makes phone calls on public transport any more. Everyone communicates by text now instead.

On one occasion, long ago, I listened in to a doctor doing a consultation with a patient, in the carriage. Most of these phone chats in public are predictable and one learns what’s for supper. When the train becomes late, the whole carriage wakes up and phones. Quite a few of them don’t know where they are. “I’m on the train.” No you’re not, you are in it.
My phone woke me up to tell me I was in England. This was useful information, since it was daylight and we’d been in the dark for twenty minutes under the channel. These days, it would tell me that I had just left the European Union. – real grass-roots Brexit in action.

Whenever possible we travel in the ‘quiet’ coach on the train. The conversations are much more interesting and even the children seem better behaved.

Perhaps the Docklands Light Railway is not typical; it’s a long time since I’ve used it. As an occasional passenger I always found the changing views from the large windows far too interesting to ignore.

Not having worked in an office for nearly twenty years now I realise I could be a tad out of touch, but this chat set me thinking: why does anybody going to work in an office need to have a fully charged-up mobile phone at the ready?

Except in the Cities of London and Westminster, and in Docklands, office workers are probably a minority employment group numerically so what is it that makes them so special that Transport for London has to equip new trains on the DLR with phone charging facilities for what seem to be very short journeys? Are office workers not allowed to recharge their phones at their desks?

I have a small powerbank, which gives me independence from chargers. I would not be keen to leave a phone on charge and visible on public transport.

It might not be difficult to fit public transport with charging points that have both USB-A and USB-C sockets and keep everyone happy.

When you charge your phone on public transport, you don’t “leave” it. You hold it in your hands to use it while powering it and charging it from a USB socket.

I don’t see any need to purposefully implement USB-A sockets on the new DLR trains, given that no phones will be using USB-A by the time the trains are launched in 2023.

I have seen phones, tablets and laptops left on charge on public transport. That may be unwise but expecting people to hold their phone all the time it is on charge does not seem reasonable.

I have an iPhone that is coming up to two years old and I hope to still be using it for at least three years more. The cable supplied has a USB-A plug, which fits the charger supplied with my previous iPhone. Perhaps we should spare a thought for those who want to carry on using older products.

The primary benefit of USB power during a 10 to 15 minute DLR journey is so that power-draining usage doesn’t drain the battery and instead the battery gets charged more. So holding one’s phone while using it is the intention.

Based on their demographics and the phones that I see, I would guess that 95% of DLR users have phones supplied with USB-C cables, and that by the time these new trains are introduced it will be 99%. There’s nothing to stop the 1% buying a USB-C cable, even if they want to continue (very reasonably) to use an old phone.

I can’t get worked up about charging sockets but sitting beside someone who is watching a video on their phone/tablet/laptop can be irritating. I suspect I may have overactive peripheral vision.

This morning I received an email from a friend, asking for an historic photo that she had seen me show at a talk years ago. Although the photo is in a current archive I decided to turn on my 2002 iMac, which has one of the then new-fangled flat screens joined to a hemispherical base via a metal arm and can be positioned like an Anglepoise lamp – a rather wacky design. Thankfully it has three USB sockets and I have an adaptor to connect flash drives to a USB socket on my laptop.

I rarely use flash drives for anything other than moving files from computers that are no longer used online. My first flash drive had a capacity of 128k and cost £80. That still works but like many older plastic items has become sticky because of deterioration of the plastic.

Talcum powder or cornflour?

Solvent (I cannot remember which) seemed the least bad solution. I have used talcum powder for screwdrivers with sticky soft-grip handles. There’s nothing worse than a sticky screwdriver other than one with the wrong ‘connection’ – e.g. Phillips and Pozidrive.

I’m not really sure if this is the right conversation for this item, but has anyone here had any unwanted and most likely scam calls from these numbers: 0161 330 3592 and 01204 430 878. The first one was by an Asian bloke whose voice I recognised from the past going on about my router and that’s a tameside number, and I’ve had much the same call from different numbers in the past. And the other is a Bolton number with a recorded call by some woman trying to tell me that my internet will be disconnected in 24 hours, there was more but I didn’t hear it as I just slammed the phone down as the voice sounded familiar, she sounded like the one who does the amazon scams. And I bet these numbers are never used more than once, but keep changing so as to stop call barring from blocking them and to make them less traceable.

Brian Pull says:
23 November 2021

In her latest piece, Kate Bevan comes across as equally impartial on tech as Laura Keunssberg is on politics and Brexit. And equally determined to drive her opinion regardless of the unfortunate reality of evidence to the contrary.
If she needs to hard-wire half a dozen peripherals to her PC, why choose a laptop with only two USB ports? Did she not do any research, or perhaps read up on Which! reports before purchasing? She is presumably also blissfully unaware of the benefits of wireless mouse/keyboards as employed by the majority of regular computer users. Docks (where an option) certainly provide good connectivity, but are extremely pricey and rather last century; a very limited number of models have them available these days. So instead of “£200 on a dock”, why not use a £10 USB hub?
A random search has confirmed that the majority of both laptops and desktops still come with USB-A ports (or a mix of A and C) and it is difficult to find a model with only USB-C. In any event, the £190 saved by not purchasing a dock, could purchase about 63 USB-C to USB-A adaptors on Amazon.
Kate complains that her phone didn’t come with a charger, but as most households have several gathering dust and they are only needed for a few hours at a time, it benefits the environment to not keep including these with every new phone – let’s be a little green where we can. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a USB wall-brick secreted somewhere within the Bevan household, but if that really is the case, they are available from around £3.25 on Amazon.
The whole tone of the article continually carps away at complete non-issues, with the industry sharing little or nothing with the overly enterprising and rather cheeky business model adopted by Michael O’Leary at Ryanair. It is a disgrace to even make the comparison.

The key to this Convo is, perhaps, the question posed right at the end: ” What do you think? Are you happy to buy the dongles, cables, and leads separately from your devices, or should you get everything you need in the box?”.
As in other Convos we are given the forum to say what we think and explain why. For everyone”s benefit who reads the comments.

Brian Pull says: In her latest piece, Kate Bevan comes across as equally impartial on tech as Laura Keunssberg is on politics and Brexit. And equally determined to drive her opinion regardless of the unfortunate reality of evidence to the contrary.

Well, nothing like nailing your partisan colours to the mast at the off. Laura Keunssberg is an outstandingly disinterested reporter in whatever she covers, but she doesn’t do opinion pieces. Kate does.

She is presumably also blissfully unaware of the benefits of wireless mouse/keyboards as employed by the majority of regular computer users.

I don’t know of any journalists that use wireless peripherals–for good reason. And I use both, and find the wired versions infinitely less troublesome.

The whole tone of the article continually carps away at complete non-issues, with the industry sharing little or nothing with the overly enterprising and rather cheeky business model adopted by Michael O’Leary at Ryanair. It is a disgrace to even make the comparison.

Haven’t flown Ryanair for a while, then? Michael O’Leary epitomises the Gerald Ratner approach to business; long–term he alienates more people than he encourages. And I wouldn’t use phrases such as “overly enterprising” in the same breath as Michael O’Leary.

But I’m curious: you do realise this is an opinion piece, don’t you? In the media opinion pieces are designed to evoke responses by making what some see as controversial comments. Makes a nice change.

There has been discussion in the past of putting contributors off by rather unfriendly responses 🙂

My MacBook Pro 9,3 (mid-2012) has a decent array of ports (VGA and HDMI using cheap adaptors) and an optical drive. With Catalina, 16 GB RAM, a 2 TB SSD it continues in daily use. The only fault was a HDD/SSD data ribbon and the battery is in need of replacement again, both trivial DIY fixes. It runs MS Office fine (gets a bit warm with Teams over the last 18 months) as well as various modelling programmes like MatLab. I’ve not been tempted by any more recent Macs, but the the M1 looks interesting when Catalina is no longer supported. All tech should last at least a decade of professional use for environmental reasons alone.

MacOS versions are usually supported for three years so you should make the decade of support. I’m surprised that Teams makes your MBP warm. I’ve not tried it but Zoom leaves my MBP and MBA cold.

Tony Toller says:
24 November 2021

Kate Bevan is SO wrong. On environmental grounds alone, eliminating a charger being supplied with every phone is a no brainer. Apple have produced 80m iPhones this Christmas and that’s 80m less chargers because a vast percentage of these will go to people upgrading, who already have a charger. Since Android chargers were standardised I am no longer collecting a drawer full of unnecessary chargers and leads. But the world can go a lot further. I think by international law all small devices should use a common charger to include mobile phones, tablets, beard trimmers, razors, electric toothbrushes, torches etc. Such a policy could then be extended to mains devices to have a common power lead so than when you throw away the device you can still keep the lead. And finally, with the move to electric vehicles why not common charging sockets? I am staggered that different manufacturers are using non compatible plugs!

Yes, the obvious common standard is USB-C. It’s reversible and supports a variety of voltages, amperages and wattages, as well as data transmission via the same cable.

USB-C could become the solution to the widely-differing standards between countries for power sockets and plugs, at least for <100W devices.

Tony – I agree that there is plenty of scope to standardise on chargers and leads but domestic products can have very different power requirements, meaning that we are unlikely to see a single type of charger and lead that will cover all applications. The problem is that without standards, companies are free to do what suits them.

I agree with you about electric vehicles and if these are the future, we need standardisation. There has been plenty of opportunities to evaluate the contenders.

I have always thought it unnecessary and wasteful for every device to come with its own cable and charger. Even more so however, that so many devices should be designed for a different kind of cable and/or charger. Tech companies should be compelled to conform to a radically restricted number of connection types (one, in a perfect world) if they wish to manufacture or import to the UK. They already do so with the 13A plug – why not at the other end of the power cable and indeed for data too?

Crusader says:
25 November 2021

That’s fine in theory, but in practice in my experience even with devices designed for usb charging I find one usb charger, and I’ve got several, will not charge the battery in some devices, and I have to keep trying different chargers until I find one which does the job. It must be like lots of other stuff, quality and performance varies so some gadgets need their own charger to charge effectively and sometimes you can lose your warranty if you cause a failure by not using the supplied charger but using something else instead. And of course some devices, like my head torch which is usb charged, come without a charger, and not all of those I’ve got will charge it, some just don’t want to know, so it’s the compatibility problems which need sorting. And of course some devices have different battery capacities so need different sized chargers.

I agree. It’s more complex than most people realise. USB-C has frequently been suggested as a common standard but this can deliver 100W. There are reports of substandard leads damaging expensive phones and this amount of power can easily start a fire. Which? has reported on dangerous and counterfeit chargers being sold via online marketplaces.

Wireless (inductive) charging is inefficient compared with using a power cable but it is probably a safer way to charge small devices.

Crusader says:
26 November 2021

Can it really deliver 100W? Assuming it supplies the standard 5 volts then the maximum current would have to be 20 amps! ( 100/5=20. ) And 20 amps needs BIG connectors so I can’t see any of the little tiny mini usb connectors being able to handle anywhere near that kind of current. Surely it must be only the main socket outlet that will be able to supply it up to a total load of 100 watts if used with a multi way hub, and each device should only draw the amount of current it needs to charge. And surely the total power must be shared between several outlets. And with the inductive method you’ll only get a good full charge if you can accurately line up the two coils which of course should be well nigh impossible as you can’t see them, or does the device have any kind of indication to show when it’s accurately lined up? And even if it is it can still get nudged out of line later on unless it sits in some kind of cradle that holds it in place. And of course 20 amps needs big cable to handle it too, at least 2.0 sq.mm cross sectional area, but surely no one device will need anywhere near that kind of current.

From Wikipedia: “All USB-C cables must be able to carry a minimum of 3 A current (at 20 V, 60 W) but can also carry high-power 5 A current (at 20 V, 100 W).[10] USB-C to USB-C cables supporting 5A current must contain e-marker chips (also marketed as E-Mark chips) programmed to identify the cable and its current capabilities. USB Charging ports should also be clearly marked with capable power wattage.[11]”

I was surprised when I first learned about the amount of power USB-C chargers can deliver, given the small size of the connectors, but the current is limited to 5A. Fast laptop chargers can use a lot of power. Multiple devices will be limited to drawing a total of 100W and this power will be lower if used at 5V, for example.

Not everyone buys top quality chargers and leads that comply with international safety requirements, so we might see fire services warning us not to charge our phones overnight. I hate seeing people disconnecting phones and laptops by tugging the cable. 🙁

Crusader says:
26 November 2021

They have to complicate things so much these days, have we got to have chips full of software in a mere piece of cable now? I suppose it can make them safer and help prevent fires, just as long as the chip doesn’t short out…

The biggest fire danger with portable devices is with exploding lithium batteries, which eject shards of white hot metal, not the chargers and cables. Whilst most likely to occur when charging, a battery can explode at any time.

Since hearing a power tool battery pack go off in my dining room, and seeing the damage caused, I would never leave a mobile phone where it can slip down the back of a couch. I always take it out of my clothes and it sits on a hard surface when not in use.

I’ve not had a problem with exploding batteries, but I do charge my phone on a worktop and power tools in the garage or the worktop in the utility room, always near to a smoke alarm. From what you have posted before I know you are careful about what you buy, but even decent batteries can have problems.

Some charge their phones on their bed or even under the duvet. 😱

Crusader – The dodgy USB-C leads that have wrecked phones or caught fire were almost certainly cheap ones that don’t meet safety standards. We (well most of us) just assume that what we buy is safe.

David says:
Today 07:03

The lack of ports may seem restrictive but I’m happy to forgo these and needless cables and earphones to choose how I connect with other devices, many of which are now wireless anyway. Yes, it saves the manufacturer money (and possibly keeps prices down) but it saves the environment too, as the peripheral items tend to service many others over many years. You also have a choice; whether to buy earphones or headphones, wireless or wired and don’t have several spares stuck in a draw.
As for the letter regarding Apple bias, I think the reader should heed your advice and try Apple products again. Not only are they premium quality, ergonomically brilliant, amazingly intuitive and durable but the residual values even of our oldest equipment is greater than some new items today. The longevity results in Apple probably being the least environmentally unfriendly and most economical tech on the market (debatably like a vintage classic car namely a Rolls Royce, and by far the most pleasurable to use, which for an everyday, much used item, is what makes ‘quality of life’! Our family have 2 Mac Book Air c2013, Mac Book Pro 2012, iMac 2012 & 2014 plus several iPhones v8/8plus/11/12. Thank you Apple x❤️