Apple's New MacBook USB-C Port May Be Open to Third-Party Gadgets

By replacing its proprietary MagSafe charging port on the upcoming new MacBook with a USB-C universal port, Apple may be allowing more third-party devices to work with a MacBook.

MacBook, Apple, USB-C

Apple's upcoming new USB-C port on the company's latest MacBook means that users can employ the same connection for battery charging, USB devices, VGA connectors and data transfer. What it also could mean is that Apple is about to give third-party accessory vendors improved access to the connector so that they can build and offer a wider variety of accessories, including external battery packs.

For years, Apple has held tight controls on its existing proprietary MagSafe charging port connector, which uses small, powerful magnets to keep a MacBook's charging cord attached to the device. The MagSafe design allows the cord to quickly detach itself from the MacBook in the event a user accidentally or carelessly trips over the power cord, preventing certain damage and expense from a dropped and smashed MacBook.

That could be changing, though, according to a March 12 VentureBeat report that says that Apple will at some point be allowing third-party accessory vendors to use the new USB-C port to add accessories to the upcoming new MacBooks for users.

"Third parties will be allowed to create external power sources for the MacBook, so long as they produce enough power to fully charge the computer and comply with some other technical requirements," according to the article.

For MacBook users, this is big because it will open up a world of accessories that they could not use in the past, including external batteries that can power their machines after the built-in batteries run out of juice, extending the usefulness of their machines during long work days.

The port change is reminiscent of the changes Apple made back in 2012 when the former 30-pin connector on iPhones was changed to a smaller and simpler new eight-pin Lightning connector, starting with Apple's then-new iPhone 5. For iPhone owners, that meant that the accessories they had bought, collected and used for their previous iPhones would now not plug directly in to their new phones.

The new USB-C port in the upcoming thinner, faster and sleeker MacBook was unveiled on March 9 at Apple's "Spring Forward" event, which was held to showcase the new MacBook and the company's Apple Watch.

The updated MacBook laptop has a super-thin 13.1mm profile and weighs just 2 pounds. The existing MacBook Air is 17.3mm thick, by comparison, an increase of about 24 percent.

The new MacBook includes a host of other changes, such as a new butterfly keyboard system that replaces the old scissors keys system, resulting in a smaller, quieter keyboard that is 40 percent thinner than the one it replaces.

The redesigned MacBook includes a 12-inch diagonal Retina screen with edge-to-edge cover glass and 2,304-by-1,440 resolution, the thinnest panel ever installed in a MacBook, at 0.88mm thin, and display power consumption that is 30 percent less than previous displays. The new MacBooks will be available April 10 starting at $1,299 for a basic machine that includes a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 2.4GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300. For $1,599, users can get their MacBook with a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 2.6GHz, 8GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300.

Also included is a new Force Touch track-pad with a "click" that's managed with software rather than through physical means. The track-pad includes a glass surface with four force sensors and a taptic engine for great user response. The system also reacts to whether a user gives it a light tap or a deep press. If a user presses harder on the fast-forward button in Quicktime, for example, the video plays faster on the screen, reacting to the user's input.

A huge improvement in the new MacBook is that it comes without an internal cooling fan, making it silent.