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Beats keeps using cables that aren’t supported by Apple’s new computers

Beats keeps using cables that aren’t supported by Apple’s new computers

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Beats Studio 3 Wireless charging
Photo: Beats

For the past two months, Apple has been giving students who buy a new MacBook or MacBook Pro a pair of Beats headphones for free. But here’s something kind of weird about that: Beats headphones can’t be charged by a new MacBook or the MacBook’s power brick without an adapter.

Despite Apple going all in on USB-C with its laptops, no Beats headphones support the increasingly popular connection standard. The headphones Apple has been offering to students include the Solo3 Wireless, which use a USB to Micro USB cable, and the Beats X, which use a USB to Lightning cable.

You need three cables to charge a MacBook, iPhone, and Beats Solo 3

Apple evidently doesn’t find this to be a huge problem, as Beats just introduced a new pair of headphones yesterday — the high-end Studio 3 Wireless — that once again rely on a USB to Micro USB cable. That means there’ll be even more people who’ll have to hang onto an extra cable and adapter in order charge all of their stuff.

This isn’t a very Apple-like approach to things. With its own products, Apple tosses off standards before they’re ready to go, with little concern for its customers’ frustrations — just see its transition to USB-C and its move away from the headphone jack. So it’s pretty surprising to see Beats sticking with older standards, especially for a high-end product.

One can imagine Beats is doing this to make life easier for people who don’t have the latest and greatest MacBooks and Android phones, which are the main products that have switched over to USB-C. And there’s a good argument to be made for taking that approach: if Beats wants to appeal to a wider audience, it makes sense to use cables the wider audience is already relying on. But it’s a weird argument to make for a company owned by Apple, particularly since it means the headphones don’t connect directly to Apple’s own products.

This is something that’ll be frustrating for people buying into Apple’s ecosystem: if you have a MacBook, an iPhone, and a pair of Beats Solo 3s, you’ll need three different cables and up to two adapters.

Down the road, it seems like Apple plans to shift Beats headphones over to Lightning cables, which will eliminate some of this problem. The Beats X already use Lightning, and given that Apple controls the Lightning standard and profits off of its use, it’d make enough sense to see it spread to additional peripherals. It’d also mean that someone who owns an iPhone — that is, a whole lot of people — would be able to charge their smartphone and headphones off the same cord. That’s not as great as using USB-C for everything, but it’s certainly better than toting three cables around.