New iPad Pro redesign ditches the headphone port, and that's a problem

Apple continues its crusade against the 3.5mm audio port

New iPad Pro 2018

Apple unleashed its latest iPad Pro models alongside a redesigned MacBook Air during its annual October hardware event earlier today. But while the new tablets boast a new all-screen design and Face ID, there is something sorely missing.

The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models ditch the universal 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of USB-C audio equipment, Bluetooth headphones, or a trip to the Apple Store to purchase a £9 ($9) adapter. And that's a problem.

Apple started to turn its back on the universal 3.5mm audio port with the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus back in September 2016. The company argued that space was at a premium inside its svelte smartphone range and maintaining "an ancient, single-purpose, analog connector" no longer made sense.

The decision didn't seem to put off customers, likely because of the widespread popularity of Bluetooth headphones, including the brilliant Apple AirPods, and the fact that Apple bundled a complimentary Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle in the box.

However, when Apple launched its redesigned MacBook Pro notebook a few short months later – with the 3.5mm headphone port intact, a few eyebrows were raised.

Speaking to The Independent at the time, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller defended the decision to include the ancient, single-purpose, analog connector like this: "These are pro machines. If it was just about headphones then it doesn’t need to be there, we believe that wireless is a great solution for headphones. But many users have setups with studio monitors, amps, and other pro audio gear that do not have wireless solutions and need the 3.5mm jack."

And yet, Apple has now debuted two new iPad models targeted squarely at professionals without the 3.5mm headphone port that would enable them to connect to their studio studio monitors, amps, and other pro audio gear.

Who knows how this artist plans to listen to their new GarageBand track without annoying everyone around them?

Unlike the first iPhone to launch without the audio port, Apple does not include a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box with the new iPad Pro, which starts from £769 ($799) for the 11-inch model, and tops-out at £1,869 ($1,899) for the 12.9-inch with 1TB storage and cellular connectivity.

Even those who shell-out for the £9 adapter will be unable to charge their iPad at the same time as listening to music via external speakers, or headphones. If you're using your iPad Pro to DJ, that's likely going to resort in a very short set.

"Get with the times! Just listen to music over Bluetooth, grandad," we hear you cry, somewhat sarcastically.

Well, that will allow you to charge the iPad and listen to music at the same time. It's also worth noting that Apple has done some phenomenal work with its W1 chips, which are inside the AirPods and latest Beats headphones, to alleviate much of the pain of Bluetooth pairing.

However, there are many pro level peripherals that do not support wireless playback. And those who are simply looking to listen on headphones will be getting worse quality than on their previous iPad Pro. That's because iOS still does not support aptX HD – so you're not able to enjoy the same quality audio as your old-fashioned 3.5mm wired cans. 

As for USB-C headphones, the less said, the better.

Apple's all-new iPad Pro models have a lot going for them, including beautiful edge-to-edge Liquid Retina Displays with 120Hz refresh rates for greater responsiveness, Face ID support, and wireless charging for the Apple Pencil.

But it's a real shame to see Apple abandon the 3.5mm audio port, especially when it has acknowledged its importance for professional grade MacBook users.

Aaron Brown

As a former Staff Writer for T3, Aaron writes about almost anything shiny and techie. When he’s not barking orders at Alexa-powered microwaves or gawping at 5G speed tests, Aaron covers everything from smartphones, tablets and laptops, to speakers, TVs and smart home gadgets. Prior to joining T3, Aaron worked at the Daily Express and and MailOnline.