Apple killed a MacBook Pro feature that photographers rely on


There’s no question the new MacBook Pros are flashy. The new Touch Bar is exciting and the Touch ID is awesome. And who’s going to hate on thinner and lighter machines?

I’m not jazzed over losing the MagSafe magnetic charging port, but I do like the versatility of having four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports that can handle charging, high-speed data transfer at up to 40Gbps and video output. 

But why, oh, why did Apple have to remove the SD card slot, the one port that so many photographers and video producers rely on daily?

As digital cameras rose in popularity — and the industry rallied behind the SD card format over Sony’s Memory Stick, xD and CompactFlash — in the mid-2000s, Apple smartly added the SD card slot to its MacBook laptops, starting with the 15-inch MacBook Pro in 2009.

The SD card slot has been a staple for anyone who works with a camera. It’s the only surefire way to efficiently download media directly to your laptop on the go.

No explanation

Apple didn’t explain why it removed the slot. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, didn’t even mention its removal during the keynote.

It was probably a smart move to not address it and not try to explain why it was removed given all the backlash Schiller and Apple received over how removing the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 was “courageous.

But by not explaining why the SD card slot is gone, Apple has left users who rely on the slot wondering why, why why?!?!

Apple’s now left users who rely on the slot in the dark wondering why, why why?!?!

At least with the “courageous” headphone jack removal, Apple laid out its vision (wireless, more battery life, bigger Taptic Engine, waterproofing, etc.) on why the headphone jack was antiquated and needed to go.

There was no justification for the SD card slot’s death. What’s a better solution for quickly transferring files from an SD card to a laptop? Wireless? Definitely not. Not only is Wi-Fi slower (and impossibly slow for transferring videos), but not every camera has built-in Wi-Fi; some older cameras require a Wi-Fi module (sold separately) or simply can’t support Wi-Fi at all.

And honestly, most of the Wi-Fi transfer interfaces I’ve seen on new cameras still kind of suck. They’re confusing and the opposite of user-friendly.

An SD card slot just works: You take the SD card out of your camera and insert it into your MacBook’s slot, open up Finder and start copying files. No fiddling with Wi-Fi connections or Bluetooth or whatever.

Some possible reasons

Now, I know what Apple’s probably thinking: Just get a memory card reader. 

It’s true, I could buy a memory card reader, but it won’t be an elegant solution. The memory card reader will need to be one that has a USB-C plug or I’ll need to buy a dongle converter to make an existing one with a full-sized USB-A port compatible with USB-C.

Just get a dongle/hub and you're back in business. Ugh.

Just get a dongle/hub and you’re back in business. Ugh.

There are third-party companies like Satchi that sell mini port hubs like this $35 3-in-1 hub that has three full-sized USB ports, an SD card slot and a microSD card slot, but that’s extra you have to spend. Not to mention you don’t want it hanging off your computer whenever it’s in your bag, so you’ll likely remove it, increasing the likelihood of it getting misplaced or lost.

Another possible reason for removing the SD card slot is likely related to ecosystem lock-in. Professionals will end up getting a memory card reader, but most people are probably shooting photos with their iPhones.

With wireless as Apple’s north star, who needs an SD card slot when most people are sharing directly to social networks? If you really need to move photos from your iPhone or iPad to your MacBook, there’s AirDrop.

No SD card slot.

No SD card slot.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

I get all of this, but it doesn’t make it any easier for people like me who take a lot of photos and videos using our “real” cameras for work and leisure. 

As great as my iPhone 7 camera is, I have no plans to give up on my DSLR and mirrorless camera and GoPros and any other devices that use SD cards.

Wireless is the future, but we’re just not there yet. It’s easier to make the case for dropping the SD card if Wi-Fi transfer speeds were insanely fast, but they aren’t (yet) and until they are, nothing beats a good ol’ dedicated SD slot. 



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