Phil Schiller on why MacBook Pro has headphone jack, lacks SD card slot & more

By , Nov 2, 2016

hello again event macbook pro tools

Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, sat down for an exclusive wide-ranging interview with British newspaper The Independent. He talked the MacBook Pro controversy, explaining why the refreshed notebook has retained the 3.5mm analog headphone jack, but lost an SD card slot.

He also touched upon a few other controversial topics, like Apple’s product philosophy when it comes to the notebook form factor in general and the company’s stubborn refusal to release a touchscreen-enabled Mac.

The reason the new MacBook Pro did away with an SD card slot?

Because of a couple of things. One, it’s a bit of a cumbersome slot. You’ve got this thing sticking halfway out. Then there are very fine and fast USB card readers, and then you can use CompactFlash as well as SD. So we could never really resolve this – we picked SD because more consumer cameras have SD but you can only pick one.

While admitting that that was “a bit of a trade-off,” Schiller pointed out that digital cameras increasingly have built-in wireless transfer. “We think there’s a path forward where you can use a physical adaptor if you want, or do wireless transfer,” he said.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar Safari 006

What about the 3.55mm headphone jack? Why’s it present on the Pro, but nowhere to be seen on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus?

That’s because “these are pro machines” and many pros use studio monitors, amps and other audio gear “that do not have wireless solutions and need the 3.5mm jack.”

The Touch Bar was born out of Apple’s thinking about where to take the notebook next, Schiller said. “Others are trying to turn the notebook into the tablet,” he said.

But what about a touchscreen Mac? Will Apple finally add a touchscreen to the Mac now that Microsoft has made a splash with its innovative Surface Studio all-in-one desktop? According to Schiller, Apple is steadfast in its belief that the Mac and the iPhone are fundamentally two different products.

There’s iPhone and iPad which are single pieces of glass, they’re direct-manipulation, multi-touch and tend towards full-screen applications. Then there’s the Mac experience, dominated by our notebooks and that’s about indirect manipulation and cursors and menus.

Here’s one example of how they should remain distinct: the Mac from the very first has had a menu bar fixed at the top. It’s core to the identity and the experience you get. But iOS doesn’t have a menu at the top. It never will.

The thought of pointing at a menu at the top of an iPhone feels wrong. If you made the Mac a touchscreen you’d have to figure out how to make it a good experience with your finger on a touchscreen. Trust me, we’ve looked at that — it’s a bad experience. It’s not as good or as intuitive as with a mouse and trackpad.

Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive said a similar thing about the prospect for a touchscreen iMac in an interesting interview with CNET last week.

Schiller thinks the notebook form factor is going to be with us for another 25 years “because there’s something eternal about the basic notebook form factor.”

You have a surface that you type down on with your hands, with a screen facing you vertically. That basic orientation, that L shape makes perfect sense and won’t go away.

The team came up with this idea that you can create a multi-touch surface that’s coplanar with the keyboard and the trackpad but brings a whole new experience into it, one that’s more interactive, with multi-touch.

The new MacBook Pro is thinner and lighter than its predecessor with the tolerances of the design being “so much tighter than ever before on our products.”

“I can’t even imagine the level of tolerances and small details the team will be working on in a few years from now,” he added. The Apple executive also said that Apple could have brought Siri to the Mac earlier, but ultimately decided against releasing the feature until it could do some Mac-specific things, like search your files and documents.

macOS Sierra Siri things you can ask Mac screenshot 007

“Hey Siri” is not part of Siri for Mac, Schiller continued, because Macs currently lack specialized ultra low-power chips like the embedded M-series motion coprocessor on iOS devices which can listen for a hot word without engaging the main CPU.

“You need to build system-wide electronics that are in the right standby state, listening for that catchphrase and that’s not built into the electronics of Mac today,” he explained.

Besides, you would want to use Hey Siri on a Mac even the machine is in sleep mode, which isn’t really possible in a power-friendly way without a dedicated onboard chip.

Many things about the new MacBook Pro “have impressed” people about it and some “have caused some controversy,” Schiller acknowledged.

We care about what they love and what they’re worried about. And it’s our job to help people through these changes. We know we made good decisions about what to build into the new Pro and that the result is the best notebook ever made, but it might not be right for everyone on day one. That’s OK, some people felt that way about the first iMac and that turned out pretty good.

According to Schiller, Apple’s webstore has had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before. “We love the Mac and are as committed to it, in both desktops and notebooks, as we ever have been,” he said.

Source: The Independent

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  • Troy

    They should have added a lighting port to the mac. Now I gotta walk around with two headphones because I lost the dongle

    • “Now I gotta” but you can just get another adapter..

    • The one issue with that is that Apple doesn’t want people making or using lightning based headphones. They want people to go wireless, and including a lightning port on the laptop would have encouraged 3rd party manufacturers to start making even more lightning headsets.

  • Past0rB

    I only wish they’d put at least a lightning port on these new MBPs.

    Then your EarPods would’ve been cross-platform usable as well as our iPhone VGA and HDMI dongles could’ve been used instead of buying $200+ in new ones.

  • Andrieux Querido

    No SD Slot is a kick in the nuts.
    No good for Photographers like me.

    • Merman123

      Take your cumbersome slot elsewhere. SMH. What a shit response. Like adapters and dongles are very convenient and pretty.

      • Digitalfeind

        You don’t have to be an ass to him. “What a shit response.” Likewise.

      • Merman123

        I meant a shit response from Schiller not the person I replied to. I am concurring with him.

      • Andrieux Querido

        As you wrote in your useless text… What a shitty response !!!

  • n0ahcruz3

    “Can’t innovate my ass” – removes some ports.. genius. Lol

  • Alex Wilson

    Pure profit motivation, this is the new Apple “courage” that Tim tried to dump on everyone. Cut a few parts, add a gizmo but don’t up the game. Last thing I’d want is to carry around a bunch of adapters. But the biggest insult of all was getting rid of the MagPort.

    • Unlike the phone where adapters have no place to go other than… Your pocket or something laptops at least often have a bag designed to carry cables and accessories and keep them organized. Which makes this far less of a hassle.

      Second if you’re designing a computer for everyone do you put support in for outdated tech? For ports that only serve one purpose or won’t even be used by many people? The big advantage of Thunderbolt 3 (aside from working out of box as USB ports) is that they can become anything. Want a MagSafe power port? Get a magnetic USB-C charging adapter. Want an SD card reader or 16 USB 3.0 ports? Want to attach an external desktop grade Nvidia GTX card to radically boost your graphic capabilities? These ports are really the highest aspiration of universal tech. Having to get some adapters is a small price to pay IMHO.

  • rockdude094

    I like how he said that the SD card slot is not important b/c there are great USB card readers out there.. then they proceed to remove the USB ports.. apple logic everyone

  • mrgerbik

    Bah! Why not just get rid of ALL ports, completely ?? I mean, wires are so yesterday…

    • Yes and the charging port, who needs to plug in there laptop to charge. Use it once and then get another one.

  • malhal

    Typical Apple media interview, “these are the questions you are allowed to ask.”

  • Rolf Bause

    Ha, real professionals (musicians, etc.) usually use USB or Thunderbolt audio interfaces… don’t get me wrong: I think it was the right thing, to keep the headphone jack, but for different reasons. Complete BS answer imo!

  • Rolf Bause

    Ha, real professionals (musicians, etc.) usually use USB/Thunderbolt audio interfaces… don’t get me wrong: I think it was the right thing to keep the headphone jack (I mean, how much space does is really take anyway?), but for different reasons. Complete BS answer imo!
    But “pro” photographers on the other hand still massively use the SD card slot. Instead, we now have adapters for everything. Progress.

  • Wolff

    That’s because “these are pro machines” and many pros use studio monitors, amps and other audio gear “that do not have wireless solutions and need the 3.5mm jack.”

    Cut the bullcrap! Professional studios would never ever EVER use the 3,5mm jack! They would use a USB/TB connection to preserve the digital signal or use a USB/TB DAC to bypass the, most deffinetly, poorer internal converter!

    • LOL, you’ve visited every last studio in the world and talked to every last pro in the world have you? And it was unanimous was it?

      I happen to know for a fact that many pro users use the 3.5mm jack for audio depending on what the needs are, the situation demands and the type of audio editing/engineering that they are performing. It’s true that some setups (typically with external mixing boards and what not) often opt for other cabling, but your claim is certifiably not true.

      • Wolff

        Ohh youre that guy.. let me take it down a notch.
        No I havent. Have I stated that? But unfortunatly for you you don’t know what I do for a living. Nor do I know yours.
        Everything would go thru a DAW with a better DAC then a macbook would ever have.
        Yes the 3,5 is good for headphones, and thats about it, studio wise.
        And if you do audio mixing using headphones, then, in my book, youre not a professional.

      • Actually you said, “Professional studios would never ever EVER use the 3,5mm jack!” and the problem is… that statement is false. I brother in law is an audio engineer, my best friend is a composer, my brother is a musician and at my last IT job I frequently was given tickets that took me into the film and audio departments to service equipment and have seen many many many setups. I can tell you 100% that professions do use that jack in many (not all) situations.

        That was my only point. You can’t make the claim “never ever EVER” without absolute knowledge of the industry (which I was trying to argue, you don’t posses). And arguing that everyone who does mixing using headphones isn’t a professional isn’t fair either. In some cases this is actually essential. People who mix audio for the video game industry often times mix over headphones specifically so that they can hear “exactly” what the player will hear when they sit down in front of their computer to play the game.

      • Wolff

        I do concerts as ass. sound tech as a living. 🙂
        Ok, you got me on the game part. I’ll admit that. 🙂
        BUT a recording studio would never ever use the analog output for anything other then a pair of headphones, since the hardware has already done one conversion of the sound. Doing it again would only worsen the quality. Not by much, and properbly not notacable go the “naked ear”. But with thousands or millions of “dollars” of equipment in a pro studio, no one would rely on the weakest link, being the dac in the mac.

        Yea I said professional. Ok.. Its a bit floaty.. Depends on when you call yourself professional, I guess.
        A Dj can easily call himself a pro, making a new world hit from his bedroom. And the mac is deffinetly up to it.

        I bust think the excuse Schiller gave us was a bit weak and really not thought thru.

      • ProllyWild

        Are you guys forgetting it’s a laptop? No studio would ever choose the 3.5mm port as the preferred audio out, but they would use it on the go, when out of the studio.

      • I think you’re overlooking the setting. In a live recording setup you often have a lot of expensive hardware between the audio source and the computer. In many cases it is even mixed and recorded on other hardware and only gets “backed up” in a sense to the computer. These situations would rarely use such a port but not because its a laptop, it wouldn’t use it because there would be almost no reason to bypass your hardware in a way that would let you use it.

        While on the go people would use it more, that’s not necessarily because it’s a laptop either, it’s because the audio has already been recorded, mixed, and encoded. At that point it just needs to be streamed back out and a headphone jack is more than capable of this.

        But there are plenty of people that record, edit and mix audio 100% on their computers. Even high end music production studios will often use MIDI controllers to listen to music scores to make edits and provide samples before committing to having them played and recorded by an orchestra. And in these cases a MacBook Pro is actually very adept at this kind of thing. You really don’t need a desktop to edit audio unless you are doing things that would require massive amounts of memory (which would be very very rare indeed). But when working with these setups that audio jack is perfect for listening to audio either over studio speakers or headphones.

        So again, I’d remind you also that saying something like “No studio would ever…” is too strong of language. If even one in the whole world does, then you’re wrong. And in this case there are lots of cases where people do all the time. I think that most of us just forget how large the audio industry is and focus on a particular branch of it when making these statements.

      • ProllyWild

        Then I’ll rephrase, very few would from start to finish do all of their work via the laptop’s 3.5mm headphone jack. regardless of that fact at some point a music professional would use the 3.5mm jack to check their audio when out and about either the MacBook. I think it’s a reasonable choice to leave the jack on a computer.

        It being left off the iPhone for me is understandable and not really at all a major inconvenience.

      • Oh nice that sounds like it could be a fun job!

        Yeah I’d agree that the reasoning Schiller used sounded a bit odd to me too. However I assume that it’s based on long talks with Dr Dre (who probably has about as good a grasp of the audio industry as anyone).

        It makes me wonder though how many more generations they will keep it around before it gets axed. Like you say, there are much better ways of transferring audio, so it’s only a matter of time before those options are more widely available on a larger scale of hardware choices.

  • Arun Chaitanya

    Can you please quote the complete comment by Phil Schiller on the SD Card slot. The comment quoted here is not complete and cause of confusion :). While the comments on how Apple didnt think through are right, personally the biggest miss for me is the inability to connect my iphone/ipad to the latest macbooks. It is a miss of epic sizes considering the adage “It just works” does not work anymore!

    • Honest question… why do you need to connect your phone to a computer? I’ve never once connected mine to any of my computers and I’d say the “It just works” phrase is as accurate as ever. I still do backups, I still sync photos, I still transfer files, I still charge it… Is there any reason why it ever has to be connected?

      • Blip dude

        Because it is a LOT slower to upload a movie or a music library via WiFi than it would be to just simply plug it in and let it do its thing.

      • I suppose that’s true, but I typically just stream my movies so I don’t have to take up the extra space. And if I know I’m traveling or something and want to have a few on there I just sync them up the night before and let it work while I go to bed. All in all though… faster syncing for movies though is a fairly weak reason to give up a VERY powerful port on a computer for outdated technology 😛

      • Arun Chaitanya

        Exactly my point! And Charging to the wall using lighting adapter instead of using my laptop during sync is just too stupid!

      • ProllyWild

        If that’s the case, in the long run you’ll benefit more from a faster USB-c port.

      • imvaid

        I am a developer. It has to be connected all the time. Now I have to get an adapter to do any kind of development on Pro machine…

      • That’s a great point that I hadn’t considered. It makes me wonder if future models of iPhones will ship with a wall adapter to USB-C port so that the cable is more universal.

      • Arun Chaitanya

        Definitely waiting for that day. And I am pretty sure world is going to be mad about it one way or the other

  • Martynet

    Is it just a standard jack or does it also have an optical audio, like iMac?

  • Leslie Bee

    Typical answers from a marketing exec. 100% BS.

    My question is, why didn’t Apple have the head of design or engineering answer such questions? Is marketing now in charge of design at Apple? That would explain a lot of their recent idiotic design decisions.

    Apple used to be great at innovation, but marketing’s objectives are quite different from those of engineers and designers. Marketing is interested in only three things: MONEY MONEY MONEY

  • Marcel Herba
  • rockdude094

    Yeah b/c everyone loves spending 40 dollars on a stupid thing that sticks out of your laptop lol. You know you’re a true apple fan boy when you try to turn apples negative points to positive. They aren’t perfect but their recent products are absolutely trash

    • I’m not turning a negative into a positive. I have almost 0 need for an SD slot, I don’t need HDMI or mini display, I’m slowly upgrading my USB based devices to TB 3/USB-C anyways and I’ve been waiting for TB-3 for over a year now. From where I stand this is nothing but positive changes.

      What you are apparently turning a blind eye to is that not everyone has your “needs”. Not everyone needs or even wants the same ports as you, and Apple knows that. Instead of putting ports in that many people won’t use they put in 4 ports that can power anything that people need or want. This is the most universal and versatile setup that they have ever made. Apparently though since it doesn’t fit your exact vision of what’s best for you personally it’s trash?

      Are you honestly saying that if a port is SIGNIFICANTLY faster and more capable of meeting any need for any person for the longest period into the future it shouldn’t be included because someone might prefer older less powerful solutions? Are you really trying to say that Apple future proofing their computers and putting in much better tech is a negative? I’m kind of glad you don’t design computers for Apple 😛

      • websyndicate

        Really you don’t have use for a usb 3 port? I use my thunderbolt port for a monitor. Thunderbolt was to be the shit but it never took off like they wanted it too. Hardware was so expensive many people just went with USB3 devices. Much cheaper. Thunderbolt was SIGNIFICANT but it wasn’t practical in the market. USB 3 was.

        Now USB C…..Really why include a headphone port then why not usb c to audio jack.

        Its trash because it doesn’t fit most people day to day. How many people own macs are into multi media….a lot….how many use cameras that are stand equipped with SD card….alot

        I have to side with rockdude094. The count is 2 vs 1.

        Im an apple fanboy but this kind of does it in for me right now. If everything magically was USB C tomorrow I wouldn’t care then but its not a reality.

      • Never said I didn’t have a use for it. I’m saying the new tech is better and that USB 3 isn’t used today as much as it was even just 2 years ago and the usage rate will continue to drop steadily. Perhaps Apple should have waited for a year, perhaps not… but the fact is, its a much better technology. The reason its so expensive at this point however is just because it doesn’t have a wide demand for it.

        Remember when HDMI was something new and different back in the day? Everyone was paying $50-60 for a 3foot cable? It was insanity, but the market switched and everyone had to buy cables. Today HDMI cables are super cheap! Same thing will happen with wireless components, TB cables, and more. Apple is trying to drive consumers to this market and in the long term I think this can only be a good thing. The thing is that Apple builds laptops to last. If this model shipped with USB 3 there would be less incentive for consumers to upgrade their hardware and we’d have this same conversation a few years later. At some point it has to happen. The only real question is was this the best time to do it?

  • websyndicate

    I feel like Apple is losing their base. Really USB3 still heavily used and so is SD card. This is frustrating as a user that needs these ports. Like really who doesn’t have a usb need? I get it new tech but you could integrate like 1 port or 2 ports of usb C and not make life a dongle life. Just more shit to carry or Belkin to make a swiss army knife or a hub. I want to agree with apple more than anything but really has be thinner, lighter, less buttons, less everything. Minimalist to the extreme.

    And Phil saying the card sticks out really like a usb C to usb to SD won’t be a lot. Lord knows if you buy a usb C to SD reader it will be expensive and serve only 1 purpose.

    Gezz Apple I really love you but this is not courage this is stupid your gonna lose tons of people here. Mistake 1…no headphone jack

  • Al Fresco

    I think they dropped the SD card slot because people were using it to enlarge the size of their HD’s. Apple wants to promote planned obsolescence, so when people try to circumvent it, the engineers try and fight them by removing options for upgradeability.