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The 1st iPod was introduced in 2001. Yes that was 10 years ago. It was revolutionary in many respects. Although the original model included a Firewire cable and was Mac Only, Apple followed up with the now standard iPod "dock connector" model in 2003. The dock connector has been great and widely adopted by peripheral and car manufacturers. While the dock connector is cool, I ask the question do we really need to plug in a cable to sync our  iOS devices today? 


Let's lose the cable!

Of course Apple still makes iPods that don't have built-in WiFi. These low cost models obviously need some way of connecting to your computer to sync the media. For those models the sync cable still makes sense. However, for iOS devices that have WiFi (the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) I wonder why we still "need" to plug in a cable to sync media? Don't get me wrong, given a choice I'll gladly plug in a cable when I have several gigabytes of data to sync to a new device over doing it via WiFi any day. Yet that doesn't mean that I should have to plug in a cable for day to day syncing.

  • Apple TV streams Gigabytes of Movies Wirelessly
  • MacBooks, iMacs, Mac mini's, etc all can backup Terabytes of data Wirelessly
  • iTunes allows Home Sharing via WiFi
  • iOS devices can download Gigabytes of data/media direclty from the iTunes store via WiFi


Still waiting for my dream to come true

I remember having a day dream when I got my first car with an iPod connection built-in that some day I would pull into my garage, reach into my glove compartment and press a sync button on my iPod (or iPhone) and my device would connect to my computer in the house and sync the latest playlists, podcasts, etc. via WiFi. I'm still waiting for that dream to come true and technically there is no reason why it shouldn't be a reality today. My iOS devices have WiFi. Apple already allows you to download gigabytes of data (movies and apps) from iTunes via WiFi directly to these devices . Why not allow us to do it from iTunes to iOS device? Hey, it's 2011: I shouldn't even have to press a sync button. The device iOS device should just auto sync (via a preference) when I enter my WiFi zone!



Whenever I bring this up to my gadget buddies, someone always has a "but what about ______" objection. I can usually shoot these down pretty easily so let's go through the common ones.

Q. Isn't WiFi too slow?

A. Yes and no. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be able to use a cable if you want to. I'm just saying that we should have the option to do it wirelessly. Also remember that Apple already lets you download gigabytes of data directly to your iOS device via the internet. My Navigon App weighs in at 1.52GBs and I can download it direclty to my iPhone today from the App Store via WiFi.


Q. What if you were doing a OS update via WiFi and your connection died or battery died?

A. OK, what happens today if you accidently unplug the cable during an update? In other words there are problems that can happen today even with the cable. If Apple were truly worried about this they could require you to use the cable for OS updates or provide the same warnings they do today when updating a MacBook/MacBook Pro when you're not plugged into to power. Lastly Apple could do it more like they do it on the Mac. Let the iOS update download first to the device before installing. If the download/sync were interupted then there would be no harm.


Q. Users would complain that syncing takes too long.

A. Yep, they probably would. Apple could easily pop up an alert stating that syncing more than XXX amount of data may take a while over WiFi. Let me make that choice and of course disable the alert. 


The Bottom Line

Beyond the first sync of all your media onto your iOS device, there is little reason that you shouldn't be able to sync via WiFi from that point on. Apple let's me backup my entire 500GB MacBook Pro drive via WiFi to a Time Capsule. Yes, it takes HOURS, but they allow it and even sell devices to do allow you to do it. If I wanted it to go faster I could always plug in an Ethernet cable. Syncing a WiFi enabled iOS device via WiFi wouldn't take nearly as long even if the device were empty. Apple can we please lose the cable? It's 2011!

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7 Responses to Apple Please Lose The Sync Cable

  1. Jim Nichols says:

    The only thing I still need the dock connector for is for line-out audio and for AV output. If they could put an option for line-out from the headphone jack that would solve the audio part of it. But what about video out, mini HDMI?

  2. […] Apple Please Lose The Sync Cable | MacNews Although the original model included a Firewire cable and was Mac Only, Apple followed up with the now standard iPod "dock connector" model in The dock connector has been great and widely adopted by peripheral and car . […]

  3. Jack Beckman says:

    If you have a second-gen AppleTV (or a hacked first-gen:, you can stream audio and video wirelessly *from* the device, so Apple even allows that! I agree we’re long overdue for media sync via wireless.

  4. Jack Beckman says:

    For some reason the link doesn’t work, but you can search the bestappsite for Remote HD to find the article.

  5. Darrell Diaz says:

    Hi Terry,

    Wholeheartedly agree that iDevice syncing should at least have the option of being wireless. In the meantime, my jailbroken iPhone 4 & iPad both us an app called WiFi Sync which does exactly that. Allows me to sync everything but my photos to iTunes without plugging in the cable. For me Wifi Sync & MyWi make it essential to jailbreak my devices. Btw, I don’t work for either company or have an interest in either. DD

  6. roby says:

    Good column!

    Wirelessly synching would be a good option. I still remember, though, wirelessly synching a Palm a couple of times. I quickly went back to the dock. Times have changed, though, and wi-fi is way better than Bluetooth.

    Now, an even more pressing need would be to identify the apps that need updating and have that happen all in one fell swoop.

    In other words, newspapers, word of the day, this day in history, RSS feeds, astronomy satellite and comet data, weather, etc. would all update themselves automatically. In general, those updates use very little bandwidth and happen very quickly– it’s just that now, you have to manually do a wi-fi “synching”, one at a time!

    Would enjoy seeing a column by you about that need, too!

  7. Mike Perry says:

    A WiFi synch option would be OK, but I’d rather see a micro-USB port and USB 3.0. It’d be faster and we have to connect to charge anyway.