If you use an Apple device, you are probably increasingly used to using dongles, adapters or whatever else you want to call them. They give you the functionality that Apple doesn’t natively include because of design constraints or a forward thinking approach to new technologies. However, there are dozens of Apple adapters available, and it can be hard to know which ones are the right ones for a given situation. This edtech gear guide was written to help remedy that problem.
The adapters below are ordered by price (from low to high) and include a number of likely scenarios for when you would want to use each one. Official Apple adapters will usually work best and these can be purchased in a number of different places, but third-party versions are available too. The list below is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the most commonly used dongles and adapters for use in Apple classrooms. Whenever possible, links are included to the official Apple product.
I want to… connect headphones to an iPhone 7 or multiple sets to an iPad/iPod Touch.
You need: Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter (Apple price: $9)
More information: This dongle lets you plug 3.5mm headphones into the iPhone 7, (a device that has no traditional headphone jack), however, it can be used with any iOS 10 device that has a lightning port. It can be used to add an extra headphone jack to iPads and iPod Touches, but a dual headphone splitter, or a multi-headphone splitter, would be cheaper (or more efficient) in the long run.
I want to… plug a traditional USB device into a new Apple MacBook.
You need: USB-C to USB Adapter (Apple price: $9)
More information: If you own one of the newer MacBook laptops, you will be missing standard USB ports to plug in Bluetooth mice, a SMART board, or other USB accessories. This adapter restores that ability.
I want to… connect my new MacBook to the internet with an Ethernet cable.
You need: Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (Apple price: $26)
More information: The Ethernet port has been missing on MacBooks for some time now. This adapter is for MacBook and 2016 MacBook Pro users who want to connect to the internet with a wired connection.
I want to… connect my older MacBook to the internet with an Ethernet cable.
You need: Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (Apple price: $29)
More information: This is the same adapter as the one above, but it works with older MacBooks that don’t have the USB-C inputs by converting a Thunderbolt port to an Ethernet port. You can also use the Apple USB Ethernet Adapter or the Belkin USB Gigabit Ethernet Adapter that comes with 3 integrated USB 3.0 ports.
I want to… connect USB devices to my iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
You need: Lightning to USB Camera Adapter (Apple price: $29)
More information: The Lightning to USB Camera Adapter was designed to help you transfer photos and videos from a digital camera to an iOS device. However, this handy dongle also allows you to connect a USB microphone for better audio recording, a USB keyboard for better typing, and some other low power USB accessories. It’s a handy adapter to have because of how flexible it is. You can’t use it for all your USB devices, (a mouse and a flash drive will not work), but it’s compatible with more than you think.
I want to… connect my older MacBook to a VGA projector or external monitor.
You need: Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)
More information: The majority of projectors used in schools today seem to have a VGA connection. A VGA connector is the trapezoid shaped port with pins on the male side and holes on the female side. This adapter lets you use a VGA cable with your MacBook so you can connect it to a projector, monitor or TV that has VGA connectors.
I want to… connect my new MacBook to a VGA projector or external monitor.
You need: Belkin USB-C to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)
More information: This dongle lets you continue to use a VGA projector with the newest MacBooks by converting one of your USB-C ports into a VGA connector.
I want to… connect my iPad 2 or 3 to a VGA projector or external monitor.
You need: Apple 30-pin to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $29)
More information: Many schools still have some iPad 2s in circulation. If you are looking to connect one of these to a a projector, monitor or TV that has VGA connectors, then this is the adapter you need.
I want to… connect my iPad 2 or 3 to an HDMI projector or external monitor.
You need: Apple 30-pin Digital AV Adapter (Apple price: $39)
More information: Displaying an iPad 2 on an HDTV or HDMI projector can be achieved with the aid of this (pricey) adapter. It includes a secondary 30-pin port that allows you to charge your device while displaying it on an external screen. Consider using it to show a looping slideshow on TVs that are mounted on walls around your school.
I want to… connect my iPad 4 (or later) to an VGA projector or external monitor.
You need: Lightning to VGA Adapter (Apple price: $49)
More information: Another pricey adapter but a must have if you want to show your iPad on a SMART Board, projector or TV via a VGA cable. Needs no wifi access and is generally very reliable. Includes a lightning port to let you charge your device while it is on screen.
I want to… connect my iPad 4 (or later) to an HDMI projector or external monitor.
You need: Lightning Digital AV Adapter (Apple price: $49)
More information: This is the HDMI version of the adapter above. It works in exactly the same way, but connects to HDMI devices as opposed to VGA. Also includes a lightning port for charging while your iOS device is displayed on screen.
I want to… connect my Apple TV to a VGA projector or external monitor.
You need: Kanex ATV Pro X HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio Support or the Kanex HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio for Apple TV 4th generation (Apple price: $49.95-59.95)
More information: The Apple TV only comes with an HDMI output, so if you want to connect it to a VGA projector or a TV or Monitor that has a VGA connections, then you need one of these adapters. The Kanex ATV Pro X HDMI to VGA Adapter works for 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TVs while the Kanex HDMI to VGA Adapter with Audio for Apple TV is designed to work with the newer 4th generation Apple TVs.
Need more help?
Unsure which dongle or adapter you need? Want to double check that you picked the right one? Leave a comment below, or drop me an email via the contact page, and include as much information about what you are trying to achieve and the devices you want to do it with. If there is an adapter out there that fills that need, I’ll tell you what it is, and where you can buy it.
Note that some Apple adapters are currently on a limited sale until April 1, 2017.