Apple has removed the headphone jack from its soon-to-be-released iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and is including a Lightning port-to-3.5mm adapter so that customers can still keep using older headphones. But is that adapter really an adapter or should it be called a "Dongle?"
In my experience, a dongle is usually a kind of adapter that has a small bit of wire to it, making it hang around, all floppy like. It's also a word that sounds much dirtier than it's supposed to and not one you should casually bring up among non-techies. All dongles are kinds of adapters, but not all adapters are dongles.
However, a cursory Google search reveals that "Dongle" has historically been used interchangeably with "Adapter" and also means a device that plugs in to performs a function, such as a USB stick that provides Wi-FI access for a smart TV or DVD player. Most curiously, searching for the word "Dongle" on Apple's website brings up 59 search results, mostly for adapters in the Apple Store, but the word "Dongle" itself does not appear in any of the product descriptions. It's almost as if Apple is acknowledging that "Dongle" is a word people use, but is unwilling to stoop to the level of actually using that word itself as a company. Respected tech blogs such as The Verge, on the other hand, have no problem using the term, even in headlines.
So, if you like the word "Dongle," you may keep using it as much as you like as a substitute "Adapter," just be prepared for some funny looks from people who wonder why you won't stop giggling.
Every week, we’ll define a tech term, offer a timely tip or answer questions about technology from readers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or topic suggestions.
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