Apple will update its iPhone range in September as it does every year, with the biggest change this time to be the removal of the headphone jack. The move, still unconfirmed, is three months away but has already triggered indignant user rage like only a minor tweak to an Apple product can.
The thing is, Apple is right and the rage-filled users are wrong.
The Wall Street Journal’s report Tuesday detailing aspects of the new iPhone included nothing that hadn’t already been widely speculated, but it backed up the rumors by adding that Apple will launch a relatively minor iPhone refresh in September, saving a major design overhaul for the 10th-anniversary iPhone in 2017.
The new phone is likely to be slightly thinner, with an upgraded processor, a slightly better camera and a minor exterior redesign. But the rumored change that's likely to be the biggest topic of debate if it comes to pass is the removal of the headphone jack.
The move has been called “user-hostile and stupid” by some and “bad for consumers” by others, but I think that’s wrong. Here are five reasons I think Apple should shut out the haters and kill off the headphone jack for good:
1. It’s not about a thinner iPhone.
Many reports suggest the removal of the headphone jack would allow Apple to make the iPhone thinner. Yes, it potentially would, but that’s not the reason for the change.
If Apple really, really wanted to make a thinner iPhone with a 3.5mm headphone jack, then it could. At 6.9mm, the iPhone 6S is already among the thinnest smartphones on the market. There are also Apple’s 6.1mm iPod Touch and 5.4mm iPod Nano, which both feature a 3.5mm headphone jack. Even the current holder of the “world’s thinnest smartphone” title, the Vivo X5Max, has a 3.5mm headphone jack.
This move is not about thinness. It’s about something else.
2. There will still be wired headphones.
Apple may be ditching the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7, but the company will still provide a wired headset for all users, with a leaked image suggesting Apple’s redesigned earbuds will connect to the iPhone’s Lightning port.
— 9to5Mac (@9to5mac) March 21, 2016
This switch, though initially painful for those who just reently shelled out a lot of money for expensive headphones, will in the long run be an improvement. By using the Lightning port, Apple will be able to drive more power to the headphones and take advantage of the fully digital output offered.
This will be an issue for users who charge their phones while listening to music, something you won’t be able to do if you're using your Lightning earbuds.
That’s where wireless comes in.
3. Bluetooth headphones are really good.
Apple is looking to a world without wires. It has eliminated all but a single port from its MacBook laptop in a bid to push people toward using cloud backup for data and wireless connections for communications.
With the removal of the headphone jack, Apple will be giving a huge boost to the Bluetooth headphone market — and Apple happens to own the biggest headphone brand in the world, Beats.
Bluetooth headphones typically have been seen as a work-in-progress kind of technology, and for audiophiles there is simply no comparison, but for most users, the quality offered by Bluetooth headphones is more than adequate.
Other pluses: You won't get your headphone cable caught in the door of the train on your way to work, and you won't have to spend all that time untangling the cable every time you use it.
As well as improving in quality, Bluetooth headphones are also coming down in price. You can buy a relatively decent pair on Amazon for $25, and those prices will fall further as manufacturers look to sell to iPhone users.
4. It’s not just Apple.
You might have missed it, but earlier this month Motorola killed the headphone jack on its flagship smartphone for 2016. The main focus of reports about the Moto Z when it launched on June 10 was its modular accessories, and little was reported about the fact it killed the headphone jack completely.
A number of Chinese smartphone manufacturers have beaten Apple to the punch, but adoption by Apple will be needed if the headphone jack is to be done away with forever.
5. It’s a matter of timing.
Apple has never been afraid to make bold design and engineering decisions it felt were necessary. The company dropped the floppy-disk drive from the iMac while it was still popular; it moved from ADB ports to USB at a time when no PC maker was using USB; it rendered millions of chargers useless when it redesigned the iPhone’s 30-pin connector to produce the Lightning port.
Apple apparently thinks now is the right time to get rid of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7. While the removal of the port will help make the iPhone slightly thinner or increase the battery size, the main reason for the change is that Apple knows wired headphones have a limited future — just like floppy disks.
Though there will always be some people who prefer wired headphones with their smartphones — like there are still people using floppy disks today — for the majority of us, the future of mobile audio will be wireless.