- Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
It’s finally happened.
After months upon months of speculation, Apple has officially omitted the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7.
Instead, those who want to listen to music with the new phone will have to use a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter – which lets you use a traditional wired pair – a pair of Lightning-based headphones, or a pair of wireless headphones.
Apple will include said adapter in the new phone’s box (replacements will cost $9), along with a new Lightning-based version of the Apple EarPods that traditionally come packaged with Apple’s devices.
Reports of Apple ditching the headphone jack started popping up nearly a year ago, causing plenty of sound, fury, and unsolicited blog posts as they picked up steam.
Apple’s Phil Schiller, for his part, played up the way losing the jack will save space within the iPhone itself, and its ability to provide better wireless audio. To hear Apple say it, the decision came down to “courage.”
In any case, it’s worth noting that Apple is not the first smartphone maker to ditch the port. Lenovo-owned Motorola made the move with its Moto Z phones in June, while Chinese firm LeEco launched a trio of jack-less phones in its home country in April.
Neither of those two have the landscape-shifting pull that Apple does, though. The tech giant has a long history of upending industry standards, from ditching floppy disks with the iMac to losing the optical drive with the MacBook Air. Just as before, this kind of decision is likely to have far-reaching effects across multiple fields.
Here, it’s all about headphones. While we’ve seen a few Lightning pairs hit the market within the past year – and will surely see more going forward – the main result that’s anticipated is an expedited push for wireless models. Those have only gained popularity in recent years, and now that the market for wired headphones has effectively been splintered, it’s safe to expect many, many more of them going forward.
- Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
Apple itself highlighted this by launching a new pair of wireless “AirPods” earphones at Wednesday’s showcase. It unveiled new Bluetooth headphones from its subsidiary Beats as well.
Regardless, the response to the move has been mixed – to put it kindly – for a reason.Bluetooth headphones still require regular recharging, still don’t sound as sharp as their wired equivalents, and still tend to come at a price premium.
On the wired side, a digital connection like Lightningcanallow for better audio, but the technical nature of headphones means that those benefits may only apply to higher-end pairs. It, too, usually costs extra. Plus, using the Lightning port for audio means you can’t use it for charging. These are all issues we’ve previously encountered with the Moto Z.
And again, Apple removing the headphone jack creates a divide between the iPhone and most other devices. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see more Android manufacturers follow Apple’s lead in the future, those devices would likely use USB-C. Anyone who doesn’t would still use 3.5mm. Those who don’t want to go wireless could have a messy situation on their hands, at least to start.
Whatever the case, the time for conjecture is over, and we can finally see what effect the removal of the headphone jack will actually have. This is one of the biggest moments for the consumer audio industry in years, and one of the most polarizing decisions Apple’s made in recent memory. And it all comes down to one little port saying goodbye.