by Al Sacco

Who cares if Apple kills the standard audio jack in its iPhone 7?

Jan 12, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiPhoneMobile

The blogosphere is abuzz over the upcoming iPhone 7, which will reportedly ditch the 3.5mm audio port. All of the noise, however, will quickly fade and the majority of Apple customers won't think twice about the change before buying a new iPhone.

If ye olde Internet rumor mill proves accurate, Apple will this fall release a new iPhone without a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Said rumor mill generally delivers equal parts facts and fiction, and as such, it should never be fully trusted. However, the sheer number of reports from different sources about the death of the iPhone audio port, and the fact that the jack’s removal seems to make a lot of sense (at least for Apple), seem to lend this particular rumor credence.

Yep, that means iPhone 7 buyers may have to buy new Beats by Dre or Philips (or whatever) headphones that connect to the iPhone via Lightning port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct or another wireless tech (mobile AirPlay?). Or they’ll need to buy some sort of Lighting-to-3.5-mm adaptor, assuming Apple releases one, or just use the crappy white “earbuds” that come with the new smartphone. 

How could Apple do this to its hordes of loyal customers? (Won’t somebody please think about the children, who need to hit up mom and dad for cash to buy new headphones?) And what does it mean for folks who plan to buy the iPhone 7? 

For Apple, ditching standards is par for the course

Apple has a history of unflinchingly discarding technology standards in its quest for design nirvana and a superior user experience. The company simply doesn’t care about your collection of existing audio accessories that use the standard port — or how much you paid for them. Instead, it assumes you’ll (perhaps grudgingly) shell out the cash for a new pair of headphones, or at least an adaptor. And in a few months, you’ll forget the 3.5mm port ever existed.

If that’s not OK with you, Apple kindly suggests you buy an Android phone. Or a Windows Mobile device. Maybe a BlackBerry PRIV? (It has a physical keyboard, large touch display and a 3.5mm headphone jack.) The choice is yours.

Many companies that make audio accessories for Apple devices as part of its MFi licensing program believe the decision to ditch the 3.5mm jack will be a boon for their businesses, according to The Verge, because it should help them sell more wireless headphones and new Lightning-compatible wares.

For years, I’ve blasted Apple for not adhering to tech standards with its various ports and connection. But I give up. At this point, Apple customers and tech-savvy consumers should expect this from the company. And I suspect many diehard iPhoners (you know who you are) will be more than willing to sacrifice that port for a thinner, sexier, more-feature-packed iPhone.

philips fidelio m2l lightning headphones Philips USA

Philips Fidelio M2L headphones with Lightning connector

I’m an iPhone user, and I’ll probably buy the iPhone 7 as soon as it’s available. I’ll also likely purchase some sort of adaptor for the $130 Bose SoundSport headphones I recently bought. I’ll bitch about the purchase for a day or so before accepting the inevitable as the cost of doing business with Apple. And I won’t be surprised when it decides to do away with another tech standard in the future.

What iPhone 7 with no 3.5 mm audio jack means for you

Apple needs to make a splash with the iPhone 7. Its iPhone 6s/6s Plus update was relatively boring, especially from an aesthetic standpoint. The devices look exactly the same as the previous generation phones, and they’re actually slightly heavier. 

[ Related analysis: 4 ways Apple missed the mark with iPhone 6s ]

Removing the audio port would let Apple make a thinner iPhone. The move would free up internal space and could herald wireless charging support, so iPhone 7 users would be able to charge their devices while listening to music or podcasts via the Lightning port. It could also help Apple waterproof iPhone 7. And another rumor suggests the company will offer an exclusive high-resolution audio option as part of its Apple Music service to customers who use Lightning headphones.

For all of the outrage and occasional vitriol aimed at Apple any time it decides to have its way with another technology standard, the noise never really amounts to much. Bloggers gripe (at least I do). Apple haters hate and pat themselves on the back for their decisions not to support such a tyrannical entity. And new iPhone buyers shell out more cash for adapters or some fancy new accessory and move on with their lives.