Blogs & Comment

Hey Apple: dropping the iPhone 7’s headphone jack is a terrible idea

Dropping a simple, ubiquitous, decades-old standard for a proprietary audio connector on the next iPhone speaks to the poor state of tech innovation today


Apple iPhone 6

Say goodbye to the iPhone’s headphone jack (allegedly). (Neil Godwin/MacFormat/Getty)

Rumours have been circulating for some time that the next iPhone – likely the iPhone 7, expected to be unveiled in September – will do away with the headphone jack.

Apple, always obsessed with minimalism and simplicity, is reportedly trying to get rid of the extra port in favour of having users connect headphones to the device either via Bluetooth headphones or through the existing Lightning charging port.

Bloomberg is now adding fuel to that fire with its own report, which also suggests the next iPhone will have a better camera and a haptic home button.

In regards to those other new “innovations,” well, no one can be blamed for hitting the snooze button. Maybe someone can wake us when phones get interesting again (we’re in for a long nap).

The headphone jack issue has drawn particular venom online, and with good reason. If Apple does indeed ditch it, it’ll be problematic in a number of ways.

The Verge covered off many of those reasons when the rumours first surfaced a few months ago. Among the problems are the fact that Bluetooth headphones generally aren’t that good, and that consumers are going to be forced to buy adapters if they want to keep using existing devices.

That’s a clear money-maker for Apple – whose prices on simple accessories such as phone cases and cables are usurious – but it’s bad news for customers.

The two biggest problems with forcing users to go with either Lightning or Bluetooth audio accessories are the intrinsic digital rights management that entails, and the further stratification of iOS and Android users.

On the first issue, the Verge article points out that “restricting audio output to a purely digital connection means that music publishers and streaming companies can start to insist on digital copyright enforcement mechanisms.” In other words, it’ll be easier for record labels to prevent music from being copied.

On the second front, it means consumers will need different headphones, earphones and other audio components for Apple and Android devices. If they switch between the two, they’ll have to buy new hardware or adapters. That’s just ridiculously dumb.

It remains to be seen if Apple will indeed get rid of the headphone port, and if it does, how it will attempt to sell the move. But for now, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for doing so.

And if getting rid of a port and adding haptic buzz to a button is the extent of smartphone innovation today, well then smartphones truly have become the new toasters: commoditized, boring and yesterday’s news.