Everyone's been talking about Apple's removal of the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack from its just-launched iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Many have analyzed the move and its motivations, but what's the real reason Apple did away with the classic input?
After months of speculation and conflicting reports as to whether Apple would indeed nix the 3.5 mm headphone port from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, it turns out the company followed through on the plan.
While many technophiles who have been following the story were prepared for the potential move, many more casual Apple fans were in shock. Couple that with a number of not-so-amazing new features, and you have the perfect negative PR storm. Headlines heralding the just-announced handsets focused not on the new processor, improved camera performance and other tweaks, but on what the devices were lacking — a good old-fashioned headphone port.
While Apple publicly contends that the removal of the jack will allow it to make significantly thinner and lighter devices and improve battery life, this go-around doesn't particularly benefit from those potential adjustments. Perhaps Apple would have done better by waiting to remove the jack on a future device that had some other distracting wow factors. Instead, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have become known as "the iPhones without the headphone jack."
Much has been mentioned in the press about the fact that, even though Apple is including a Lightning port-to-3.5 mm adapter in the box that allows for use of standard headphones, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus users cannot charge their new smartphone and listen to music on headphones simultaneously. Some may say that's not a very common occurrence, anyway, but it should still be a viable one without having to spring for Belkin's upcoming $40 adapter.
So, why did Apple really do it? One clue may come from just-released figures indicating that wired headphones themselves may soon be a thing of the past. The number of dollars spent on wireless headphones in June surpassed the amount spent on wired headphones for the first time ever. That indicates that wired headphone listening may be on the way out in the near future. It appears Apple may have decided to merely accelerate the trend.
Pushing the envelope can sometimes be a good thing, but forcing customers to accept an option they're not ready for could appear arrogant and lose important good will toward the company. Even if Apple is preparing to eventually introduce the latest new accessory that renders wired headphones obsolete, like a rumored upcoming VR headset, why should current buyers suffer for the sake of ultimately enabling Apple to move its next new product?
This particular move appears premature. First, revenue from wireless headphone sales may now be greater than that of wired, but given the much higher relative cost of Bluetooth headphones, there are still many times more wired headsets being sold today. Also, the technology for wireless headphone listening still hasn't evolved to the point where the quality, consistency and cost is attractive enough for the majority of users to adopt it. While major upgrades to wireless listening technology are currently in the works, at this moment in 2016, most consumers want their good old trusted headphone jack.
Therein lies a big problem for Apple, which just announced it won't release first weekend sales figures for its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus for the first time ever. It looks as if the company not only failed to give consumers enough reasons to upgrade to the new iPhones, it also gave them one huge reason not to.