Why Apple may axe the 3.5mm headphone jack

“The folks from Cupertino have added headphones to the list of Made for iPhone devices that can plug in to an iOS device using the Lightning connector,” Marco Tabini writes for Macworld. “Such a development could mean that the headphone jack—a staple of mobile devices since the pre-smartphone era—is finally on its way out the door.”

“Before we all reach for the nearest pitchfork and torch, however, it’s worth exploring whether the removal of the jack from our devices would, in the long run, be a change for the better—after all, many similar technologies have, in the past, suffered a similar fate at the hands of Apple’s design team (remember the floppy disk drive?) in order to pave the way for even better replacements,” Tabini writes. “From this point of view, the most obvious reason for getting rid of the phone jack may simply be its age. Originally introduced in the 19th century to allow operators to quickly patch calls across the switchboards of the time, this ubiquitous connector is, as far as still-in-use technology goes, positively ancient.”

“While its existence may still make sense in an analog world, the jack adds little to the listening experience on today’s mobile devices, where all audio is generated digitally anyway. In fact, its presence is often the cause of many rather significant problems, and has gotten in the way of Apple’s design goals in the past,” Tabini writes. “Presumably… Apple would bundle newer devices with Lightning-connector earbuds, or—even better—a headphone jack-to-Lightning converter, making the transition a little less traumatic.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. – Steve Jobs

As we wrote two weeks ago:

Bring. It. On.

Mac users are never wedded to old tech when there’s progress to be made.

Also, another good reason for the Beats buy. If Apple and Beats both change to Lightning headphones, the rest of the world will have to follow.

Of interest: Apple Inc.’s U.S. Patent No. 8,655,004: “Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets.”

Apple’s patent abstract: A monitoring system that can be placed proximate to the head or ear of a user is disclosed. According to one embodiment, the monitoring system can be used with headphones, earbuds or headsets. The monitoring system can, for example, be used to monitor user activity, such as during exercise or sporting activities. The positioning of the monitoring system can also facilitate sensing of other user characteristics (e.g., biometric data), such as temperature, perspiration and heart rate. The monitoring system can also be used to control a an electronic device. In one embodiment, the monitoring system facilitates user control of the electronic device using head gestures. More info here.

From your ear to your wrist in the blink of an eye™.

Related articles:
Apple may be poised to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack – June 7, 2014
Apple may ditch analog 3.5mm headphone jack for Lightning to make thinner devices – June 6, 2014
Apple introduces MFi specs for Lightning cable headphones, iOS software update to deliver support – June 5, 2014
Apple preps HD audio for iOS 8 plus new Apple In-Ear Headphones and lightning cable – May 13, 2014
Apple patents biometric sensor-packed health monitoring earphones with ‘head gesture’ control – February 18, 2014
Apple paves way for more affordable iOS accessories with lower MFi and Lightning licensing fees – February 7, 2014

74 Comments

  1. The only problems I have had with my various iPhones over the years has been dust getting into the headphone jack. Perhaps this has something to do with the change. I am probably not the typical customer though since I am in a wood shop all day.

  2. Color me skeptical. It would be interesting to have a thinner connector. However, the current design has been around so long because it works really well. It has been engineered to death. For simple applications you can get ear phones for a dollar. It also parses the function of driver and speaker. You have one driver in your device and passive speakers in your headset. With a digital driver you need DACs and amplifiers and batteries in each headset. (Maybe the interface will supply power?)

    1. Why would you need batteries in the headset? Why couldn’t the iPhone also power audio headphones through an adapter, just as the iPhone powers analog headphones today? The adapter handles the conversion of digital to analog, and the iPhone provides the rest of the power (as it would need to do for Lightning headphones anyway).

      1. Analog headphones aren’t powered, they’re passive devices. They take an alternating electric signal and convert it to mechanical movement. Simple as a magnet, coil and diaphragm. Converting digital signals to recognizable audio takes complex circuitry that requires power.

  3. This is THE dumbest claim I’ve heard in a long, long time about Apple, and yet all the tech pundits seem to be jumping on the ‘Apple is sooooo evil’ bandwagon yet again.

    Apple phases out obsolete technology, that is true (Et tu, floppy drive?). But analog headphones are NOT obsolete. There are hundreds of millions of analog devices that are perfectly useful on every iOS device right now, and Apple would be extremely foolish to try and force customers to buy Lightning connector Beats-style headphones.

    And there is no value in phasing out analog headphone connectors, and it would upset millions of people who have invested in perfectly useful headphones. No, this claim only makes sense to the writers looking for click bait and hits on their websites. You can iCal I said that, MDN.

  4. Two points:
    1) the Lightning connector is thinner than 3.5 mm, so the phone can be thinner (always good)

    2) Steve Jobs once said that 3.5 mm headphone jacks were one of the major causes of breakage on iPods, which is why they recessed it in the first iPhone. This turned out to be a not-so-good idea (because so few headphones were compatible. But the fact remains: this is a place where a lot of devices break. Going to the Lightning jack can only be an improvement…

  5. This would be a disaster. As others have said, millions of headphones and buds would not work.

    Why would any other company change to or use the plug type? They use the jack for free and would probably have to pay Apple a license fee for a Lightning connector. The supply and manufacture costs will also go up.

    Getting rid of the floppy made sense, this is just stupid.

    What if Apple made a car and they decided that a new gas filler assembly was needed. No existing gas stations could fill your car, until Apple made or licensed their own. Why would somebody license it when 99.9999999999999% of all of the vehicles use a standard nozzle connector? I guess you can carry around an Apple filler assembly to standard nozzle adapter, but we all know that would be a pain.

    If you are concerned about the durability of the connector, why would that change. If Apple is using cheap components in the 3.5 connector causing it to wobble, fall out, etc., is that suddenly going to stop with a new connector?

    Include both, or only the 3.5mm connector, going Lightning only is just stupid.

  6. My question is how are you going to power the device and use the headphones at the same time? With some kind of wireless charging solution where the device doesn’t have to be in close proximity with the charging pad maybe. An adapter to use both would be a pain in the ass.

    1. Wireless charging makes use of induction coils. Not sure how that would affect the audio signal if you’re listening and charging at the same time.

  7. I have very expensive headphones I use with my Mac for recording and mixing music. I would assume that Apple would make an adapter, and whether it’s 20 or 40 bucks people will whine- but that’s their problem. I have iOS interfaces that are superior because they use lightning instead of headphone jack.

  8. Even if headphones with Lightning connectors go on the market, there’s no good reason at all why it should be an either/or issue for iOS devices, certainly not in the short- to medium-term.

    This is just panic for no good reason.

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