Apple to dump 3.5mm headphone jack? Beats acquisition suddenly makes sense

“Suddenly why Apple spent a seemingly ludicrous $3.2 billion buying Beats is starting to make sense. The reason: Apple is being more Apple than we ever imagined and it could mean saying goodbye to your favourite pair of headphones,” Gordon Kelly writes for Forbes. “Furthermore, if my theory is correct, then the new ones you buy will probably have Beats on the logo.”

“Apple submitted a specification to its MFi (Made For) licensing program for headphones which connect using the company’s proprietary Lightning port instead of the standard 3.5mm jack,” Kelly writes. “Furthermore all it will take for the Lightning port to start accepting these new headphones is a firmware update.”

“Yes Beats may primarily have been about securing a streaming music service,” Kelly writes, “but suddenly the ability to earn multi-millions from locked-in Lightning headphones, license fees and sales of adaptors makes for a very juicy side business.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yup. Well, except for the “suddenly” bit:

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™. — MacDailyNews Take, June 6, 2014

The question is not if Apple will axe the 3.5mm headphone jack, but when – December 1, 2015
Apple rumored to replace 3.5mm headphone jack on iPhone 7 with all-in-one Lightning connector – November 30, 2015
Why Apple may axe the 3.5mm headphone jack – June 20, 2014
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

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]


  1. Duh! This is exactly what I said when I first heard rumor (not even confirmed yet) that Apple was acquiring Beats. To have a popular brand of headphones on board with a revolutionary change to the headphone jack. Everyone always down voted me saying it was a stupid idea, but it was the only thing that made sense.

    1. Hopefully this theory is false. My iPhone has one connector. One. If I am using it to listen to music, then I can not simultaneously charge or maintain my charge. And I am fighting a long held standard for what benefit? To have only one port on the phone? To shrink the port down? Eh, why not just push to Bluetooth vs. trying to change to one port?

      Yeah I guess you could give me a splitter … just one more device to carry …..

  2. 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.”

    Quite the opposite. Since Apple didn’t offer up Lightning as the USB-C spec and went along with what was accepted as the USB-C spec, and since Apple won’t license Lightning to 3rd party smartphones and media players, the only devices Lightning based headphones will work with are Apple devices.

    If you’re a 3rd party headphone company, you might consider licensing Lightning, but you’d be competing against Beats on their home turf. This would be very unappealing and you’d have other options, such as using a 3.5mm plug and letting Apple users buy adapters or selling Bluetooth.

    As far as the “profit” to be made on adapters. Either there is significant profit to be made because lots of people are buying high margin adapters, or few people do or the margins on adapters are really low.

    If it’s lots of people buying high margin adapters, then Apple would be going after this money at the expense of losing sales not only on the iPhone, but the bad will generated in terms of being proprietary and greedy.

    Apple may be getting rid of the 3.5mm port, but it would be to save space, reduce complexity and remove a port of entry for dust and water.

    They don’t need to proprietize the audio output to milk Beats, it’s already a pretty significant cash cow… not to mention that if they did switch to Lightning ports for the Beats headphones, Beats would sell fewer headphones since they’d be out of the market for selling to non-Apple devices.

    If you ask me, Apple screwed up by not submitting Lightning as the USB-C spec to begin with, and then further screwed up by not immediately licensing it and having too strict of licensing terms.

    1. “If you ask me, Apple screwed up by not submitting Lightning as the USB-C spec to begin with, and then further screwed up by not immediately licensing it and having too strict of licensing terms.”

      It’s like they didn’t learn a thing from their failure with Firewire licensing… which led to a serious push in the early 2000’s to get USB 2 out the door as quickly as possible.

      That said, unlike Firewire I doubt Apple had any plans or even desire to make Lightning a meaningful, multi-platform standard.

      1. “If you’re a 3rd party headphone company, you might consider licensing Lightning”

        Like Philips already has, for a regular and noise reduction model. They didn’t STOP making their other headphones, they just added two new high end models.

        This isn’t either/or. A company can make Apple only headphones along with their universal models.

        1. Right, because for Philips, right now Apple is a huge ecosystem with no dominate player in Lightning based headphones.

          Now, change that with Beats offering Lightning headphones and dominating the space and it’s much less compelling for 3rd parties to enter.

          And while of course they can make both Lightning and 3.5mm headphones, doubling their SKUs requires significant investment and overhead.

          1. I hope Apple learns from lessons of the past and realizes that proprietary ports will not catch on with the manufacturers and consumers, UNLESS the cost of licensing is extremely low or non-existant! Sure make it a strict standard so that quality doesn’t suffer, but don’t charge for the license or charge very, very little. Apple, you have nothing to loose.

            1. Doubling of SKUs was in response to the idea that a company would offer both 3.5mm and Lightning of all their headphones. They won’t. They’ll make Bluetooth, 3.5mm, and mostly ignore the Lightning market because it will be completely dominated by the ear buds Apple provides, low end cheapy replacements, and Beats… lots and lots of Beats. Further, since adapters will be available, most won’t bother licensing Lightning and hard wiring it.

              In other words, the whole premise that Apple will lead the industry here is completely flawed. It was flawed from the moment Apple decided not to submit Lightning as the USB-C spec.

    2. One possible outcome is that people will simply move to buying an adapter or just getting wireless earbuds/earphones and just avoid lightning connected earphones altogether if not included with the device.. In short, very low separate sales of lightning connector personal listening devices.

  3. Gordon Kelly and MDN have both been drinking Kook Aid spiked with who knows what.

    If Apple makes the change, the reason will not be to “earn multi-millions from locked-in Lightning headphones, license fees and sales of adaptors.” That would be the stupidest reason to do so. It would be so dumb that Apple would fail.
    Apple isn’t that dumb.
    Apple would need to justify it by bringing an advantage so big that people will accept it.
    Despite what MDN thinks, we are not sheep.

    Okay, getting off my soap box now. 🙂

  4. That will be way way to limiting on either side of the fence.
    Apple product users stuck with Beats only( which in turn will hurt Apples product marketability) ……and Beats sales limited only to Apple products.
    Its crazy.
    Unless Apple comes up with a little adaptor .. Lightning to 3.5 and 3.5 to lightning.

    It just too much of a mess imho.

    Apple did not need to buy beats for 3 BILLION to secure a headphone supplier and the beats streaming app and then take the internationally successful “universal” brand that works with every product out there and limit it only to Apple ….severely restricting its market.
    Its stupid.

    It would have cost a couple of orders of magnitude less if they just set up their own headphone manufacturing .

    1. Yup… and I’m no audiophile, but what I’ve read says that Beats’ competing hardware is usually superior at the same price points. So it’s not like they bought the best-of-breed nor best value hardware either.

    2. “Apple did not need to buy beats for 3 BILLION …”

      This! I realize that MDN is desperately trying to come up with a rationale for the purchase. But seriously – Apple way over paid.

  5. Everyone is missing a massive pitfall of Lighting. How damn easily the plug falls out!

    If you have a relatively new phone, then sure, the plug holds in reasonably well. But otherwise, it is far FAR too easy to pull the plug out.

    The 3.5mm plug has the little indent in the end of it which holds the plug securely in place.

    I foresee a great number of pissed of joggers and runners as their headphones cut out because the lightning plug as fallen out of their phone.

    1. Another thing people are ignoring is that the lightning port doesn’t support analog I/O. That means all headphones and adapters will require a DAC/ADC, an amplifier and external power. That means more complexity, weight and cost. It’s a stupid idea when a 3.5mm socket is very sturdy, takes up very little space, won’t require the duplication of circuitry and can use easily available passive headphones.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.