Apple’s iPhone reveal: Death of antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack heightens anticipation

“Apple is set to unveil new iPhones at an event on Wednesday, as it has done every September for the last few years,” Brian X. Chen, Farhad Manjoo, and Katie Benner report for The New York Times. “The event, which will be held in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, is the company’s most important annual outing. ”

“What’s different this time is that the rumormongers have been buzzing about something that the new iPhones will lack, rather than a flashy new feature,” Chen, Manjoo, and Benner report. “The item that is supposed to disappear is the traditional headphone jack, with Apple expected to turn people toward wireless headphones instead.”

Also expected to be unveiled today, “a new version of Apple’s wearable computer, Apple Watch,” Chen, Manjoo, and Benner report. “The new model is expected to include a GPS tracker along with smarter fitness-tracking capabilities.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple leads. All others follow at a distance. As usual.

Buh-bye, 3.5mm headphone jack – and good riddance! Dumping the 3.5mm anachronism for Lightning will deliver myriad improvements and innovations.

As we wrote back in June 2014:

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™.

Of course, if you’d prefer no wires at all, you can do as we’ve been doing for years now and just go Bluetooth – which works just fine for things like exercising, commuting, etc. We’ve been using wireless Jaybirds (currently the Jaybird X2 Sport Wireless Bluetooth Headphones (around $115)). They’re easy to charge, easy to pair, light and comfortable, and work perfectly with our Apple Watches and iPhones.

SEE ALSO:
Apple innnovation at its best: Killing the 3.5mm headphone jack in iPhone 7 – August 30, 2016

The real reason Apple wants to kill the 3.5mm headphone jack – August 15, 2016
Apple’s next-gen iPhone will feature all-new non-mechanical Home button, no 3.5mm headphone jack – August 2, 2016
Apple supplier preps for removal of 3.5mm headphone jack in next iPhone – June 30, 2016
Mossberg: New Even earphones tune themselves to each individual’s hearing – June 29, 2016
Alleged iPhone 7 chassis lacks 3.5mm headphone port – June 28, 2016
iPhone 7 rumored to get second speaker, larger camera – June 27, 2016
Apple is known for dumping legacy tech before the rest of the world catches up – June 27, 2016
iOS 9 code reveals Apple’s plans to dump 3.5mm headphone jack in future iPhones – January 20, 2016
Apple’s intention to kill the 3.5mm headphone jack is brilliant – January 13, 2016
iPhone 7 said to be waterproof, replace 3.5mm headphone jack with Apple’s Lightning – January 8, 2016
The fastest Lightning cable is also one of the least expensive – January 8, 2016
Apple will drop headphone jack to make the iPhone 7 super slim, source confirms; wireless charging and waterproof, too – January 7, 2016
Petition demands Apple keep 3.5mm headphone jack in the ‘iPhone 7’ – January 7, 2016
More reports claim Apple has dumped the 3.5mm headphone jack on iPhone 7 – January 5, 2016
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

42 Comments

  1. The headphone jack is far from antiquated. The fact is, speakers and headphones are analog – they need to get an analog signal somehow. Digital audio connections merely externalize the audio processing. The only way a digital audio connection is if your headphones, speakers or A/V receiver has a better DAC and amplifier than your iOS device. Sure, the iPhone needs better amplification, but that can be accomplished with an external amplifier like the SoundBlaster E1, which is a better approach than digital headphones because it can be used with any headphones and it doesn’t make using 3.5mm headphones cumbersome since it relies on that technology.

    Just because something’s old doesn’t mean it has to be replaced.

    1. Agreed.
      I work with the 3.5mm Jack on *everything* so now I’ll have to buy 2 headsets for my bag.
      Bluetooth is great, but having to charge and pair with a bunch of other devices constantly isn’t fun.
      Turn my one headset on, that can only connect to two devices at any time, I have to turn Bluetooth off on my iPhone so I can use it with something else.. Or it auto connects to the iPhone and I can’t add another device while its paired. Annoying.
      3.5mm Jack just works. I will always have a backup pair, just won’t have a backup for a lightning cable for just my iPhone, will be using Bluetooth, will not invest in a cabled lightning headset.

      Which is probably apples plan. Bluetooth and no more cables for audio.

            1. Well, we know now. We didn’t know a couple hours ago. We were just running on rumors. I’m glad they included an adapter. And it’s a lot less clunky than I thought it would be. It’s not much different than the adapter that comes with the LifeProof Nüüd case. Going by how thin that adapter and the Lighting headphones are, I guess the audio is still being transmitted to the headphones in analog form, making it a change of connector instead of a change of audio transmission form. I think I might be able to live with having to use that adapter.

        1. Its a huge deal! The 3.5mm means no adapters and an external dac isnt needed to listen to my music. Plus with a lightning adapter I cant charge my phone and listen to music at the same time. Removing it would be a huge fuck you too apples customers.

          1. Don’t worry, the adapter will have a 3.5mm Jack, pass through lightning port, MDP, and USB-C included.

            The pass through lightning port will be to power the adapter, so your iPhone won’t be able to charge.

            But 3.5mm Jack!!!

            The adapter had better be included and be small, which most of us will lose…

          2. I don’t understand this type of logic. How is the removal of the 3.5mm jack from a BRAND NEW device, detrimental to existing customers? Who should, in fact, still be able to continue on using whatever they currently have.

            The greatest thing about being an informed consumer, is that I get to CHOOSE when I want to upgrade my device. And that’s usually based off whenever I believe I’m going to get the greatest value for the amount I spend.

            If my life cannot continue without the availability of a 3.5mm jack on my mobile device, then, obviously, I’m not going to buy a mobile device without a 3.5mm jack.

            However, I’m guess (and I’m sure Apple has figured this out) a vast majority of people who buy Apple’s products, just use whatever headphones come in the box – as I’m sure is true for any other manufacturer of mobile devices that play audio.

            1. It’s detrimental if you’re determined to stick with iPhones. Otherwise, you can switch to Android, Blackberry, Ubuntu Phone, or Windows Phone. The hard part is disentangling yourself from things like iMessage, Apple Music (if you use it) and iTunes DRM.

            2. It is not at all detrimental – a little inconvenient yes, but by no means can spending a little extra for an adapter be considered detrimental.

              Apple switched from the 30-pin Dock connector to Lightning and everyone went apeshit. In the end, it was just noise. People still bought adapters. Same thing here.

            3. Apple only connection, to a new Apple only connection.

              Different.

              3.5mm Jack works on 99% of everything out there, NOT just Apple devices. I have non Apple stuff, not phones or iPods… Game systems etc. and I need to hook up to other people’s stuff as well.

        2. An adapter would be a huge inconvenience. It’s bad enough that I have to use an adapter to plug my MacBook into a monitor, TV or projector. I shouldn’t have to use an adapter for something as universal as the 3.5mm headphone jack. If Apple makes the iPhone 7S and 8 without a headphone jack, I’ll be moving onto Ubuntu Touch.

    1. The earpiece transducer remains as analogue as it always has been. All that changes is that the digital to analogue conversion is done within the earpiece, rather than within the iPhone. The overall audio quality will still be governed by the performance of the transducers and by the calibre of the particular digital to analogue conversion.

      There is no inherent quality issue with 3.5mm jacks. Some extremely high end amplifiers use them and so do most high end headphones too. I’ve never seen any reputable audio professional criticising a well-engineered 3.5 mm jack for limiting the audio quality. It’s a robust connector that is very well suited to driving a relatively low impedance, low power load such as headphones.

      This is mainly about making iPhones thinner and incorporating wireless earpieces instead of cabled ones.

        1. Ignorance on display.

          Digital is merely attenuated analog, folks. To perform the attenuation, you need a Digital to Analog converter. You cannot improve the DAC quality by simply moving it from a convenient spot inside the iPhone to an external accessory. If people wanted to buy a higher quality DAC or wireless or Lighning headphones before now, there was nothing stopping them. The demand just isn’t there.

      1. “This is mainly about making iPhones thinner…”

        Yeah, that’s the “easy” excuse, and it certainly seems people with little imagination jump right up on that bandwagon.

        But there could be many reasons why Apple may want more internal space and the head phone jack was the “elephant in the room” so to speak. After all, it alone took up more space than the Home button, Touch ID sensor and Lightning port combined. And it only provided a single function – a function that could be moved to the Lightning port and/or Bluetooth.

      2. “This is mainly about making iPhones thinner”

        WRONG!!!

        In case you missed the keynote… The phone is NOT any thinner AND the new and improved Taptic Engine is taking up some of the room where the audio port used to reside.

  2. Yes, there will be adapters. Yes, the D/A conversion will be out of the phone or in the adapter. Two things with this: First, that converter will be better depending on what you buy. Second, soon every phone will lack this conector, so get used to it.

    1. ” … that converter will be better …”

      No, an external convertor COULD be better, but it could also be the same or worse than what was on previous iPhones. It could also be better in some respects and worse in others.

      As it happens, the DAC in iPhones is pretty decent, so any third party external DAC will have quite a high standard to match. There’s much more to it than counting the number of bits used and checking the clock speed.

      Digital processing isn’t a magical panacea. Doing it right is quite a challenging task, or even an art, and there are plenty of ways for manufacturers to screw it up. If an external DAC is meticulously engineered, the results can be wonderful, but you might be surprised at the number of manufacturers who have released poorly implimented digital audio products.

    2. “soon every phone will lack this connector”

      I seriously doubt it. Most smartphone manufacturers will stick with it. Most folks don’t mind the extra wire, particularly because 3.5mm is functionally superior to Bluetooth and Lighting for audio.

      Besides, most smartphone companies haven’t recently bought a headphone company and thereby generally don’t benefit from making you buy a new pair of overpriced (not to mention bass-heavy) $200 headphones.

      1. “making you buy”

        Can you please stop with this crap already!? How is Apple MAKING anyone buy anything? What is with this line of thinking?

        That’s like saying Apple is forcing me to upgrade my RAID because they no longer offer FireWire 800 on their computers.

        At the very least, someone in the world MAY HAVE TO buy an adapter, if they CHOOSE to buy a new iPhone and CHOOSE to not use the headphones that come with, but use their own instead.

        When I CHOOSE to upgrade to a new Mac, I will in fact have to buy an adapter, if I CHOOSE to continue to use my old RAID.

        1. Precisely!

          The idea that Apple is doing this because it wants to drive up sales of Beats headphones is ridiculously absurd. Just look at the possible numbers and it becomes clear.

          First, vast majority of iPhone users simply use the bundled earbuds (take a look at NYC subway at 9am and it becomes lear — out of about 100 people on a subway car, about 85 have iPhones, and 83 have stock white earbuds; numbers varry depending on the subway line and part of town).

          Now, if we assume that about 5% of all iPhone owners have after-market headphones, that makes it a few million in 2015. Of those, vast majority are non-Apple (Sony, Bose, Senheiser, etc). And when the new iPhone comes, it makes sense that vast majority of those will prefer to get a $30 adapter (if not already bundled for free) than spend $300 on Bluetooth Beats. So, for a chance to sell a few tens of thousands of Beats headphones (which they are currently giving away for free in their Back-to-school annual promo!), Apple risks alienating a million other iPhone users???

        2. Sure, if they include a 3.5mm adapter, then you won’t have to buy anything. But if they don’t, and you don’t already own Bluetooth headphones, then you’ll need to buy a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Well, if you buy an iPhone 7. I’m really hoping they’ll restore the headphone jack with the iPhone 7S.

  3. A lot of folks seem to have missed the first comment, or at least don’t understand it.

    We hear in analog. Period. Analog can’t be considered antiquated until you can listen to ones and zeroes and understand it. Digital will *always* still have to become analog before you can listen to it. So that conversion has to happen somewhere. There’s no valid audio reason that it can’t still be before the 3.5mm jack. Sure, there are *other* reasons, and the advanced audiophile may prefer other digital to analog converters, but those don’t make the 3.5mm jack antiquated.

    Without going into painful detail, digital music studios today spend lots of time and resources trying to make things sound analog. And many have gone back to analog tape. There’s a reason for that!

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

    Going from 3.5mm to either Lightning or Bluetooth is not my idea of progress.
    1. Bluetooth headphones have to be charged and pairing is a mess
    2. Lighting is proprietary
    3. The removal of the headphone jack will require many iPhone users to buy expensive new headphones.

  5. This rumor – as it stands for the next 10 minute or so, is probably the worst we could get. Seems like a step backwards to me. The audio jack isn’t anymore antequaed than the battery and of course we won’t see batteries go anywhere.

    It seems that for a company that relies on the rhetoric of music and personal listening, dumping the 3.5mm jack is a pretty risky move. And I have touted that we can’t tell the difference between CD audio and analog. I will be the fist in line to say we can tell the difference between Bluetooth and 3.5mm analog.

    I have purchased a couple of inexpensive bluetooth headphones that on the one hand sound crappy, where the same cost or lower analog 3.5mm headphones, universally connectable with 99.9% of music devices, sould $100 better than Bluetooth. That is, you have to spend a lot of money on bluetooth enabled devices to get something mediocre on the analog front. That puts a lot of burden on headphone manufactures, if you ask me. It’s a waste of resources and money.

  6. Clearly, nobody here understands the inevitable reasoning behind the removal. People must be new to Apple, since Apple has been doing this for the past 20+ years.

    NUBUS. SCSI. ADB. Floppy. Ethernet. Modem. PC Card. ExpressCard. Firewire 400. FireWire 800. DVI. Mini-DVI. DVD…. (and the list goes on).

    Throughout Apple’s history, Apple has mercilessly and unapologetically removed ports that were redundant; where the function could be absorbed by another, more versatile and more advanced port. With portable Macs, that effort resulted in a single USB3 port that now does everything.

    I can see how the lightning and headphone holes are grinding Jony Ive all the wrong ways. And he is not alone; anyone with the industrial design esthetics background will tell you that those holes are annoying and detrimental to the beautiful appearance of the phone. This is obvious even to ordinary people: a Lenovo laptop with 10 different ports and openings is quite ugly compared to a MacBook with perfect, uninterrupted design lines and curves.

    Ultimately, the iPhone will eventually lose all of its ports. We are hearing rumours that the mute switch is already gone form iPhone 7. Lightning will be the next to go (once inductive charging works fine for the iPhone), and then SIM card slot will be axed, once some universal virtual SIM standard is adopted. We’ve already seen the talks about integrating the home button into the screen. What remains is volume up/down and power buttons. Perhaps they will remain, but in such a way that they integrate as seamlessly as possible into the perfect, uninterrupted lines and curves of the iPhone. And no other maker will ever be able to achieve such visual perfection in appearance. And that philosophy is what keeps iPhone as the most desired, most coveted device. That is why in the movies, the “good guys” practically ALWAYS use the iPhone (and bad guys always have some generic, black plastic device).

    Yes, the continuing loss of ports will remain a major annoyance to a small group of advanced users. The vast majority won’t be affected, though, and the perfection of the design will keep them from ever considering anything else.

      1. The existing iPhones won’t automatically lose their lightning ports. When you do come at a point that you need to make a decision regarding your iPhone replacement, the lack of that lightning port will ultimately be a factor. Many may decide not to upgrade, but others may decide it is time to also sell their old headphones and get wireless ones.

        But vast majority will simply take whatever headphones come bundled with that new iPhone (and sell the old bundled ones with the old phone).

    1. Designers take risks. If they didn’t they would be mere copyists.

      The most insightful industrial designers understand the life cycles of conventions and standards and are ever ready to move ahead, to turn on a dime and reinvent the hand lotion, the car headlight, the camisole. But they are constrained in any number of ways. Only the truly bold—or those indemnified by working for a profit sponge and industry leader like Apple—can survive the inevitable buggy-whip backlash.

      Illustrative is The Earth Stood Still (Michael Rennie version). The alien space ship and the “robot” Gort are seamless metalloid constructs. There are NO ports. Klaatu doesn’t need to plug into anything. There are no complex control consoles, no replaceable batteries.

      Apple is dragging us into that sort of future. We criticise it as unnecessary because it is. It was unnecessary to to do a lot of technological things that we are now thankful for and reliant upon—it’s a very long list, and there was peevish resistance to everything on that list.

      The social, the commercial, and the personal combine to create a kind of painful childbirth, weaning people off the umbilical and freeing them to be more themselves, and redefining what is “necessary” in the process.

      1. Thank you for more eloquently explaining what I tried to say in my rather simplistic “ESL” kind of way.

        Phil Schiller used the word ‘courage’ during the presentation in his (somewhat melodramatic) way to explain the same.

        The 3.5mm connector has proved to be a very resilient one, and the fight against its disappearance may well be a very vocal one, but even if for some reason Apple sees a drop in sales that could presumably be directly attributed to this change (extremely unlikely), I doubt they would go back and re-introduce the port in the future.

        I can only think of one problem with this replacement. Most prior moves of similar nature (SCSI, ADB, Ethernet, Modem, etc) were replaced/supplanted by a solution that was a standard. Lightning is not; it is Apple’s proprietary connector, and Samsung won’t be able to do the same when they decide to copy Apple and eliminate 3.5mm connector. This won’t help drive the global move to completely eradicate 3.5mm (in the way SCSI had practically disappeared, for example). We’ll likely continue to see laptops, androids, bluetooth speakers and other devices with this connector for years and years.

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