WSJ reviews Apple’s iPhone 7/Plus: ‘Get over the headphone thing and upgrade’

“You’ve heard the bad news: Apple removed the headphone jack from the new iPhone. Here’s the good news: They filled that space with precious, life-sustaining battery and other practical stuff,” Geoffrey A. Fowler writes for The Wall Street Journal. “Apple’s $650 iPhone 7 and $770 iPhone 7 Plus aren’t the holographic teleporting hoverphones of my dreams. But they fix much of what has long ailed the iPhone — and that’s reason enough to get over the headphone thing and upgrade.”

“The iPhone 7 still comes with corded earbuds, but they plug into the Lightning port now instead of the old round plug, and the box comes with an adapter so you can use your old headphones. There’s one big downside: You can’t plug in headphones and the charger at the same time unless you buy another strange adapter — for $40!” Fowler writes. “While all that is annoying, it’s actually a good time to consider wireless headphones, whose tech has leapt forward recently. ”

“So why is it worth losing the jack? Apple’s explanation, that it had the “courage” to move audio tech forward, has gone over like a lead balloon. Instead of patting themselves on the back, Apple’s brass should have stuck to the main message: It freed up a ton of space inside a phone that’s already more packed than a subway car to do more practical things we really want,” Fowler writes. “Is it worth upgrading your two-year-old (or older) iPhone? Yes. ”

Read more in the full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: A few short months from now, the kerfuffle over the 3.5mm anachronism will be forgotten. When people think of the iMac, absolutely nobody laments its lack of a floppy drive.

SEE ALSO:
Mossberg reviews Apple’s iPhone 7/Plus: It’s a great phone, but where’s my headphone jack? – September 13, 2016
The Verge reviews Apple’s iPhone 7/Plus: ‘The future in disguise’ – September 13, 2016
Customers begin queueing for Apple’s iPhone 7 five days ahead of release; pro line-sitters charging thousands to save a spot – September 13, 2016
No headphone jack? No problem: How to listen to music while you sync and charge your new iPhone 7/Plus – September 8, 2016

23 Comments

      1. So, you’ll have to remember to carry a dongle around in the event of needing it. Oops, don’t loose it that’ll cost you another $40. Wanna make a call with Bluetooth. Oh, the batteries dead in my hands free. I think not.

        1. Not that you actually have an iPhone troll but…….

          May I suggest you plug your headphones into the adapter that COMES WITH the iPhone and then DUCT TAPE THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF IT SO YOU DON’T LOSE IT.

          loser.

    1. I don’t know what kind of car you have, but my Hondas without CarPlay have no issue with Bluetooth syncing. Or are you trying to sync your Samsung phone to your Hyundai?

  1. Is everybody forgetting that using the Lightning port for sound actually brings in true stereo sound? Does that mean anything? Better quality sound, optional wireless AirPods, freed space in the phone to do more with such as giving it 4 processors and extending battery life. I get it tho. When they’ve done things I didn’t like, I’ve done my griping. Which is why tvOS is the only update I’m getting right away so I can have my dark mode. The tvOS can’t get much worse so I’ll risk it. As for iOS 10, I’m anxious for the lock screen and control center changes but I’ll wait for my iPhone 7 Plus to give it a spin. No since risking my current phone and iPads before the first fix is out. And I already have 3 sets of cheap Bluetooth headsets ($25 each at Amazon.com) to do me til the AirPods are out and I can give them a try. For me, it’s a good day.

  2. My 8 month upgrade cycle at Verizon makes the decision easy. Haven’t had to pay out of pocket for an iPhone since I purchased my iPhone 4 for the $200 contract price. Now it’s $300 or $400 a year to get the new iPhone and as soon as it arrives it’s off to Gazelle or eBay with last years model.

    1. But don’t the phone companies get the money back for that iPhone? The contract price is low, but there’s a monthly plan payment.

      I have a prepaid iPhone plan, so I don’t know anything about the phone carriers and how they make their money back for low-price iPhones.

  3. Anyone who thinks Apple’s proprietary connector improves audio quality is not listening.

    How ironic that Apple spends so much time trying to impress the photographers, and they even brought out professional photographers’ statements to brag about the new camera, but there wasn’t a single audio engineer willing to stand up and say the iPhone 7 improves audio quality in any way.

    Apple is catering to the non-discerning headphone crowd, not to audiophiles or pros. For the record, pros are not impressed with either the minijack or the Lightning jack. But there are hundreds of great accessories that used the analog jack, so Apple will cash in with a round of sales for expensive licensed lightning accessories. Yippeee..

  4. While I generally hate to repost a comment from a different thread, the complete nonsense posted by “MacUser” deserves the same response as the silly article posted earlier today:

    The cited article is just flat WRONG. “When Apple removes the headphone jack, they will also, by default, remove the audio DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) from the iPhone because it’s no longer necessary.” Because people never use their iPhone to make telephone calls without a separate headset? Because nobody ever watches a video while listening to the new stereo speakers?

    Quite obviously, Apple has not removed the DAC from the iPhone. If it had, the phone speakers would not work, since they are transducers that have to generate analog sound waves from an analog electrical signal. Conversely, the microphone systems have to convert analog sound waves into digital electrical signals.

    The article further assumes that the “dongle” contains a DAC. For eight dollars???? Obviously, the Lightning port is feeding the dongle an analog signal from the phone’s internal DAC that the dongle then delivers to the 3.5mm port. The quality of that signal will be no worse, and may be somewhat better, than the signal from the built-in 3.5mm port of older iPhones. Any “audio pros” that are relying on analog signals from a cellphone to feed their “great accessories” will lose nothing.

    The whole point of Lightning is that the cable is an active device that can request the phone to deliver various signals to the available pins. It is not just a dumb bundle of wires connected to an invariable set of signals. For example, if the jack is inserted “upside down,” the pins on the port are reassigned to deliver the same signals as if “right side up.”

    For analog audio devices, the cable requests and delivers analog audio signals. For digital devices, the cable requests and delivers digital audio at the highest quality that both the phone and the peripheral can handle. For the Belkin “splitter,” the port on the iPhone delivers analog stereo audio and control signals on some pins while accepting charging current on others.

    All of this has squat to do with the audio quality stored internally on the iPhone. That is constrained by the quality of the signals that go in, not those that come out (“garbage in, garbage out”). The port—of whatever flavor—obviously cannot deliver any higher digital quality than goes into the phone in the first place, or any higher analog quality than the best that the internal DAC can produce from the stored files. Similarly, the output to premium wireless headphones is as likely to be constrained by the quality of the source material as by distortion in reproduction.

    There is no “missed opportunity” to use the headphone jack replacement to improve the quality of the output sound. The old 3.5mm port could only output analog signals, while the Lightning port can output digital sound at the highest quality available on the device. What that quality might be has nothing to do with the port itself. Unlike devices attached with the analog jack from 1888, digital devices (headphones, mixers, amps, or whatever) attached via Lightning can do their own digital signal processing, noise reduction, and customized analog conversions. That is a huge plus, not a missed opportunity.

    MacUser: Apple didn’t trot out audio engineers to testify that digital audio through the Lightning port on “the iPhone 7 improves audio quality” over the analog audio from an iPhone 3.5mm port on an iPhone 6s because nobody with any sense could possibly think otherwise.

    1. Could you kindly tell us to what article you’re referring?

      As far as I know, the Lightning connector has the capability of several conductors for potential new features like providing headphones power for active noise canceling or other features. Lightning enabled features will certainly be available in the future with amazing improved headphone performance.

      Oh, wait. Audiophile Lightning headphones are already available on the market. Noise-cancelling headphones are already on the market. Wireless headphones are already on the market. Why isn’t every Apple fan already kitted out with with all these exciting $159 and up Bluetooth and Lightning headphones???

      Perhaps few people actually buy them because the prices are too high for the performance gains promised. Brands like Beats and others have been exposed for selling fashion, not accurate sound.

      Reports are that neither the new default Apple Lightning headphones nor the AirBuds offer any sound quality superior thing more than the the prior Apple headphones.

      Someday third parties will offer better performance at better values. I’ll wait. Change for the sake of change isn’t a superior value to some of us.

    2. Green:

      To save you the trouble of looking two lines down on the MDN homepage (“Apple’s Missed Opportunity”), the article was by Bob O’Donnell in Tech.pinions.

      Why isn’t every Apple fan already kitted up with $159 headphones? Probably because the majority of people who regularly listen to music from their smartphone use the supplied earbuds or buy replacements from the remainders bin at the Dollar General Store. Their typical use case is listening in a high-noise environment like an airplane or bus, or using disco or hip-hop to set a rhythm for jogging or working out at the gym. Under those circumstances, the quality of reproduction is almost irrelevant.

      At the other end of the spectrum, there aren’t many audiophiles who stretch out on a recliner in their home theater and plug an iPhone into their $4000 sound system with a minijack. Those folks would not deign to spend as little as two or three hundred dollars for earphones.

      However, given that there are billions of iPhones in circulation, the number of people who occupy the middle ground of those who appreciate good sound but aren’t fanatical about it is still a very large population. As you suggest, those folks have not been clamoring for Lightning digital headphones because the incremental increase in sound quality for the few existing products does not justify the price differential over the best phones using an analog signal. The same could have been said of the advantages of automobiles over carriages in 1893.

      That is going to change. As it happens, the best sound systems that are regularly hooked up to an iPhone now are in cars… and those systems do indeed already use the Lightning connector or Bluetooth in preference to the 3.5mm minijack. There will be an increasing number of car, home, and portable sound systems that can process digital signals now that they are widely available.

      It is hardly a surprise that the default Apple earbuds provided with the iPhone 7 do not offer superior sound to those provided with the iPhone 6s. They are exactly the same earpieces using exactly the same analog signal. Nobody in his right mind ever thought that changing the plug would change the quality of the analog signals provided by the iPhone’s internal DAC or the way they sound when run through low-cost earbuds.

      Most of the reviews suggest that the W1 chip enables the AirBuds to produce sound that is substantially better than most wireless earphones the same size in the same price class. They almost certainly sound better than the “prior Apple headphones”—the wired earbuds that came free with an iPhone 6s. Again, nobody in his right mind expects AirBuds to sound better than custom-fitted Entymotics.

      Switching from analog output though a 3.5mm port to digital output through a Lightning port is a lot more than change for the sake of change.

      1. “Most of the reviews suggest that the W1 chip enables the AirBuds to produce sound that is substantially better than most wireless earphones the same size in the same price class. They almost certainly sound better than the “prior Apple headphones”—the wired earbuds that came free with an iPhone 6s.”

        Whatever it is you’re smoking in TX, it isn’t improving your reckoning. Or maybe you’re hand-picking your reviews. A complete roundup is here,. no one is claiming that the new wireless headphones are a huge leap forward in audio quality. https://9to5mac.com/2016/09/13/airpods-review-roundup/

        Just because Apple gives a chip an exciting name like “W1” doesn’t mean it outperforms anyone else’s chips. It’s still bluetooth, which means the sound has to be compressed even more than any wire. Bring in some objective measurements and then we can talk.

        What seems to get lost in constant MDN bias is the reality that Apple provides only a few mainstream choices. Apple is neither high end nor bargain basement. Yet the usual Apple fanboys to claim that Apple is *both* the best value *and* the highest quality at the same time. That can’t be.

        In almost all products, the competition is stiff, and Apple is just one choice in the middle of the spectrum you yourself described. In audio, Apple hasn’t shown consistent superiority in practically its entire history. Apple’s just going to make what Ive likes. In other words, sacrificing usability and performance to make it smaller, thinner, or with less ports. Yippee.

        Go and listen to Apple’s earbuds, all of ’em. They are all well below audiophile quality. The DAC in the iPhone is also well below audiophile quality, but you knew that.

        As for the quality of the air pods, you pay a the extra benjamin to lose the wires, NOT to improve sound quality. Stop pretending the W1 is a silver bullet.

        Don’t forget that Apple Music and tracks purchased from iTunes is compressed and it sounds like shit on a proper hi-fi. But it’s good enough for the kids who worship all things Apple.

        1. (I doubt anyone is still reading this thread, but for the record:)

          Right, Audiophile! Nobody serious is claiming that the first-generation AirBuds are a major step forward in audio quality. However, if you actually read your linked roundup, most of the reviews back up my actual claims—that they sound better than most wireless earphones the same size in the same price class and they sound better than the cheap wired earbuds that come in the box.

          The output isn’t great, thanks to the inherent shortcomings of Bluetooth and earbuds, but it isn’t terrible, either. Buyers have to weigh the convenience of eliminating the wires against the loss in quality. Serious music fans might prefer to spend their $160 on a pair of wired over-the-ear headphones or in-canal earphones (that would also isolate the listener from ambient sounds… like the car that is about to mow him down).

          There is another inevitable tradeoff—cost. A budget-conscious consumer might prefer to save the money and listen to pirated low-fi MP3s on the free Lightning earbuds, rather than on any purchased replacement. An audiophile might want to wait until there are professional-quality headphones using the power and digital signals from the Lightning connector (transmitting material stored on the iPhone in an HD lossless format) to drive a serious set of custom digital signal processors, digital-analog converters, and transducers. Somebody in the middle might buy AirBuds, Beats, or some third-party product. Life is about making compromises.

          1. Points for hanging in there. Objective viewpoints like yours are so hard to find that when we see ’em we don’t recognize ’em, or don’t want to ’cause we’re almost always right, and pissed off when anyone misses our real point, which is that we know what we’re talking about more than you do. Skilled navigators actually have fistfights over stuff like this. I guess it’s the same deal in jurisprudence?

  5. Some of you really really really need to come to grips with life…..

    1. If Apple does not remove the mini-jack, no one will and we would be stuck with it forever. Remember the large jacks? Every stereo uses to have one, have not seen one in years.
    2. If you have headphones and want to keep using them, there is a little dongel, free in the box, possibly added after the comotion, possibly they meant to do so from the get go, who cares.
    3. If your concern is audio quality, you will sooner hear the audio quality difference in the file type and size than from the extra dongle. You do know that stereo speakers have “garden hoses” for audio quality and any headphone with a mini-jack is uncomparable PHYSICALLY!
    4. I like constructive criticism and we all should be demanding the very best from the company we pay premium prices for premium products, but please read the asnwers, solutions and do not stay focussed on your own opinion per se but rather see if there is merrit to the asnwers / solutions provided.

    Apple is more inclined to listen when we bring solid arguments and stay calm than when we rant on about how bad we have it. Remember: Windows sufferers don’t have our problems, for there is nothing changing for them…. 🙂

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