Why Apple was right to kill the 3.5mm headphone jack in iPhone 7/Plus

“The 3.5mm jack is over 50 years old and doesn’t do much besides carry an audio signal. It needs its own power amplifier and digital audio converter, which can be built into headphones, so removing the jack makes room for other things, such as a second speaker,” JV Chamary writes for Forbes. “As Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller said during the iPhone 7 launch, ‘Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analogue, big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium.'”

“Schiller said the decision to drop the 3.5mm jack was down to courage. However, even if you accept that the change was brave, ‘courage’ doesn’t clearly highlight the advantages to customers. Apple should have used another word to explain the iPhone 7′s lack of headphone jack: progress,” Chamary writes. “‘The headphone jack is really quite limited,’ says Dr Joshua Reiss, an audio engineer at Queen Mary University of London. ‘For the person who wants really great sound, using the Lightning port is much better than using the headphone jack.'”

“One drawback of a 3.5mm jack is that its digital-to-analogue converter alters the audio signal prematurely, before it reaches a headphone’s speakers, which can allow data to be lost from a recording. ‘Generally, the jack itself will have had some audio degradation just getting the audio,’ says Reiss,” Chamary writes. “Manufacturers of high-end audio equipment obviously have a vested interest in saying we’re able to tell the difference between ordinary CD quality and hi-res audio. Reiss recently settled the argument by bringing all the relevant research together, a meta-analysis of 18 studies that included 400 participants from 12,500 experiments. ‘Putting them all together, it showed that people did definitely hear a difference,’ he says…”

More info and links in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: All but the worst tin ears can hear the difference.

Kill the 3.5mm anachronism across all product lines, Apple!

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

By killing the 3.5mm headphone jack, Apple is doing something extraordinary for music sound quality – September 8, 2016
No headphone jack? No problem: How to listen to music while you sync and charge your new iPhone 7/Plus – September 8, 2016
Apple VP calls 3.5mm headphone jack ‘a dinosaur,’ says ‘it’s time to move on’ – September 8, 2016
Apple kills the headphone jack – September 7, 2016
Apple reinvents the wireless headphone with AirPods – September 7, 2016
Apple’s iPhone reveal: Death of antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack heightens anticipation – September 7, 2016


  1. I had this exact same argument yesterday. But try explaining this to someone who doesn’t understand how Dac’s work, the limitations of analogue connectors, and how hard they are to ingress protect for water resistance. And before someone says “other water resistant devices have headphone jacks”, yes they do, but have you ever used your phone after it’s taken a bath? The jack is the last thing that works and the last thing to dry out, and suite often shorts out even in resistant devices. That’s why Apple for years put the water sensor inside the headphone jack (that little red dot)… it was the plac where it is easiest to get in.

    This is a good move, and in a couple of years we will all look back at this and laugh at the insanity over it.

    Btw: delivered this morning 1 jet black 256gb iPhone 7!

    1. Voice of Apple Apologists, you should realize that waterproofing a round 3.5mm jack cylindrical cavity is no more difficult than attempting to seal a rectangular lightning cavity. Perhaps you are asking too much of your cheap poorly designed splashproof junk instead of investing in products that are properly waterproof.

      This is what a waterproof iPhone 6 case looks like:

  2. Good summary, but it perpetuates the peculiar error that eliminating the analog jack allows saving space by also eliminating the internal DAC. One is still necessary to drive the phone’s internal speakers, including the new stereo speaker.

    I also assume that it provides analog signals to the adapter dongle. At $9, that can hardly have its own DAC and audio amplifier. That explains why the new default earbuds sound almost exactly like the old ones.

  3. I hear the second set of holes in the bottom is just for symmetry — It’s not a second speaker. There’s one speaker on the bottom, and one at the earhole.

    BTW, I was hoping hoping hoping for a second speaker on the iPhone for landscape. I was shocked and awed that it was added.

    I did think it was strange, though, that the images of the stereo speakers seemed to show the sound emanating from the touchID button. Reviews suggest the bottom speaker’s in the same spot as before.

    1. I can confirm that. But it’s not for symmetry, one is a microphone grille, and one is a speaker grille. The microphone performance is markedly better on the 7 thus far. And the stereo speakers are pretty nice.

  4. Maybe removing the 3.5mm jack is all about controlling the dialog. While everyone is griping about something everyone already knows, they won’t go looking for something else, stupid and made up.

  5. The fact that are removing the 3.5 jack from the MacBooks and Mbps are proof that it had nothing to do with space utilization. Just to control and how (and what) you can listen (to). Mdn (apples control the narrative machine) is working overtime to tell people their opinions of how this is a benefit.

  6. Apple should’ve taken the opportunity to bite the bullet and replace Lightning with USB-C, which is fast turning out to be the port to rule them all. Sure, there’d be some initial pain but this will be the standard port for the next 20 years or so.

  7. Talk about a pile of steaming BS. If you parse through the smoke, what this guy is saying is that the quality of analogue cables between amplifier and speaker makes a big difference. What he doesn’t say is that all the other factors can, and do, weight in more to total sound quality.

    You can slide things along the chain, but you can’t change the order of operations. For conventional digital music players, the path is this:

    1 original source file is recorded
    2 digital file is packaged (usually compressed, throwing away data)
    3 player reads digital file
    4 player applies digital processing (optional)
    5 digital signal is converted to analogue (DAC) – more significant impact than many people realise
    6 analogue signal is amplified to speaker level signal
    7 speaker level signal drives magnoelectric speaker drivers, often through a crossover circuit to divide signal to different speaker drivers (tweeter, midrange, woofer).
    8 analogue human ears receive sound pressure waves

    That’s it. You can shorten and lengthen the distances between components, which affects possible analogue losses due to cables or air. You can change the connector type from a round connector to a flat Lightning connector, you haven’t changed this process. Lightning headphones may be analogue or digital, if digital, then all you did was move the relative location of components along the wire. Negligible impact compared to the massive degradation in sound quality that happens with digital file compression and speaker design quality.

    “But digital is perfect, therefore lightning or bluetooth must be better”.

    No, it isn’t. Digital signal is modulated analogue. You can have signal dropout, timing jitter, and other effects. It is well known that unshielded digital wires have maximum transmission lengths because of signal degradation. Wireless is even worse.

    If you go wireless, this is the sound path:

    1 original source file is recorded
    2 digital file is packaged (usually compressed, throwing away data)
    3 player reads digital file
    4 player applies digital processing (optional)
    5 digital signal is converted to Bluetooth (compressed, throwing data away)
    6 wireless transmitter sends low-power close field signal
    7 wireless receiver receives signal (unless interference prevents it)
    8 digital signal is converted to analogue (DAC)
    9 analogue signal is amplified to speaker level signal
    10 speaker level signal drives magnoelectric speaker drivers, often through a crossover circuit to divide signal to different speaker drivers (tweeter, midrange, woofer).
    11 analogue human ears receive sound pressure waves

    So what Bluetooth does is add data further compression, adds two components for wireless transmission and reception, and then adds the need for a headphone-mounted wireless kit to be miniaturized, which ALWAYS compromises audio quality in one way or another. That is all fine and good if convenience or fashion is most important to you. But don’t claim that a lightning port or a bluetooth digital signal transmission automatically improves sound quality at your ears. You would have to spend $$ to improve other parts of the signal chain to overcome the additional losses and design compromises present in most every lightning and bluetooth headphone. Apple’s exciting new W1 chip doesn’t change this, it primarily just automates bluetooth pairing.

    I am sick of hearing the fanboy club claiming that sound quality is guaranteed to be better with Apple’s latest kit. It isn’t. Future designs maybe, perhaps 3rd party manufacturers will be able to design some improved signal processing that will ameliorate existing designs, but nothing Apple released this year noticeably improves the sound quality over prior iPhones. If you think otherwise, present your objective data.

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