Removing the 3.5mm headphone jack was Apple’s right move
The new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which launched on Wednesday, tick all the typical iPhone upgrade boxes – they’re faster, have a sleeker design, a much improved camera, battery life a little better, etc. One of the big changes – which everyone knew about long before the actual launch – was Apple’s decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack, replacing it with bundled Lightning headphones and a free bundled adapter that you Allows you to connect your existing headphones via the Lightning port.
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At first glance, the decision to remove the 3.5mm port from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus seems authoritative and deaf to the fact that much of the public has repeatedly made it clear that it was completely unjustified.
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Apple’s AirPods (which will no doubt have their fair share of defenders) make the decision a little worse than it is – Apple’s EarPods slipped out of our ears quite easily for us, so why AirPods should they be different? And even if they don’t, the price of $159 (or Rs. 15,400 in India) makes them hard to justify.
So far, it doesn’t really look like Apple is giving us anything good when it says the decision to ditch the 3.5mm jack took a lot of “courage”. This kind of language makes it even more ridiculous. Except it really does matter, and removing the 3.5mm jack really helps make the iPhone better According to Apple executives, removing the jack freed up space in the body and enabled many key features of the new iPhones.
Two lenses – widescreen and telephoto – for greater depth and zoom in photography? Made possible by removing the 3.5mm jack. Add Taptic engine for pressure sensitive home button, which will allow you to “tap” a stationary button? Again, the 3.5mm jack got in the way. Water resistance? Even. And a 14% larger battery that means up to 2 hours of extra use between charges? Why didn’t they get rid of the 3.5mm jack sooner!
Removing the 3.5mm jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus confers enormous benefits, and that – more than the “courage” to go beyond a “year-old standard”. 100 years” – makes sense. But what about people who have wired headsets, you ask?
Well, first of all, let’s divide users into two different categories. There are people who already use a Bluetooth headset of some kind on a regular basis. Bluetooth headsets are available in a range of budgets, but today you can get a decent one for around Rs. 1,000. With the improvement in battery life and audio quality, these headsets are becoming also increasingly common. About a year ago, the audio industry bet on the generalization of Bluetooth. Apple’s latest move makes that possible now. For people in this first bucket, there is really no change.
So let’s move on to the second bucket. People who have one or two low-end headsets, probably the ones that came with their old phones, and nothing more. These users aren’t necessarily audio enthusiasts per se, but they probably use their phones for audio – everyone does these days. For people in that second bucket – which is likely the majority of users – Apple’s decision will mean they’ll have to use the bundled Lightning headphones or use the free adapter in order to use their current headphones. If you only have one headset that you use regularly, this decision won’t be much of a problem – you’ll just keep the adapter plugged into your headset at all times, and you’re good to go.
Finally, there’s the third group of users – people who have multiple headsets and like to use their headsets in different scenarios. For example, say you have a set of open-back headphones that you use at home and in-ear headphones that you take on the go, whatever device you use. Maybe you also have a bass set for certain types of content, or a noise canceling pair that you use in certain scenarios. You’re going to have to change the adapter all the time, and that’s a small thing that you could easily lose.
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For this set of users, this will be an unfortunate change, which will be difficult to use with your collection of devices. But let’s be honest for a second. If you have multiple headsets and use them in all these different scenarios, your phone is probably not your primary playback device. You’ll probably use it once in a while, and that’s fine, but it’s almost certain that you’re also using a specialized playback device, which means you’ll be able to use your headphones without any problems.
Apple isn’t the first phone company to ditch the 3.5mm jack – launched in 2008, the Nokia 5610 XpressMusic didn’t have a 3.5mm jack, and many recent devices are moving in that direction as well. Bluetooth has had a lot of issues, but things are changing, and we seem to have reached a point where ditching the 3.5mm jack finally makes sense.
Removing the jack is not a matter of courage. It’s a matter of weighing the pros and cons and deciding that the improvements this change allows across the board are worth a small short-term sacrifice.