Anyone who follows Apple closely knows the routine. A few months before the latest iPhone is launched the rumor mill goes into overtime production and we followers are left to segregate possible fact from obvious fiction.
The few items that have the most plausibility to show up on iPhone 7 next month are on my list of expectations. Better camera, more storage, faster CPU, no physical Home button, and no headphone jack. The first three are obvious, so let me focus on the latter two.
Step? Or, Jump?
Historically, Apple works in a rather methodical, straightforward, and obvious way. The company feasts on two types of innovation. Incremental innovations where products and features are improved with each iteration, but not massively so. And disruptive innovations which move the industry ahead with a leap. Apple is good at both.
Examples of incremental innovations include the standard thinner, lighter, faster, but also encompass camera improvements, better speakers, and the like. More disruptive and industry leading innovations that set the standard for competitors to follow include the iPhone’s original touch screen, but also features such as 3D Touch, Touch ID, the Retina display, and more.
Here we are just weeks from iPhone 7’s obvious launch and the two most important features I expect are more disruptive than incremental or iterative. First, the Home button. It’s been a physical button since iPhone 1 in 2007. It’s also the single most problematic piece of hardware on the phone. Apple has the technology to embed the Home button behind the glass and still allow Touch ID to work. If it can do that, then Apple has taken another big step toward the future when an entire iPhone has no external buttons.
Second on my list is the much discussed issue with Apple’s plan to remove the headphone jack, a piece of analog technology that dates back to the 19th century. Yes, it’s that old and hasn’t change much since then. How can Apple remove the headphone jack? What would the replacement be?
An incremental innovation would be simply to remove the traditional headphone jack and use a Lightning cable instead, but that sets up problems of its own. Many of us listen to music on our phones while charging the phone. Sorry, the Lightning cable is many things, but unless Apple adds some kind of adapter that can do both, that’s messy and not much of a leap forward.
My expectation is this. Wireless earbuds.
Very low power Bluetooth-enabled wireless ear buds, or some Apple adaptation of the technology, but no Lightning cable and no Lightning-to-analog adapter included in the iPhone 7’s box. That would be a disruptive move forward. I would expect Apple to introduce new Beats headphones with similar battery-sipping wireless technology to complete the circuit to the future. If you don’t want to use Apple’s new fangled ear buds then there’s an adapter for you to keep you married to your analog devices.
Removing the headphone jack is Apple’s way of moving forward, this time with more of a disruptive innovation than an incremental or iterative innovation, and we’ll read plenty from those who decry the change, but it’s coming. Deal with it.