The heat from critics was fast and furious although Apple hasn’t announced the iPhone 7 yet, with or without a headphone jack, and other smartphones are already on the market sans this relic from the 19th century. Yes, the headphone jack– in one form or another– dates back to the same century as Abraham Lincoln.
3.5mm Jack, Meet USB-C
None other than chip giant Intel is touting the benefits of the USB-C port and USB-Audio vs. the traditional headphone jack, arguing that audio quality will be better, and it will be less expensive for smartphone makers because Dolby and Bose wouldn’t get a license fee, and it might be easier for headphone makers– count Apple as a big one on the list– to create improved audio quality thanks to better noise cancelling technology.
Unfortunately, there are some issues to overcome and it remains to be seen how Apple will usher in the new and how much better– if at all– it will be vs. the headphone jack. Here’s the deal. Today’s crop of smartphones– Apple’s iPhone included– can be charged while you’re listening to music. If Apple implements the Lightning-to-headphone option as expected, how will you listen to music while the iPhone is plugged in and being recharged?
That leads me to believe that Apple is wading into this issue with a thorough solution that points to the future but won’t jump in headfirst. How so? Wireless. Expect only iPhone 7 Plus to launch without a headphone jack. Expect a wireless earbud instead of a simple Lightning-to-headphone jack adapter (otherwise, what’s the point of replacing it?). That means an iPhone 7 Plus user would get the best of both worlds. Wireless earbuds and a Lightning connector to charge the iPhone, so you can listen to music or podcasts while the iPhone is charging.
What about quality?
With nothing to judge there’s nothing to judge, but the potential looks good for wireless earbuds. Notice that I didn’t say ‘Bluetooth.’ Apple might have yet another proprietary solution that works better and incorporates noise cancelling microphones to create a better listening system. Maybe.
One of the more important aspects to successful product marketing is differentiation. Apple can get away with lesser hardware on Mac, iPhone, and iPad because some components are not available on competing devices– 3D Touch, Force Touch, and Touch ID come to mind– and OS X and iOS remain easily differentiated from Windows, Chrome OS, Android OS, or Linux. Apple’s Lightning connector is proprietary, though it functions similarly to the new reversible connector standard, USB-C. Will Apple abandon Lightning in favor of Intel’s new standard? We see something similar in the new MacBook line which features a solitary USB-C connector that does everything (except the MacBook still has a headphone jack connector).
Despite all the potential options, this one is for sure. Goodbye headphone jack.