When the first iPod was released back in 2001, Apple completely redesigned the music industry. People could now bring their entire music library anywhere, in a intuitive, pocket sized, device which could download new music straight to it at any time from their desktop application, iTunes. Seventeen years later, music is still a big part of Apple’s ecosystem of services. The iTunes music library is home to over 26 million songs, with a total of over 25 billion song downloads. And just last year, Apple entered the music streaming service along side other big players like Spotify and Pandora with Apple Music.
So when Apple decided to remove the precious headphone jack from the iPhone 7, many people were rightfully stirred into a tizzy! Was Apple considering pulling its attention away from audiolovers? What would people who listened to music with headphones on a daily basis going to do?
While it may seem like a catastrophe on the surface, removing the headphone jack on the iPhone wasn’t and still isn’t that big of a deal, and for some, may even have been an improvement. After asking numerous students at my school whether or not they primarily use the included Apple EarPods to listen to music, most of them said they do. For this majority of individuals, removing the headphone port wasn’t an issue since Apple includes a set of EarPods that plug into the lightning port, rather than a headphone jack.
But what if you want to use non-Apple headphones? There are really only 3 options for non-EarPod users. The first is to use bluetooth headphones that don’t require a headphone port whatsoever, like Apple’s very own AirPods. You could also pick up a pair of headphones that already have a lightning connector on them, like the Philips M2L Over Ear Headphones. On the other hand, many people already own their own pairs of headphones that don’t have bluetooth or a lightning connector and thus require a 3.5mm headphone jack. So what happens to them? These people can just use the included dongle!
So far it seems that, while not a huge deal, the deletion of a key feature in the iPhone is entirely un-necessary and seems to have no benefits to outweigh the minor consequences! However, there are actually a few overlooked advantage to this decision which I think makes it just barely worth while to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack in not only all iPhones, like Apple has done over the past few years, but every electronic device in general!
The first thing is that Apple (and any company) can now dramatically improve the audio quality by moving a key component in the conversion of digital data to sound, the DAC, outside of the device. The DAC (digital audio converter) essentially takes the digital code of the songs on your iPhone and converts it into an electrical current that then passes through an amplifier and out the headphone jack, into your headphones. By moving this component and the headphone jack outside of the iPhone, it can be more refined and allow for better audio quality. The previously mentioned Philips M2L include a high quality DAC within the lightning cable to these headphones.
On top of improved audio quality, removing the headphone jack freed up vital internal space, which allowed for new features like a boosted battery capacity, waterproof design, and wireless charging to all come to the new iPhones.
Despite the inconvenience to anyone who regularly uses the iPhone’s built in headphone jack with their own headphones, removing the antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack may actually have been a smart move for Apple.
The transition to a more modern audio output source in mobile devices is ever more vital, and if any company would be able to challenge a long lasting technological standard and force change, it would be Apple. They did it once in 1998 when they removed the floppy drive from the iMac G3, they did it again in 2015 when they got rid of the iconic 30-pin connector in the iPhone 5, and they may just have done it again by killing the 100 year old headphone jack in the iPhone 7.
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