Apple’s headphone jack removal—was it courage?

iPhone 7

With the announcement of the new iPhone 7 and I Phone 7Plus by Apple, some saw their expectations met as the devices are quite similar to their predecessors, and some others were left disappointed. One of the most controversial aspects of the new generation headsets though was Apple’s decision to do away with the traditional analog headphone jack. While some considered such a move as inevitable, the reasoning placed forward by Apple senior marketing vice-president Phil Schiller, as “courage,” has created quite some noise.

To allow you to decide on fair grounds, I will be crunching into the details of the new Apple iPhones.

The new alternatives

Apple is now proposing two alternatives to replace the admired 3.5mm port.

First of all, the new phones come equipped with a set of earbuds connecting through the famous Lightning port, along with an adapter for old headphones. And yes, you have been using the Lightning port to charge your phone. That also means you will no longer be able to use your headphones and charge the phone simultaneously. Sorry.

Second, Apple has launched a campaign to push forward its new wireless earbuds. This, unfortunately, you will need to buy separately. Considering the fact that Apple is now the owner of Beats, this may provide more convenience as this company is involved in the field of headphones with an entirely new line of wireless models. Here is where some argue this is of no convenience for the consumer, and only allows Apple to make even more money.

The transition

Apple is also introducing the Airpods, its own line of wireless earbuds. These are designed with the W1 chip, which as Apple explains, allows the device to seamlessly switch between iPhone and Apple Watch, and there is no need to hassle with Bluetooth to pair with your devices. Of course, this comes at a hefty $159, explained by Schiller as “just $159.” The looks of Airpods are surely futuristic, but as I said above, they have caused quite a stir amongst those who always find it difficult to transition from the old to the new.

What makes this transition somewhat baffling is the reasoning placed forward by Apple. Schiller explained the rationale behind jettisoning the entire idea of the headphone jack can be summarized simply in “courage.” This is where the entire dispute began.

The facts

As getting involved in this row can leave us confused and undecided, I believe that for now shedding some light on the facts and providing insight is the best way forward. The question coming to mind for many consumers is that what is Apple offering in exchange for removing a component? To make room for what? Faster processors? Bigger batteries?

One improvement is in the “dust and water resistant” capability of the iPhone 7s in comparison to their predecessors. Apple has finally been able to seal the phone by eliminating the headphone jack. The phone is now much more resistant to water—not waterproof, mind.

In the meantime, iPhone is now equipped with stereo speakers, which is certainly a first. This comes as good news for those of us who love to listen to music, but bad news for those annoyed by music jonkeys walking around blaring their music with their phones.

What you get in exchange for losing the headphone jack

The new iPhones enjoy by Apple’s powerful A10 Fusion 4-core processor. Two of these cores, acting as high-performance cells, are a major improvement from the previous Apple A9 chip, as the remaining two cores are optimized and used to save battery life (very important) and provide power efficiency when you are running apps not in need of peak performance from your device. A “performance-controller” designed by Apple will be responsible for shifting the load from those particular cores.

And a very important improvement for many of us is seen in the additional hour or two in battery life provided by the new iPhones. Some may even consider the elimination of the headphone jack worthwhile for this new improvement in battery life. Battery life has shown to be people’s main subject of frustration regarding their smartphones, according to surveys.

The popular phone camera is also another field in which Apple has invested in quite considerably. Apple has now added to the 7Plus dual 12MP rear-facing cameras, which many users are very fond of. These will work in tandem to provide 2x optical zoom, and also 10x digital zoom. Both of the iPhones will have optical image stabilization, while such an important feature was previously limited to iPhone 6Plus. With a brighter flash and a new “image signal processor” that helps you adjust your photos automatically for various conditions, you will start feeling like a professional photographer and cameraman. Apple boasts it as a “supercomputer” for taking images.

General thoughts & some history

To be honest, the feeling I get from this issue is that many Apple consumers expected more from the new iPhone launch. However, we should not forget the remarkability of this device, and remain impartial in accepting the fact that a complete reinvention in such a high-tech device in the span of 365 days is a difficult task, even for Apple. Upgrades will always be available, as understood by all. Furthermore, an improved processor and camera will most likely be more important for average iPhone users than any gimmick Apple could have gone to great lengths introducing.

Apple has a history of eliminating perceived untouchable aspects of hi-tech devices. Back in 2008 the late Steve Jobs brought to life the MacBook Air, surprisingly lacking any optical drive. This was a standard feature for PCs at the time, yet it allowed Apple to make a notebook considerably thinner and lighter than others. Though, for the most part, laptops still pack DVD drives today, it is fair to say that we are using them less and less every day. There are those who believe the transition to wireless audio will in the end be considered a “masterstroke” due to the benefits it provides.

Final words

Despite introducing the A10 Fusion processor, the dual rear camera and the taptic home button, iPhone 7 will probably be remembered for being the first smartphone to put away the headphone jack for good. It seems that Apple is confident that the future is wireless, and they’re taking strides to set an example and establish themselves as the pioneers of this new age.

How accurate that prediction is will depend on what happens after the launch. For the moment, the new iPhones have been sold out. Other brands will be waiting to see how consumers react to the move.

My personal opinion is that someone had to do it—remember when the floppy drive went away?—and who better than the most valuable tech company manufacturing in the world, manufacturing the most popular phone?

And here’s what I think Apple thinks: There’ll be some criticism. There’ll be whining, and Apple is going to be blamed for trying to dig its hands deeper into people’s pockets (which is not false, by the way). But eventually, people are going to move on and will continue to buy and use iPhone 7 and its successor because Apple is a powerful brand and consumers love its products. Other companies will follow suit and remove the headphone jack from their devices. Wireless headphones will become the norm. People are going to look back at our wired past and laugh at all the tangled wires. And Apple will become known for the being the brand that took the “courageous” step that made it possible.

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