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Seven years later, it’s clearer than ever that the days of the headphone jack on mobile devices are numbered. Here’s how Apple was at the forefront of the port’s death, and what might be next for the connector.
Since the iPhone 7, Apple has been slowly removing the headphone jack from its main consumer products. Although it was initially criticized, several other companies have since followed suit.
There are still a few products in the lineup that retain a headphone jack, but recent rumors suggest that the number of Apple-designed devices with a 3.5mm port will soon decline again.
Apple’s removal of the headphone jack
The 3.5mm headphone jack has its roots in 19th century switchboard operators. More than a century after its humble, low-tech beginnings, Apple killed off its biggest moneymaker: the iPhone.
Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone in 2016 when it released the iPhone 7. As is the case with most technology Apple removes, consumers, industry observers, and other companies initially criticized and derided the move. .
Since the iPhone 7, later models have also lacked a 3.5mm headphone jack. Initially, Apple shipped adapters in the box so users could still connect wired headphones or other accessories to their devices. He soon stopped doing that.
Apple removed the headphone jack on its other products beginning in 2018. That year’s redesigned iPad Pro was the first Apple tablet without a headphone jack. Now the only iPad with a 3.5mm port is the base model.
According to recent reports, that could change soon. Current rumors suggest that Apple’s upcoming 10th-generation iPad will finally lose the old connector, leaving users to rely on alternative ways to listen to content on their devices (or simply use an adapter).
Third Party Manufacturers
Apple’s competitors wasted no time mocking the company for removing the headphone jack, even running ads mocking the decision. Eventually, however, most of Apple’s main rivals ended up copying the company’s move.
Samsung is a frequent derider of Apple and posted multiple ads criticizing the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone. However, Samsung eventually did the same thing and, starting with the Galaxy S20, did away with the 3.5mm jack on its own flagship devices.
More than that, Samsung tried to rewrite history by sneakily removing ads that mocked Apple’s design choice.
Google also teased the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone. A parody of Jony Ive’s design videos touted that the Google Pixel 5a still had a headphone jack.
However, a year after launching the Google Pixel 5a, and Apple’s teasing video, Google finally fell in line and removed the headphone jack from its Google Pixel 6a.
It’s a similar story across the Android landscape. While not all companies openly ridiculed Apple for removing the headphone jack, most major smartphone brands have followed suit.
An argument why
At the time, Apple justified the removal of the headphone jack by saying that Lightning was a better standard for audio in general. He added that removing the single-use port also freed up internal space for larger or additional components.
The most cynical of tech industry observers probably think that Apple’s removal of the headphone jack was all about money. After all, at the time the device was released, Apple’s Beats by Dre brand accounted for nearly half of Bluetooth headphone sales.
It can be easy to forget that Apple didn’t sneakily remove the headphone jack to sell wireless headphones, it did so outright. During its September 2016 keynote address, Apple’s announcement of the headphone jack removal was immediately preceded by the debut of AirPods.
Looking back at the runaway success of AirPods and other true wireless competitors, it’s hard to argue that Apple was wrong here.
However, beyond ushering in the wireless future, Apple also propelled the smartphone market as a whole. Many of the advancements seen in smartphone technology today are likely due at least in part to the removal of an outdated standard.
In the vast majority of cases, there will be better options for listening to audio than a pair of wired headphones.
True wireless devices like AirPods are convenient, easy, and don’t get tangled up in your pocket like standard earphones. Even if AirPods are too expensive for some, there are plenty of Bluetooth options on the market at a much more affordable price.
On the iPad, any argument for keeping the headphone jack falls away when you consider how most people use the tablet. This is not a machine used for workflows that require wired headsets. On the Mac, which is actually used for professional audio and visual work, there’s still a headphone jack.
More than that, users with workflows that really require latency-free wired studio monitors on an iPhone or iPad can solve that problem with a $9 accessory.
Obviously, there are arguments for keeping a 3.5mm headphone jack, such as the fact that it’s a simple and cheap solution for businesses and consumers to implement. For audio or video workflows, a 3.5mm headphone jack with high impedance headphones also offers low latency and clearer audio.
However, those positives don’t outweigh the benefits of getting rid of the connector for Apple and most consumers. Looking at the industry, it’s clear that most other companies feel the same way Apple does: it just took them longer to get used to the idea.
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