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Losing Headphone Jack Would Allow Thinner, More Functional iPhone 7

By John P. Mello Jr. TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 2, 2015 11:35 AM PT

Apple intends to peel the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack from the next version of the iPhone, according to a Japanese blog post published last week.

Losing Headphone Jack Would Allow Thinner, More Functional iPhone 7

The jack will be dropped from the iPhone 7, according to a Google translation of the blog post, which was published at Macotakara. Labeled "Rumor," the post cited what it called a reliable source.

Dumping the headphone jack would allow Apple to shave a millimeter off the thickness of the unit, 9to5Mac reported.

Without it, headphones would have to be connected to the phone through Bluetooth or Apple's proprietary Lightning connector.

Apple introduced Lightning headphone specs last year, but few headphones have entered the market, 9to5Mac noted.

When the iPhone 7 goes on sale, Apple will include earbuds with a special Lightning connector, Macotakara reported. That connector would include a small analog-to-digital convertor to enable sound to travel out the Lightning port.

Redundant Technology

"I have heard before that Apple was looking to move away from the 3.5 millimeter to a proprietary format," said Michael Morgan, an independent mobile devices analyst.

"However, I cannot say that this will happen precisely at the iPhone 7," he told TechNewsWorld.

"It is a possibility if Apple has a good reason to do it," added Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

One of those reasons might be that the 3.5-millimeter jack may have outlived its usefulness.

"The world's best headphones don't plug into the 3.5 jack," said Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research at Global Equities Research. "They use Bluetooth."

"Having that 3.5 jack is redundant," he told TechNewsWorld. "The 3.5-millimeter jack is today's version of having a floppy disk on your computer."

Slim Sells

If Apple were to scrap the headphone jack, it isn't likely to do so without some benefit to iPhone users.

"They would only do this if they have found a way to truly enhance the sound and deliver a significantly better experience through this port," Bajarin told TechNewsWorld.

What's more, it's a popular notion in the smartphone arena that slim sells, according to Chowdhry.

"What Apple is doing with the iPhone 7 is making sure that its form factor continues to slim down," he said. "One of the ways to do that is to get rid of the headphone jack."

"It will obsolete the existing iPhones at a much faster rate, resulting in a faster upgrade cycle," Chowdhry added.

Expanded Capabilities

Thinness isn't a major contributor to ditching the jack -- better functionality is, independent analyst Morgan asserted.

"In my conversations with other handset OEMs who were exploring alternative headphone jack components, the general driver was to incorporate or add new capabilities for devices that would connect through this new port," he said.

Those capabilities could include better sound fidelity; support for devices like microphones, speakers and card readers; and headphone functionality beyond play, fast-forward, pause and skip.

"Many other OEMs have reviewed the option to go to a proprietary format but have backed away due to the difficulty in establishing a new standard, not having a big enough accessory ecosystem, or making the device and accessory price points too high," Morgan said.

"Apple is big enough, its accessory ecosystem is large enough, and the device price points are high enough to support this move and to make it stick," he added.

New Revenue Stream

Nevertheless, mothballing the headphone jack is bound to create some grumbling among consumers and accessory makers.

"It would be a difficult transition, but this could be handled if they introduce an adaptor that is relatively cheap and available through Apple and third-party vendors so they can be picked up everywhere," Creative Strategies' Bajarin said.

Phasing out the 3.5 jack also could create a new revenue stream for Apple.

Vendors such as Square and Intuit have credit card readers for small businesses that use the headphone jack to process payments.

"These card readers will pay continuous royalties for using Apple's Lightning technology," Chowdhry said, "or Apple could collect a percentage of the transaction that happens at the readers."


John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.


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