The End of the Headphone Jack is Not the Start of Proprietary Headphones

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

There's been a general shit storm that's blown up this week over the supposed removal of the headphone jack off the upcoming iPhone 7. Nilay Patel's piece for The Verge really got people fired up:

Look, I know you’re going to tell me that the traditional TRS headphone jack is a billion years old and prone to failure and that life is about progress and whatever else you need to repeat deliriously into your bed of old HTC extUSB dongles and insane magnetic Palm adapters to sleep at night. But just face facts: ditching the headphone jack on phones makes them worse, in extremely obvious ways. Let’s count them!

Now while I think that The Verge's opinion pieces are typically "things are perfect the way they are, let's not change anything," this piece still struck me as silly. In it, Nilay lays out 6 points that he believes proves that removing the headphone jack is an objectively bad idea.

Here's the thing though, his arguments only hold water if you think that the future is wired headphones. It's 2016 and you can get a pair of decent Bluetooth headphones on Amazon for about $20, and there are more available all the time. I think it's ridiculous to assume that Apple's intention is to have us just buy a different type of wired earbuds. This is the company that shipped a Mac with 1 port on it and rationalized it by saying "why are you plugging stuff into your Mac when everything can be wireless?" They're the company who only makes wireless mice and keyboards1 because who would want to clutter their work space with all those cables. Apple really believes in a wireless future, so I can't help but shake my head when I see people adamant that Apple is demanding people start using proprietary, Apple-only Lightning based headphones.

No, Apple's expectation is that users will start using Bluetooth headphones, which I should be clear is an industry standard, and will work with basically every digital device you're bought in the last 5-10 years.

Will it be painful? Sure, any transition is, and moving away from a port that as been around for this long means it will be even harder than usual. Is now the exact right time to do it? Who knows. What I do know is that every single time Apple has ever removed something from their products, the same chorus of people rise up and say "it's too soon!" But a year or so later everyone is doing the same thing and it turns out it was for the best.

I don't know if 2016 is the exact right time to remove this port, but Apple has a pretty good track record at getting their timing on the nose for these things.

  1. Although they do still sell an old wired keyboard that hasn't been updated in years.