Apple’s AirPods Were The Most Ground-Breaking Innovation At Today’s iPhone 7 Launch

Apple’s AirPods Were The Most Ground-Breaking Innovation At Today’s iPhone 7 Launch

Today, Apple announced the iPhone 7. It doesn’t have a headphone jack. In a few years, you won’t care.

There are a lot of reasons why you might be annoyed about this right now. You (almost certainly) already own a pair of headphones. Apple deleted the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 despite it being no thinner than the iPhone 6s. You’ll need to use the included 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter with your existing headphones or any new headphones that you buy. I can see plenty of people being a bit annoyed at that.

But if you’re making an omelette, you have to break some preconceived notions of how consumer technology hardware evolves. Things don’t stay the same way forever. On that note, a few quick points.

The 3.5mm mini-phono jack is old — more than a hundred years old. At the unveiling of the Lightning connector, four years ago, Apple made the point very clearly that it could carry digital audio, and that it would be in the future. Apple isn’t even the first to try and kill off the headphone jack, either: various Oppo Android phones like the R5 have done away with it and avoided criticism.

Wireless headphones aren’t new either, guys. They’ve been around for years. And guess what? If anyone tries to tell you that wireless audio sounds crap, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe back in the dark old days of Bluetooth 1.0, but not any more. I challenge any of you listening to music on an iPhone to tell the difference between your streaming Apple Music tracks through a pair of wired headphones and a pair of wireless ones.

And there’s an adapter in the box. You can just stick that on your existing headphones and use them as normal and carry them around with you just like normal. Seriously, this is so not a big deal.

All of these reasons aren’t particularly important, though. What it boils down to is the fact that Apple is allowed to kill the headphone jack, if it wants to. It’s allowed to do what it wants, and you’re allowed to vote with your wallet and not buy the iPhone 7 when it launches.

What it does do is give Apple a reason — no matter how silly that reason is — to do something crazy, and invent something awesome. That awesome, crazy thing is AirPods. Tiny earbuds that you stick in your ears, that have enough charge to last for hours, that have integrated microphones and voice-activated controls, and that have their own carry case that charges them for you to use again? That’s really cool. You have to admit that.

In a few years, wired headphones will still be around. But wireless headphones — with tiny, efficient integrated batteries, and integrated microphones, and integrated everything — will be so much more common, and more advanced, and for that you will have Apple to thank. This is how innovation happens.

Y’know what was lame, though? Apple’s reasoning for getting rid of the headphone jack by replacing it with Lightning. It’s not “courage”. Apple’s Phil Schiller called it “the courage to move on and do something better for all of us”, but it’s a business decision — pure and simple.

With Lightning headphones, Apple will quietly lock more users into its ecosystem, if they want to buy an iPhone 7. But there’s a more rational option available to you right now — and it’s Bluetooth. Embracing wireless headphones now, for the future, that you can use on any phone you want, is the smart thing to do — smarter than buying a pair of Lightning headphones, that’s for sure. [Apple]