The Headphone Jack On The iPhone 7 Had To Go

Image: Supplied

It’s official. Tim Cook himself got up on stage and introduced Phil Schiller who presented the iPhone 7, sans 3.5mm audio jack. In its place we got something much better: freedom.

Of course I don’t mean freedom in a Braveheart sense, or the release-from-prison-after-a-decade-of-incarceration kind of freedom. Instead, Apple has paved the way -- once again -- for the direction that the consumer electronics industry is sure to follow.

The lack of headphone jack on the iPhone 7 is met equally with the release of new, wireless AirPods -- with a rated battery life of 24 hours and sound quality that’s said to be as good as the current, wired EarPods that ship with the iPhone 6S.

AirPods is a play on words between the Macbook Air and the EarPods that have been shipping with iPhones for several years. In addition, the wireless AirPods -- powered by a custom-made Apple W1 wireless chip -- include integrated beamforming microphones, so you can use them for phone calls and interact with Siri. The W1 chip appears to be the custom chip that’s been rumoured to be in development by Apple that allows both high fidelity playback and standout power efficiency using the existing Bluetooth standard.

Before you butt in and educate us about all the previously existing wireless headphones on the market, let’s look at previous occasions where Apple has done something similar and the effect it had. Starting in 2007, the iPhone was the first major cell phone release to feature a virtual keyboard rather than fixed-feature physical keyboards which were the norm. The iPhone was met with fanfare and it’s difficult to comprehend a smartphone today without a capacitive virtual keyboard.

In 2011, the iPad was released and many -- if not the majority of -- people declared it a flop and merely "an oversized iPod Touch". After many millions of iPads, Samsung Galaxy Notes and other tablet PCs later, it’s plain to see that the tablet form factor works, it’s popular and it was enough of a disruptor to have most major PC vendors follow up with their own version. Firewire was dropped before USB 3.0 was a thing.

Image: Apple

Optical Drives started dropping off when the Macbook Air was announced, followed closely by the desktop iMac after it. Ethernet ports haven’t been seen on Apple laptops for several years. None of these are missed and they’ve allowed features such as Taptic engines, co-processors, bigger batteries and thinner form factors to take their place and rightly so.

Apple is very effective in reducing the clutter in users’ lives, stripping back as much as possible to serve up only what is needed and not necessarily what everyone wants. As thoroughly chronicled, Apple lives by 'skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been' and it’s this logic -- this forward-thinking mentality -- that pushes new technologies and fewer distraction onto consumers (and professionals) in ways that may not make sense at the time but come into their own with a little bit of patience.

Lack of optical drives, new Lightning cables, USB Type-C ports, Thunderbolt cables and voice-based assistants a la Siri all came to the mass market with Apple’s help. It can be argued that if Apple didn’t bet the boat on these technologies, they wouldn’t be mainstream today. It’s brave, it’s bold and given its likely success, will push other makers to develop improved wireless headphones themselves and once again give consumers greater buyer power.

It’ll likely be further down the line that the public gains the clarity to see the genius behind these moves and certainly when their favourite PC vendors release a similar product; they’ll have no choice but to agree with the move. The question now is what competitors will bring out to keep up with Apple. To answer the question, Apple’s lightning connector has proven itself more than capable of transmitting power to and from the iPhone for such uses as noise-cancelling earphones, powered speakers and other hardware.

It’s this interface that’s ideally suited to take over the role of a singular, analogue interface, which has been around for too many decades. People are afraid of change and that’s evident in many of the shifts done in the past but there’s a self-correction as time goes on and we, as users will benefit from it overall.

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Comments

    They should have been designed with a tether that can clip on and off so you can connect the 2 together for those of us who find apple earpods fall out constantly. Maybe it will be an aftermarket accessory or something.

    Seeing all bluetooth-enabled phones could use wireless ear buds removing the jack from the iphone doesn't provide anything new. It just means that the phone cannot easily be backward compatible with generations of existing accessories.

    Tell Apple me didn't do it to save money on building iphones and then being able to charge more for ear buds.

      I've always felt that 3.5 Jack has been holding back all technology developers that deal with audio. And when it's so prevalent it's always going to be hard trying to improve an old technology and still support older technologies.
      Where space is a premium replacing older bulkier technologies should always trump.
      The only reservations with using lightning connector is you can't listen to music while the phone is charging.
      Wireless earpods would resolve that, but $159 is a pretty steep price for that solution. I'd be too worried they'd fall out while walking into the street (or into a rainwater grate!). I hope they are robust.

        Tell me, exactly what new innovations are possible now that the headphone jack is gone? Wireless headphones and audio over lightning were already a thing.

        "replacing older bulkier technologies" - with what, a vibrating home button? be still my heart.

        They moved the DAC & amp out of the phone to save space - but now they just have to be built into every pair of headphones & dongle adapters instead. How is that an improvement?

        Why not halve the size of the battery too, make the phone super-slim? People can just carry around a battery pack if they really need that extra juice, right?

    Someone please make a lightning to 3 button mic to 3.5. Shiz will sell to everyone with a decent set of wired cans.

    Keep your phone end of cord adapter that'll bulk up my pocket and more likely break from stress away.

    apple ear pieces are so terribly designed that you have to rely on the cable to not lose them, they fall out and are uncomfortable as hell, now when they fall out you have to shell out... lets be conservative about it ... $100? for replacements?

      $229 according to the "Apple's AirPods Are The Tiny Wireless Earbuds Of The Future" article!
      Oh, and they don't come with the iPhone 7, they are just an accessory. Instead you get Lightning EarPods and a Lightning Headphone adapter. So good luck ever seeing AirPods in the wild.

      Last edited 08/09/16 8:21 am

        Well fuck that. They seem cool but I'll stick with other bluetooth ones for under 100

          LOL, I spat my coffee with your comment!
          According to Gizmodo $229 is reasonable for headphones, so don't worry if you lose them... just pony up $229 very alternate weekend! If this was not Apple, it would have been put over the coals for being poorly thought out, poorly implemented, unnecessary additional expense, need to carry a charging case, not as stable as wired phones, too expensive for any practical application. Eg.... MS Continuum. Dang I love Gizmodo's fanboiiiiizm.... you really can't take them seriously anymore and accept their posts as opinion pieces only in lieu of tech journalism.

    "Starting in 2007, the iPhone was the first major cell phone release to feature a virtual keyboard rather than fixed-feature physical keyboards".
    Really??? Who wrote this must be a fan boy cause it's just not the truth. Do some research before you sprout this nonsense.

      It's nonsense of course, but "first major cell phone" just means everyone who isn't Apple isn't major enough.

    So... can you charge the phone and listen to music via wired (ie good) headphones at the same time? No? This configuration has a loss of functionality that nobody seems to be keen to discuss. By the way, I still use a corded mouse/keyboard on my PC, because I don't like feeding things batteries or the hassle of charging everything I touch every day. Wired Ethernet is faster and more reliable. Wireless gives "freedom" but at a cost - it is not automatically better. I think Apple have made a big mistake here.

      I still use a corded mouse/keyboard on my PC, because I don't like feeding things batteries or the hassle of charging everything I touch every day

      This is my thing, too.

      It's not removing wired headphone altogether. You can still be wired via lightning.

      But maybe this might encourage more innovation in wireless headphone technologies. Which, if it works, should help make them cheaper and last longer.

      Last edited 12/09/16 4:47 pm

    a rated battery life of 24 hours

    Gizmodo's other article, "Apple's AirPods Are The Tiny Wireless Earbuds Of The Future" says the AirPod's have 5 hours charge while their charging station has 25 hours. So which is it?

      Both... kinda. The airbuds last for 5 hours on a single charge. However, the case they come with is a portable battery that has 20 hours of battery life. So, 15 minutes in the box will give you 3 hours battery life.
      So you'll have 25 hours of battery life but it's not continuous usage.

    Just another adapter I have to use and a new pair of wireless ear buds to go missing (and replaced by apple at a exorbitant cost.)
    Seriously the current IPhone already comes with both a WiFi and Bluetooth module, there is no reason they needed to remove the headphone jack to make wireless headphones work with the new device, why could it not just be an option?

    I still use wired mouse & keyboard.

    I hate pissfarting around with batteries & chargers.

    I see a lot of good features and I'm excited for the new bluetooth innovation from 3rd party providers that this will force the market to do but god damn this article reads like the author was actually fondling themself while writing it

    Well if this article isn't the most ridiculous piece of fanboyism.
    As others have said this move by apple causes a loss of functionality and is done so Apple can price gouge people on wireless headphones.
    Headphones that apple say sound as good as their wired ones? Not hard considering the rubbish quality of the wired ones.
    Also those ones never stay in my ears and these look like they will be worse.
    And yeap forget about charging and listening at the same time.
    Finally the wireless headphones i have used in the past have issues with interference. Use at the gym or on a run? Fine. Use walking down he street and they barely work.
    So no this isn't some magically awesome move by apple that shows how far ahead of the curve they are.
    This is worse for consumers. Will it cost them sales? Who knows. But I'm definitely not interested in upgrading for a while now.

      I was going to post the same thing. I cannot see this being a good move for Apple.

      I have never been so underwhelmed after an Apple iPhone event.

        In fairness I don't think it's just apple. There has been no phone launch this year that has really got me interested.
        However, that could be me because Samsung are probably apple's biggest competitor but the problems I had with my S5 really put me off them so I have no real interest in their phones anymore.

      And yeap forget about charging and listening at the same time.

      This. Apple is not "innovating" here. It would be innovation if they unveiled wireless iphone charging at the same time.

        The microsoft lumia 950 already has that, because its unpopular, people dont know that wireless charging and wireless headphones can be used at the same time

          Giz. simply ignores anything Microsoft and froths at the mouth over the lustful fruit... No news here.

    I don't often bother saying something, but in this case, come on Chris. Really? Virtual keyboards? Optical drives? USB-C? None of those things happened because of Apple.

    Virtual Keyboards have been around since PDAs in the 90s. It took decent, CHEAP Capacitive touchscreens to make them useful. Apple leveraged them first is all.

    Disc Drives disappeared because the internet sped up. The amount of discs used by Apple Laptop users compared with PC laptops is miniscule and made 0 difference. It was removed from Apple to make stuff thin. That was it. The industry moved to drop disc Drives several years later once they were ready.

    USB-C was designed as a USB-A replacement which always take several cycles of hardware to flow through. Apple have the advantage of only having 3 pieces of hardware that actually use USB (AirBook, MacBook and Mac) which makes it easy to change hardware. Try doing it with 32 different hardware combinations in a single laptop alone like Dell or Acer.

    Now they're forcing Bluetooth headphone usage for their phone. Bluetooth headphones which have had a mature market for 3-5 years. They're just removing something because it's something to differentiate. That isn't bad, nor necessarily good. It's just what they've chosen. There is nothing wrong with the 3.5mm jack and its been around decades longer than Apple. Them getting rid of it won't do squat to the industries that use it.

    Apple have had a large impact on the electronics industry. But they are FAR from the only impact and this is one of those times it'll be a wimper, not a shout.

    We dont get many Android or Apple fanboi articles that much anymore. But this is, unfortunately, an exception.

      so true, although we might see less of these articals from apple fanoys as 10 of my friends are apple fanboys and they all say the wireless earphone thing is a shitty move

    those earphones are going to go missing all the time.... also I bet they will have shit battery life

    I, for one, welcome our new wireless overlords.

    Ethernet ports haven’t been seen on Apple laptops for several years. None of these are missed

    who wrote this lol everyone i know with an apple laptop hates all the dongles required to use the damn thing

      Agreed. I miss the Ethernet port... Ever try imaging 100+ MacBooks with only 5 dongles.

      At our school we need to have enough of each dongle available for borrowing or our IT dept use. Such a pain when yet another one is needed!

    Apple lives by ‘skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been’ and it’s this logic — this forward-thinking mentality — that pushes new technologies and fewer distraction onto consumers (and professionals) in ways that may not make sense at the time but come into their own with a little bit of patience.

    this is the most ridiculous thing i have read in ages there have been wireless earbuds for ages now and other phones have tried to remove the 3.5mm jack but it didnt change anything and lastly removing the home button its about time they caught up i havent had an actual home button on my phone since my htc nexus 1 in the past yes apple was innovative and doing something no one else did now they just copy everyone else and say its the next big thing yes it might be but your a bit late apple

    This article was clearly typed by Chris's raging fan boy boner, and the blood loss to his brain shows through. If you seriously think this incremental update and the loss of functionality by removing the headphone jack is "revolutionary" you're a nut job and you shouldn't be writing for a tech blog... probably not even a local news paper tech column. What a joke.

    i know a fanboy and said he likes wired accesories. fail for apple

    I love how Apple is promoting freedom by forcing you to use wireless earphones :)

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