Why Apple removed the headphone jack (and why it worked)
When Apple dropped the headphone jack with the iPhone 7, it seemed that all was lost. Now our current technology calendar shows that it’s the right choice.
Apple shocked the world with its bold decision to commit to a smartphone without a headphone jack, and now that the dust has settled over the years, it seems like it was the right thing to do all along. The benefits of ditching the 3.5mm port outweigh the perceived downsides, and it sets us on a path to further innovation in the phone space.
January 2016 was a very different time, and the rumors of an iPhone 7 without a headphone jack were pretty crazy. The tech world is just emerging from a weird headphone-centric phase where Beats by Dre cans have practically become fashion statements, and rappers and celebrities are releasing their own branded devices. Apple also happens to own Beats, the leader in selling Bluetooth headphones. So when September 2016 rolled out and the iPhone 7 was confirmed without a headphone jack, it was easy to assume we were missing an important feature. It doesn’t matter that the company also released its first-generation AirPods at the same time, and that was a huge disappointment.
What do we gain by losing the headphone jack
Apple’s own reasoning is a vague statement of “audacity” to innovate in the smartphone market. However, a popular theory from 2016 emerges, and it seems Apple’s aim is to prepare a more immersive smartphone experience by adding more speakers and removing the home button. Within 15 months, Apple unveiled the iPhone X which combines its iconic ‘all screen’ design with a streamlined shape that makes it feel years beyond the iPhone 8 that hit the market a few months ago, before that. While we’ll probably never hear exact reasons from Apple, it’s easy to conclude that the iPhone 7’s headphone jack is off so the phone’s full screen flies.
Along with getting sexier phones, the loss of the 3.5mm jack has affected the smartphone industry standard. Waterproofing is finally becoming common. Prior to the iPhone 7, most waterproof phones relied on a buggy door that had to be removed to access the charging port or headphone jack, with a few exceptions. Hardware that allows waterproofing takes up space, and ditching the jack helps make that happen.
We got true wireless headphones. The latest craze in the “things that look cool in our heads” genre is a revelation. True wireless headphones are as useful and efficient as they are cool. It’s hard to imagine we’d have come this far since the launch of AirPods if the smartphone industry hadn’t been forced to offer a good alternative. It is a perfect example of innovation born out of necessity.
Upgrading to a full screen and almost bezel-less smartphone also yields other cool features. Apple hasn’t taken full advantage of this yet, but gestures and in-display fingerprint readers are awesome options on phones from OnePlus and Samsung, for example. When Apple switched to Face ID, other companies found less intrusive ways to scan fingerprints and improve security on phones. Touch gestures are less impactful, but have become an everyday part of modern smartphone use. These advances would have come much later if we had stuck to the home button.
Finally, there’s the argument that it seems Apple is hesitant to come out and say in 2017 – the headphone jack is redundant. They allow stereo sound, microphone input and remote volume control. These are all functions that can be handled by other ports and Bluetooth. The Lightning port isn’t a great solution (thankfully Apple is moving to USB-C) but clearly Apple could easily have stepped out and said, “We removed the headphone jack because it wasn’t necessary”. Things weren’t perfect without the jack, but not having one was not as earth-shattering an annoyance as his retirement announcement.
Which iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack?
Every iPhone launched since the iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack, meaning every iPhone launched since 2016 doesn’t have an audio port. This also applies to Apple’s cheaper iPhone SE, which still includes the old Home button. For those who want a complete list, iPhones without headphone jacks include iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, and iPhone 14 series. headphone jack.
Unless someone is using an iPhone 6s or older, they won’t have access to the headphone jack. For those who prefer to use wired headphones, Apple sells a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter for $9 on its online store, which can be plugged into the headphones and used to listen to music through the Lightning port. Another option is to buy a pair of AirPods, which start at $129 for the AirPods 2 and go up to $549 for the over-ear AirPods Max. Of course, users need not opt for Apple-branded wireless headsets, with many cheaper third-party options also available.