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Why Apple Removed the iPhone Headphone Jack

Many people were angered by Apple removing the standard 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7, assuming that it was an intentional plan to increase wireless headphone sales for Apple subsidiary Beats. That fact may have played a role in the decision, but BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski offers a thorough and compelling narrative behind Apple’s decision: the company just ran out of space for it. “We’ve got this 50-year-old connector — just a hole filled with air — and it’s just sitting there taking up space, really valuable space,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering. “It was holding us back from a number of things we wanted to put into the iPhone. It was fighting for space with camera technologies and processors and battery life.” The camera systems in the iPhone 7 models are much larger than in previous models, and Apple engineers found that the easiest way to cram all the parts in was to remove the headphone jack. Removing it also helped with water resistance and allowed for larger batteries. Ultimately, it wasn’t Apple that killed the headphone jack, but simple math, and we’re willing to bet that most other smartphone manufacturers eventually follow suit.favicon follow link


Comments about Why Apple Removed the iPhone Headphone Jack
(Comments are closed.)

"Removing it also allowed for water resistance...."

I call BS on this.

The iPhone 7 is IP67. Samsung (who I otherwise despise) has managed IP68 (i.e. true water resistance, not just this bathtub nonsense) and they didn't remove the headphone jack (or memory card slot either for that matter).
gastropod  2016-09-10 17:20
Yes, it's possible to waterproof a headphone jack. But that makes it take up even more space than it already does, which is quite a bit. The package containing the jack also contains a lot of shielding so you can hear more than static, so it's already bigger than most people think. Whether the better camera and taptic stuff are a fair trade depends on the user. For me the most annoying thing is not being able to charge and listen at the same time, but I expect Monoprice or someone will have a cheap compact splitter cable before long.
David  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-09-13 14:04
Removing it *"helped"* with water resistance, not "allowed." I'm really skeptical when people change quotes to help make their point (unless the article was edited later).
I just copy pasted from the article above so I'm afraid it was indeed changed later.

That said, the original piece uses "helped". Maybe Josh just missed it first time around. No biggie.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-09-13 15:19
That's a paraphrase and not a direct quote, but it looks like (Adam?) changed it to "helped," which is admittedly better wording. I've written here before about how Samsung has waterproof phones with headphones jacks.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-09-13 15:49
Yes, writing and editing coverage of these announcements is a huge effort, and not all words can be chosen as carefully as would be ideal to start. I tweaked that in my subsequent edit pass, since there are still other holes in the case — allowed would have been right if the headphone jack had been the only one.
Michael Paine  2016-09-10 04:06
50 year old technology - I agree. A few years ago I had a similar complaint about the iMac because it wasn't possible to control the audio output from the headphone jack via software. I ended up using a USB device with a headphone jack to give me software control. These days I use optical out on the iMac.

So I consider that a headphone connection via the Lightning port makes sense.
JohnB (SciFiOne)   2016-09-10 11:35
I've been using bluetooth wireless for a couple of years now (LG730 I think) and don't want to go back. Much safer when running my power tools on a building site. But I only use canal style phones so they will have to expand beyond the earpods, which no one in my family finds comfortable anyway.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-09-13 10:57
I'm sure this issue will be debated ad nauseam. Sales of the new iPhones will tell the tale, say as compared to continuing sales of earlier models. If the market accepts them, Apple will be golden (as usual). On the other hand, if sales lag, Apple may be forced to reconsider their decisions, painful as that may be. We all know how loath Apple is to admit a mistake. In the meantime, making a change like this because the engineers want to do it doesn't sound very customer friendly to me. It sounds more like change for the sake of change—a habit Apple has long indulged, users be damned.

There are marketing issues involved, but the elephant in the room here is Bluetooth audio quality, which still leaves a lot to be desired. There are issues like, you know, interference, which degrades the signal and, hence, the quality of the sound. And there are bandwidth constraints. There's a reason standard audio jacks have been around so long: Because they get the job done. To date there's nothing that does it better. Certainly not Bluetooth.

Sure, Bluetooth is convenient, but it still can't deliver a reliable telephone call. I know Bluetooth speakers are all the rage right now, but not where sound quality is important. RF signals in general have always been limited in that respect. Various kinds of signal modulation have improved things over the years. This has mostly affected WiFi, however. Bluetooth, not so much. And, really, do we need more RF bouncing around the house? You don't have to be paranoid to wonder if the EM soup we live with is healthy.

Now if the iPhone 7 flies off the shelves, we'll be in for a brave new world, more or less. Absent that, I think this will be another USB-C situation, a solution in search of a problem.