Apple May Ditch Classic Headphone Jack Despite Outrage

The 150 year-old -- really! -- tech might be facing the fight of its incredibly long life.

PRONicholas Lundgaard; Flickr

The latest Apple rumor is about a piece of technology that’s relatively ancient.

With gossip swirling that the company is planning to ditch the classic 3.5mm headphone jack in the upcoming iPhone 7, a new effort to get Tim Cook and Co. to abandon the scheme is emerging online, including this petition that has already garnered more than 240,000 signatures: “Tell Apple to respect its customers and our planet. Keep the standard headphone jack,” cry the petitioners.

Apple has long viewed the staple of 20th Century technology as anachronistic. It has filed numerous patents reimagining and redesigning the headphone jack only to abandon them once it comes time for a new model to be released. And for good reason too, not only are the classic headphone jacks completely standard-issue across all platforms, but they work well and nobody is really complaining.

But if the rumors are true, Apple plans to drop the jack and redirect headphones to the Lightning connector port. Such a revision wouldn’t even really allow for thinner phones, since the two ports are about the same size, but it would free up internal real estate that Apple could use for other purposes.

This kind of Machiavellian argument may have some merits, but it’s little balm to those frustrated with what they see as corporate tactics designed to force users into purchasing exclusively Apple products.

Kārlis Dambrāns; Flickr

The 3.5mm jack has been around since 1878 and is the thinner step-cousin of the original 6.36.3 that was used to connect phone calls on the massive switchboards of yore. Besides being unusually resilient for modern technology, it also stays put when it’s plugged in. Whether you’re running with headphones or carrying a phone in your pocket, it’s usually your fault if the jack comes unplugged. This is just one possible inconvenience that might arise with an Apple shift to the more fickle Lightning connector.

As for the obvious problem that it won’t be possible to charge a device and listen to headphones at the same time, it is possible for the Lightning connector to conduct sound and power at the same time, though you would have to plug a charger into the headphone itself to relay the charge.

And advocates of the shift are arguing that since the Lightning connector is a more advanced port than the 3.5mm, headphones will soon be able to do more than just play music and (sometimes) shift between songs, including possibly control apps. While there are very few Lightning connector headphones on the market today, The Verge reports that a number of companies are developing models or at least taking the Apple announcement as good news for their Bluetooth-capable models.

Even Apple may not just up and ditch the 3.5mm without warning, so there may be a little overture before the main performance. Expect Apple to make good on its 2014 acquisition of Beats Electronics by rolling out sleek Lightning connector headphones. Wait through the first generation of third-party integration, including interesting features no one predicted. Only then, will the 3.5mm disappear from the iPhone, maybe not 7, but probably by 7s or the 8.

Apple has proven extremely resilient when making generally unwanted hardware switches. The unveiling of the Lightning connector itself had some analysts spelling doom for the iconic iPhone brand, but Apple has obviously bounced back and then some, posting record sales with almost every subsequent launch. It may be more likely that losing Apple would be the worst thing to happen to the 3.5mm, and it will soon join the floppy disk in the high tech hall of glories past.

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