Apple removing the 3.5 mm headphone jack from the next iPhone, as the Wall Street Journal all but confirmed this week, is not a consumer friendly move in the slightest. It clearly unnecessarily inconveniences the consumer in a number of ways, but convenience isn’t why Apple is doing it. The most compelling anti-headphone-jack argument is that it’s an old technology and Apple has historically moved the needle on consumer tech trends. But if that’s the case Apple need to ditch the Lightning Cable along with the headphone jack and replace it with USB type C, because that’s clearly the future.
Apple admitted as much when they made the single port on the new slim MacBook a USB type C port. It’s reversible so there’s no fumbling to get it in the slot, it charges the device, transfers data and, yes, can operate specially made headphones.
It’ll be annoying to swap out those earbuds that are tangled in your work bag right now, but if Apple includes a pair with the iPhone no one is going to care too much. Bluetooth headphones will work just fine and high end headphone users are going to need to get some adapters, but this is the price we pay for progress.
But it’s no progress at all if that singular port is a Lightning Cable.
Apple supporters point to the moment in 1998 when Apple released the iMac G3 without a floppy disk slot in favor of USB. People thought it was crazy, but Steve Jobs saw the floppy disk for the outdated technology it is. The Verge argues that’s not an equivalent argument because it’s not clear what should replace the headphone jack.
But the answer is clear — it’s USB-C. The beauty of this one port is that it’s brand-agnostic. Apple has started using it, Google-made phones and laptops use it, PCs use it, and Samsung will come around soon if they can just ditch wireless charging. Lightning Cable, on the other hand, is another Apple exclusive that keeps users locked into the ecosystem.
The headphone jack has been around a long time, and that’s part of the reason it’s so hard to get rid of. If you forget your headphones you can walk into any drugstore in America and get a pair for $10 or less.
Now imagine a future where all iPhones have a single Lightning Port and all Android phones have USB-C. Those drug stores no longer have the cheap ubiquitous headphones we’ve all relied on in a pinch and the nation is once again split along brand lines.
But, what if all our devices used USB-C? Not only would all those drugstore headphones be compatible with all devices, but so would all chargers and data transfer cables, which would drive down the price.
There are obvious reasons Apple would want to stick with the Lightning Cable ($), but if the argument is Apple is doing this for the betterment of technology overall, then the next iPhone should use USB-C. That’s the future consumers deserve.