Yes, it’s a totally overused term, but Apple actually “disrupted” everyone’s music-listening habits when it announced that it’s removing the classic headphone jack from the iPhone 7.
Anybody who has a new iPhone will only be able to listen to music using headphones that connect using the lightning cable (or an adaptor). The other option is a pair of wireless headphones. Apple would very much like you to purchase a pair of its just-revealed AirPods, which hold a charge for five hours and cost $159.
Apple’s senior vice President Phil Schiller said the decision to abandon the humble headphone jack took “courage,” but for the near future, at least, it’s going to cause a lot of frustration. The changes aren’t all bad, but here are five ways Apple disrupted headphones, and how it’ll probably make your life a little more complicated.
…Until everyone eventually adapts like they always do.
You can’t use your old headphones, duh
Or at least, you can’t use them without an extra adapter. Apple recognizes that this sudden switch from a format that’s been around for decades to a newfangled lightning port pair of headphones is going to be jarring. A familiar pair of earbuds will be included in each iPhone 7 box, but if you have a special pair of cans with exceptional sound quality or noise-blocking capabilities, you’re going to have to resort to the dongle that’ll come with your new phone.
The dongle, a simple little adapter that allows your ancient headphones to plug into Apple’s beloved lightning port, will help ease the transition. It’s also going to be included in the iPhone 7 box.
Thing is, the adapter is clearly just a placeholder. Apple probably doesn’t want to have to include an adapter in each iPhone 8 box. It wants you to do the adapting and get new headphones that use the lightning port.
It hasn’t happened quite yet, but Apple’s big announcement is an inevitable death knell for a piece of technology that’s been essential since the 19th Century.
How to charge your phone and listen to music simultaneously
While the news that pretty much every pair of headphone made before is suddenly obsolete is by far the biggest disruptor, Apple’s new plans are going to change how that headphones work in smaller, less obvious ways.
The iPhone 7 only has one port — the lightning port. It’s where your swanky headphones plug in, but it’s also where your phone charger plugs in.
See the problem? The solution is to buy a $50 Lightning dock.
AirPods have their own issues, like not being able to listen for long periods of time
If you wanted to listen to King Crimson’s 1992 album The Great Deceiver in one go, you might be out of luck, since it’s nearly five hours long. Better hope Apple was on the money with that charge time estimate.
More seriously, though, imagine any sort of travel. Not all airplanes come with easy places to charge devices. Without planning ahead of time, or access to the right outlets, AirPods might just be useless (expensive) ear jewelry.
Wireless earbuds don’t offer protection from other people
Since open office plans are all the rage, headphones are an important social indicator — the signal being, “I’m busy working, don’t talk to me.”
AirPods are almost too discreet, to the point where people might not notice them. How else will you wordlessly convey to chatty co-workers, sidewalk clipboard volunteers, and aggressive dudes on the subway that you don’t want to be talked to?
You will lose your headphones like never before
Seriously. Headphones are already easy to misplace, and these tiny AirPods have twice the chance of getting lost. Depending on your ear shape, one might just fall out randomly.
You’ve got to be extra careful keeping track of your AirPods, because if you lose them, well, it’s not like you can just use any old pair of headphones as a replacement.
Photos via Apple, 20th Century Fox Television