Designer Hany Abovergleich imagines an iPhone 7 with no headphone jack. Photo: handy-abovergleich.ch There are already headsets that connect to iPhone via the Lightning port, like these Philips Fidelios. The port allows headphones to get power from and be controlled by the phone, and currently enables up to 48khz lossless audio. Photo: Philips
Apple may be working on Bluetooth ‘AirPods’ to go with the iPhone 7, similar to this recent set from Bragi. Photo: Bragi
As rumours persist that this year’s iPhone 7 will arrive without the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, hundreds of thousands of people have expressed their opposition to the idea by signing an online petition titled “Apple is ditching the standard headphone jack to screw consumers and the planet”.
At the time of writing, the petition at sumofus杭州龙凤论坛 has attracted more than 227,000 signatories, close to a seemingly arbitrary stated goal of 250,000.
The rumours, which began circulating late last year, indicate that the new iPhone would ditch the jack and require headphones to be connected via Bluetooth or via the phone’s Lightning port.
While current iPhones already support both of these options, the trusty old 3.5mm jack is used the most.
So the main concern of this petition is that losing the jack would make many currently existing earphones, headsets and accessories useless.
It may be an understandable concern, but the petition does have flaws in its logic. First of all, while none of this has been confirmed by Apple, the company would have done its homework and is unlikely to have its mind changed by a bunch of random users.
More importantly, buying an iPhone 7 is not mandatory. Regardless of its eventual features, nothing bad will happen to those who have a different phone after the iPhone 7 is released.
If having a phone with an old headphone jack is very important to someone, they can rest assured there will be many options available for a long time.
Then there’s the secondary stated intention of the petition: that Apple should be held to account for creating a pile of e-waste by forcing users to throw away their old headphones.
Surely a much more effective way for the signatories of this petition to minimise e-waste would be to not commit themselves to buying every new iPhone.
All that aside, for anyone who is wringing their hands thinking about a brand new phone having brand new things instead of the comfortable old things they’re used to, there’s still good news.
Those who like to use the white earpods that come with the iPhone can rest assured a pair will come with the iPhone 7 that work with whatever interfaces that phone has.
In fact, respected leak reporter Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac reports Apple and Beats are working on official Bluetooth pods called “AirPods”, which will be sold separately as a premium option. They probably couldn’t last longer than a couple of hours, but an innovative charging solution (Gurman suggests a carry bag that charges the pods) could help with that.
Meanwhile audiophiles who buy expensive, good quality headphones ought to be celebrating the potential demise of the iPhone’s headphone jack.
Since the decades-old 3.5mm standard is an analogue technology and the Lightning port is digital, the change will allow better quality audio.
Yes, you will need an adapter, but the next pair of headphones you buy could be capable of receiving lossless high-resolution audio from your iPhone, or powering advanced noise cancellation without the need for batteries or a bulky design.
While the cynical will see the potential dropping of the 3.5mm headphone port as part of an evil ploy to make them buy more headphones and cables, the fact is moving to an all-digital audio ecosystem would have real benefits in the long term.
In the worst case iPhone users will be inconvenienced briefly in the transition between their current headphones and their next set. Those who think that’s too high a price to pay might have to go with a different phone.
Follow Digital Life on Twitter