The good, bad and ugly of Apple’s iPhone 7 headphone plans

Do thinner devices and more display space justify the move?

Apple, iOS, iPhone, headphone, Lightning, headphone jack, iPhone 7

Apple allegedly plans to get rid of the headphone jack in the next iPhone. In order to listen to audio you’ll need to use Lightning or Bluetooth compatible earphones, or the iPhone’s internal speaker. Here’s the good, bad and (potentially) ugly of Apple’s decision.


I guess most of us will choose to use Bluetooth headphones. Apple will be pleased about this as its recently-acquired Beats headphone brand dominates the market for them.


Apple in 2014 introduced a specification for Lightning connected headphones within its Made for iPhone scheme. Advantages include lossless digital audio and (potentially, depending on design) noise cancellation.

Not alone

Apple isn’t the only company to dump the headphone jack. Lenovo, Motorola and LeEco are all moving in this direction. “In general, I feel that about 30% of flagship brands are considering dropping 3.5mm, such as Motorola just did,” V-Moda CEO Val Kolton said. “I think they are also waiting to see what Apple will do with Lightning.” Roland purchased a big share in V-Moda this week.

It’s a transition

From SCSI to the floppy disk, from Flash support to the DVD drive, Apple has never been shy of dropping legacy technologies to make way for engineering improvements.


The 3.5mm headphone port on your iPhone isn’t huge, but the 50-year old technology takes up some internal space. Removing it from the 7.1-mm (0.27-inch) thin Phone 6s could shave an additional 1-mm (0.04-inch) off the size of the device.


Because it has one less port the iPhone will be more waterproof and more durable. Deutsch Bank believes the new smartphone will provide “professional class waterproofing”.

Better audio

The completely digital connection will not require digital-to-analog conversion. This should mean better quality audio, just like you’re used to getting with USB and Lightning speaker and headphone systems.

Better amplification

Under Apple’s Lightning headphone specification, manufacturers can already build audio amplifiers inside their headphones that draw power from the Lightning port and iPhone. While this may impact battery life, it also means much better audio.

The biggest winner

The big winner will be display space and Apple’s move to make a device that has no ports and no moving parts. To get a sense of this just pop the male end of your headphone across the bottom of your iPhone, as if it were plugged into the port. Look closely and you’ll see the tip of the jack stops where the smartphone’s display begins. Getting rid of it means Apple will be able to create more usable display space, space it’s going to need if it intends replacing the physical Touch ID button with a haptic (display based) version.

The bad

While you get used to the idea that your super-expensive Shure headphones are becoming antique, Apple is expected to soften the pill with a dongle you can use to connect them up to your new iPhone. How many dongles will you lose in a month?

The sad

I’ll really miss the many different things you could do to control iPhones, though I guess we can just ask Siri.

The (potentially) ugly

A move to make the devices completely digital may make it easier for music labels to demand more stringent DRM, warns activist, Cory Doctorow.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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