For as long as I can remember we’ve had a headphone jack (phone connector; in various forms). Not just Mac, iPhone, and iPad. No, the headphone jack in transistor radios dates back to well before my lengthening years. If there’s a smartphone or tablet on the market that does not have the ubiquitous headphone jack, then I haven’t seen it, and I’m not as up to date on modern tech as I thought.
The headphone jack is anything but modern and dates a heritage back to the 19th century (the one before the 20th century). Every Apple computer– Mac, iPhone, iPad– comes with a headphone jack and Apple seems to be ready to kill that aging but useful technology in the next iPhone, and once the wall is breached, there is no turning back. In the not too distant future the headphone jack will be history, replaced by a two-pronged attack from the proprietary Apple Lightning connector and the newer USB-C connector.
Goodbye, headphone jack.
Why would Apple make such a drastic change? It’s all about the future. Apple loves to kill technology to usher in what the company’s engineers and designers determine will be future technology. Apple did just that with the Mac and point and click, with USB with the original iMac, with the iPhone with the touchscreen, and many other technologies which needed to be passed.
Here’s what I think Apple has planned.
Waterproof – This doesn’t work for the Mac, of course, but the analog headphone jack is a sore spot for waterproofing a device. Apple’s Force Touch and 3D Touch technology works so well that a future iPhone may have no buttons or connectors at all.
Audio Quality – This is a stretch, but hear me out. All sound is analog so even having a Lightning or USB-C connector all the way from the iPhone to headphones means little to the average ear, but there’s more to audio quality than sound. There’s perceived sound. A Lightning or USB-C connector could also power headphones of the noise canceling variety, and that can improve what we think we hear.
Wireless – Does anyone question that the future of connectivity of any kind is going to be wireless? Sure, Bluetooth is a bit of a pain, but every generation brings improvements in power management and connectivity. But wireless isn’t just about Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. There’s also wireless battery charging, and that’s definitely here already (just not at Apple).
Screens – For iPhone users, the single-most troubling component usually is the Home button. It gets used and it breaks. iPhones of the near future may be little more than a full screen glass slab with the tiniest of chin (where the Home button resides) and forehead (where the front camera resides), and fewer buttons. In other words, Apple is aiming for an edge-to-edge screen and the analog headphone jack is a speed bump along the way.
It’s Time – Apple, or, rather, the company’s famed engineers, designers, and executives seem to have a sixth sense about when to discard relic technology of the past and what to replace it with in the future. Other than electricity and batteries, any component that got its start in the 19th century seems about ready to push up daisies.
Apple loves to kill aging technology, and Apple’s customers love to complain about it. Here we are again.