Apple Headphone Jack

Companies usually continue to add features to future iterations of a product rather than remove them. They are scared that removing a feature will always be seen as a detriment by the customer and thus result in lower sales. Apple on the other hand is often the first in their industry to make bold moves in removing outdated technologies from their products in order to improve the overall experience.

Boardrooms still have VGA cables as the standard way of connecting to their screens and PC manufacturers continue to provide VGA ports on laptops. It’s a standoff where IT managers and PC manufacturers refuse to improve the video standard despite HDMI (now dated) being on most laptops. Meanwhile Apple has been through two video port evolutions dropping VGA in favour of DVI for video quality and Display Port for thinness.

Apple removed the DVD from all but one of their laptops, again to make their products thinner and lighter. I’ve had a MacBook Air for almost six years and almost never needed a DVD drive.

For ten years the iPod, iPhones, and iPads used Apple’s 30 pin wide dock connector. Apple dropped that for the faster, symmetrical, and smaller lightning format.

The new Mac Book has dropped all ports with the exception of a single USB-C port for charging and data as well as, ironically, a headphone jack. Again, to make the laptop thinner and lighter.

Apple’s goal has always been to make a product line more streamlined and lighter. Every two years the iPhone’s core design is refreshed and it has always been thinner to push the goal of having less weight while maintaining battery life. So why remove the headphone jack?

First, it’s worth noting that the recent stories are based on rumour and speculation. But at some point Apple will push the iPhone to be lighter and that means thinner. So even if the iPhone 7 and 7S won’t remove the headphone jack it will happen at some point. So how big a deal is this?

I suspect based on anecdotal observations that more than 95% of Apple iPhone customers use the standard headphones that come with the phone. So right off the bat the vast majority of Apple customers are not inconvenienced since they get a new pair of headphones that work with the phone.

Second, as Forbes has pointed out, Apple will of course sell an adapter. Will Apple make a profit from it? Of course. Are they redesigning their flagship product so that they can squeeze an extra $10-$15 in profit from less than 5% of their customers. I highly doubt that the small bump in profit is the motivation for the product that derives over 60% of their revenue. 

Power users like myself constantly complain about iPhone battery life. Batteries degrade in performance over time and eventually they don’t hold a full days charge if you’re frequently using it. So we want Apple to make phones with more battery but it sacrifices their primary goal which is a major factor in the smart phone arms race. Weight. Apple will push as fast as possible to loose weight on their portable products so long as it doesn’t sacrifice minimum benchmarks they set for battery, performance and durability. 

What led me to write this post was a petition that is floating around for Apple to keep the headphone jack. Apple sold over 230 million iPhones last year. A petition of 200,000 people sounds impressive but is less than a tenth of a percent of annual sales and half of their two year typical upgrade cycle. The petition also argues that removing a headphone jack will create mountains of waste. The waste is created whether they change the headphone jack or not. Apple already has a recycling program where you can bring it back to them to recycle and in many cases they will give you a store credit. 

If you really want to vote for Apple to keep the headphone jack there is only one way to send that message. Don’t buy it. But I’m willing to bet that Apple knows their customers and eventually you’ll have a new iPhone.