Rumors cropped up in late November that Apple might ditch the standard 3.5mm headphone port on the next iPhone.
Instead, Apple may force you to use the lightning port, which is used for charging and syncing with accessories, meaning you’ll need a special pair of headphones.
Because in order to make the next iPhone as thin as possible, Apple would need to ditch the old standard headphone jack.
Indeed, the 3.5mm headphone port is a decades-old technology that could limit how thin phone makers can make their phones, and thinner designs generally look better than chunky ones.
Time for a change, right?
Getting rid of the 3.5mm headphone port on iPhones would be like suddenly closing off a highway and only letting a few people with the right equipment use it.
And Apple would surely provide the right equipment for a price. Either you shell out for new Lightning headphones (the cheapest model today costs $160), or you buy an adapter. Either way, Apple makes you spend extra money when there’s no real reason to.
Adapters are an inelegant patchwork solution. They’d be the third wheel when all you needed before was a smartphone and your headphones. Adapters cost money, they get lost and you have to buy them again, and you have to remember to bring them along. And if you forget them, tough luck. No music for you.
Even if you get a new Lightning pair of headphones, you’ll need an adapter to plug them into your computer or other device.
That’s two adapters you’d probably need to buy and potentially lose and/or forget.
What about Bluetooth? Sure, but Bluetooth headphones run on batteries. You need to remember to bring a microUSB cable to charge them if they run out of battery. And what if they run out of battery while you’re out and about?
The one scenario where it would be OK
If Apple’s Lightning became the new universal standard on all devices for listening to music through headphones, it wouldn’t be so bad.
But Apple’s Lightning technology is proprietary. It’s not going to let competitors use it. It’s highly unlikely that competitors would adopt Lightning, either.
It’s actually more likely that USB-C, a new type of port that debuted in a few devices this year, would become the new standard because it’s not proprietary. Even Apple could choose to use USB-C if it wanted.
Apple has done it before, but it’s not the same
Switching from the old 30-pin connectors to Lightning for charging our phones is one thing. It wasn’t the biggest deal because Apple included Lightning cables with new Apple products. And who cares what Lightning cable you use as long as it charges?
Just like it did with Lightning cables, Apple would also reportedly include Lightning Ear Pods with the new iPhones.
But it’s different with headphones. Many of us have a favorite pair that sound just right, and it’s not always Apple’s EarPods. And you can use your own headphones with anything you own, including your computer or your old set of speakers that aren’t connected to AirPlay.
The 3.5mm headphone connection is the one universal physical link you have with all your music-playing devices.
A thinner iPhone simply doesn’t justify ditching the 3.5mm audio port. Sure, it would look good, but it would fragment and complicate listening to music, which is one of the simplest and most unifying pleasures we have.