The recent chatter in the iPhone rumor mill has been that the next version of Apple’s smartphone won’t have a traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Instead, people who want to listen to music with headphones will have to listen wirelessly with a Bluetooth set or plug a wire into the Lightning port, the same used for charging the phone.
Although this may infuriate a lot of people, there are a lot of good reasons for Apple to ditch the analog technology, which is more than a century old. The Lightning cable will provide higher-quality audio, allow for a better experience, give more space for a battery, and, many think, allow for Apple to make the phone even thinner.
But Matt Galligan, a San Francisco-based designer, has a different theory about why Apple is going to ditch the headphone: to make the physical size of the phone smaller while keeping the screen at the same dimensions.
In a post on Medium, Galligan, who, in addition to cofounding several startups, also cofounded the news site Circa, explains that the headphone jack takes up significant internal space, reaching nearly to the display of the phone if you lay it on top of the phone. With a smaller Lightning connector, that space could instead be used for the internals of a display, increasing its size.
Galligan also cites patents that show that Apple could move its fingerprint-sensing technology from the home button to the display. And since the newest iPhones, which have pressure-sensitive screens, make switching from one app to another as easy as pressing hard on the left edge of the screen, a home button becomes a lot less important.
“The phones will become shorter, and likely easier to handle,” he writes. “One could even envision a day when the phone has no physical buttons, and it [is] simply a display in a sealed enclosure.”
For example, the iPhone 6S Plus has a 5.5-inch screen, but it’s too large to comfortably fit in pants pockets or use one-handed. In fact, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note phone has a slightly larger screen, but is physically smaller than the iPhone 6S Plus.
Galligan, who is sure to note that this is all speculative on his part, says that he doesn’t think this will necessarily all happen with the next iPhone.
“[I]f we read the tea leaves a bit Apple may have something big on the way,” he writes, “all because they’re getting rid of a 100 year old jack.”