Apple shocked the world with its bold move of committing to smartphones without a headphone jack and, now that the dust has settled, it looks like a good time to revisit why the company did so. The benefits of giving up the 3.5 mm port have outweighed the presumed negatives; it has managed to set Apple on a path to other innovations in the phone space.
January 2016 was a very different time than January 2022, the rumors of an iPhone 7 that had no headphone jack sounded like utter lunacy. The world had just come out of a weird, headphone-focused phase where Beats by Dre cans were practically becoming a fashion statement. Rappers as well as celebrities were releasing their own branded sets.
Why did Apple remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7?
It did kind of make sense, getting rid of the headphone jack, as Apple also owned Beats, the leader in Bluetooth headphone sales. So, when September 2016 rolled around and the iPhone 7 was confirmed to not have the headphone jack, it was easy to assume that this was the loss of a critical feature “because of money”. It did not help matters that the company also released the first-generation Air Pods at the same time, which was a huge disappointment if you don’t remember.
Apple’s reasoning was more of a vague declaration of its “courage” to spark innovation in the smartphone market. However, a popular theory from 2016 has played out, it appears that Apple’s goal was to prepare for more immersive smartphone experiences by adding more speakers while also removing the home button.
Within 15 months, Apple had released the iPhone X which combined an iconic, “all-screen” design with a thin build that made it feel years beyond the iPhone 8 which was launched in the market just months prior. While we will likely never hear an exact reason from Apple, as to why the decision was taken, it is easy to deduce that iPhone 7’s headphone jack died so that the full-phone displays could fly.
If you ask me, I feel Apple was reluctant to just come out and say back in 2017, that headphone jacks were redundant. They allowed stereo sound, a microphone input, as well as a remote volume control. These are all the functions other ports along with Bluetooth could handle.
The Lightning port was not a great solution; however, Apple could have easily come out and said, “We are removing the headphone jack as it is useless.” Things are not perfect without the jack, however, not having it has not been as earth-shattering as announcing its removal was.
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