Why Not Remove The Headphone Jack?

Is It Finally Time?

A few weeks ago, a rumor popped up around the web claiming that Apple’s next iPhone wouldn’t come with a headphone jack, a feature that has undoubtedly been on every product it’s ever made (maybe save for its smartwatch and an odd invention here or there). Predictably, the internet went a little insane in response, but killing the 3.5mm jack isn’t that crazy, is it?

Obviously, if Apple were to remove the headphone jack, it would have to replace it with something (unless you don’t feel like listening to anything, ever). It’s options are pretty slim:

  1. Use Bluetooth only
  2. Use the Lightning port only
  3. Slim down to 2.5mm port
  4. Use a mix of the previously mentioned options

If I were to give you a guess, I’d say a mix of options 1 and 2 would be likely. Since its inception, audio over Lightning has been possible. Bluetooth audio has also been a possibility since its inclusion in the iPhone. So, it seems likely that Apple will simply remove the headphone jack and continue using the audio options that are available now.

While it seems odd for the company to want to remove such a precious and widely used port, it had to happen eventually. The 3.5mm jack has been around since the mid-1960s, that means it’s been around for over 50 years. The standard is long overdue for a successor.

One big problem with the supposed disappearance of the jack would be the cost of entry for headphones. Headphones using the 3.5mm plug are cheap as hell, mostly because the technology has been around for so long.

The market is saturated with thousands of headphones ranging from cheap pieces of crap to audiophiles’ wet dreams, but those that decide to buy a headphone jack-less iPhone won’t have immediate access to those. Sure, an adapter (you know those things we all love) will likely be available from Apple and third parties, which will be the cheapest way to get a set of traditional headphones to work. The next cheapest would likely be Bluetooth headphones, which aren’t all expensive because the technology’s been around for a while, but don’t hit the low-end of the headphone market. You’re still looking at at least $20 for a cheap pair. Finally, we have the Lightning headphones. A hefty purchase at around $100 (in my research) for the entry-level pair.

The days of picking up a cheap pair of headphones to temporarily replace your really nice pair that you stepped on, a situation that I’m still angry about, are gone.

But, take note! Like previously stated, 3.5mm headphones are cheap because the standard has time to mature and headphone makers have been able saturate the market. We won’t reach that situation until a large device maker like Apple takes the risk of removing the traditional headphone jack and users are forced to look for products that use Lightning or Bluetooth.

A new iPhone announcement likely won’t hit for a few more months, so there’s time. Time for consumers to warm up to the idea and for headphone makers to get ahead of the demand. But who knows? Maybe it’s all just a rumor anyway.

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