The iPhone 7 is coming soon, and there are some things we already know about it. The first thing we should expect is that it will look like an iPhone 6 and 6S. For years, Apple’s iPhone update cycle has involved releasing an updated iPhone after every major update. After the iPhone 4 we got the iPhone 4S. After the iPhone 5, we got the iPhone 5S. These ‘S’ updates have always tended to be under the hood, while the general appearance of the device stays the same.
iPhone 7 will buck the trend, with Apple holding off on a new design so they can release a special 10-year anniversary iPhone 8 in 2017. The major change in the upcoming iPhone 7, however, will be a lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is a standard on every single mobile device out there, and in the same way that USB C is creating a universal connectivity and charging port, Apple is attempting to make their Lightning port the ‘one stop’ port for its mobile devices.
Is this a good idea? Well, in the short term, it probably won’t seem like that. Users may have already spent hundreds of bucks on great quality headsets, earphones and headphones. Furthermore, companies may take a while to adapt, so it could be six months or more before we see a wide range of headphones compatible with the Lightning Port.
Sure, the wild popularity of the iPhone means that companies are going to adapt, but what does a user do if they need to use their brand new, Lightning-ready headphones with, say, an old iPod, Zune or other MP3 player? Let’s face it, we all still have a handy backup MP3 player somewhere, and that’ll stay true for as long as phone batteries stay mediocre at best!
In the long term, this move will probably change the way we look at our devices. Eventually, manufacturers will catch up, but that doesn’t mean other handsets are going to adopt the Lightning Port. In fact, we’re likely going to see a huge split in the industry. New Android and Windows devices will begin embracing USB C charging ports, and may even move into offering USB C headphones. Apple, however, will stick to its guns with its own port.
The removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack is probably long overdue. It’s old technology, but it will mean that headphones will stop being universal. It also means that phones can get even thinner.
During the period of purgatory, the time between Apple releasing the iPhone 7 and headphone manufacturers catching up, we at least have the option of using a 3.5mm to Lightning converter or a Bluetooth receiver.