Tomorrow, Apple are holding a ‘Special Event’ at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for what is widely believed to be the unveiling of the iPhone 7, and Apple Watch 2 with new bands. It is, of course, also the event where we’ll hear more about the release of iOS 10, tvOS 10, watchOS 3, and macOS Sierra.
Honestly, I’m still undecided on whether to upgrade from my iPhone 6. The iPhone 7 isn’t shaping up to be very exciting, and really the only thing it’s missing is 3D Touch - which is exciting but not a justification to buy a whole new phone. Quite frankly, I just want a new MacBook Pro but there are strong reports which say the Mac won’t be mentioned tomorrow, and we’ll likely have to wait until the end of October. Apple are making it incredibly difficult for me to give them money, but whatever. The non-Retina screen I’m looking at as I type this is burning my eyes, but that’s cool Apple. You take your time. I’ll wait. Others have speculated as to how and when they’re going to be announced. I’d love for them to be announced tomorrow, and a release date set (even if it’s for much later in the year). At least then we’d know what we’re getting, and when.
The real topic of controversy this year is the rumoured (but almost certain) removal of the headphone jack from this next-generation iPhone. The best explanation I’ve heard floating around - and the one I agree with most - is that it’s happening this year to get the fuss out of the way. Any significant change Apple make to a product, especially the iPhone, will undoubtedly get a lot of media attention. By making it the focus of the 2016 iPhone, Apple are able to offer a significantly redesigned iPhone in 2017 with the hope of no negative press coverage. It’s a smart way to get all of the complaints out of the way early, on an iPhone that won’t prove significant in the history of the product. News moves fast, and no one will care about the removal of the headphone jack by the end of this year. Perhaps even by the end of this month.
So how will you listen to audio on your iPhone 7? I’m going to assume for the sake of this post that the iPhone 7 will come with earphones that plug into the Lightning port of the iPhone (the port you currently use for charging), and that Apple will heavily push the sale of wireless (most likely Bluetooth) earphones. There will also be some kind of adapter that you can plug into the Lightning port to use existing earphones with a 3.5mm headphone plug if you so desire. Whether or not this comes in the box remains to be seen.
I’ve stayed relatively mute on this topic ever since the rumours became loud earlier this year, simply because I don’t care. I’m neither for nor against its removal. It sincerely doesn’t bother me. If the headphone jack stays, cool. If it doesn’t, also cool. I’ll live, and so will you. It’s not what you’d believe if you read Twitter, or were closely in tune with the tech media, but I honestly don’t care, and don’t think many others outside of these circles do either. The frequency and reliability of reports saying it’ll be removed make it pretty obvious this was a controlled leak by Apple, to ease us into the idea over the last six months, without springing it on us tomorrow. Considering the fuss in the media thus far, I was surprised the first my mum heard of the removal was this past weekend. It surprised her, but only took a 20 second explanation and she understood why it’s probably going to be removed and was fine with it.
As little as I care, it’s important to think about the implications for the community as a whole. After all, the iPhone is a device used by upward of 40% of people in developed countries, and is the single best selling phone. As someone who catches public transport frequently, I’m always looking around to see how people are using their tech, and I’d say 80% of people fit into one of two categories - they either use the earphones that are included in the box with their smartphone, or they’re using Bluetooth earphones. Common brands of Bluetooth headphones include Bose, Sony, and Jaybird. The removal of the headphone jack won’t have an impact upon these people at all. They’ll buy the iPhone 7, and either pull out the earphones in the box and start using them, or they’ll pair their existing Bluetooth headphones and be done with it. This doesn’t leave a great number of people impacted by the change. As for everyone else? Well, I’m sure they’ll either be able to buy an adaptor for a few bucks, buy a new pair of Lightning earphones (which will undoubtedly soar in popularity after this month), or take the plunge and buy some Bluetooth earphones. Similar to the transition between the 30-pin dock connector and Lightning, we’ll all have forgotten the 3.5mm headphone port was a thing before long.
The removal of the headphone jack will anger many, but it’s important to remember this change is inevitable. Any change to the iPhone will make people angry, but all in all this change isn’t as significant as you’ve been made to believe. Remember, most people don’t care. They’re going to buy the iPhone 7, use the lightning earphones that come with it, and get on with their life.