In a word, no. But let me elaborate…
The subject of much speculation thanks to leaks and ‘insider-knowledge’, we now know that Apple is removing one of the most commonly used connectors in the world from the iPhone 7; the 3.5mm audio jack.
Phil Schiller made the announcement on-stage at the Bill Graham auditorium in San Francisco, explaining that the iPhone 7 will instead ship with EarPods that connect using Apple’s proprietary lightning connector.
The 3.5mm audio jack has been around a long time. Its predecessor, the more cumbersome 6.35mm jack harks all the way back to 1878, and the two have until now been the go-to connectors for receiving audio from cassette players, CD players, MP3 players, stereo systems, iPods and all previous iterations of the iPhone.
So why change it now?
It’s easy to surmise that the decision is based on greed. Apple is effectively giving headphone manufacturers an ultimatum; if they want to connect audio devices (using a wire) to the iPhone 7, they have to use the lightning connector. Or they can deal with the additional complications of Bluetooth.
Officially speaking, lightning cable manufacturers are required to license Apple proprietary technologies to achieve MFi certification, so the cynical among you may decide that this is the reason for the change in audio connector. That the same requirement will be imposed on headphone manufacturers, ensuring a license fee is payable to Apple is a given.
But as Apple currently sits on a cash pile to the tune of $230bn, and it makes most of that money from the App Store and its hardware businesses, I’ll put the assertion about MFi being the main reason to one side, and move on.
Apple will also be including a lightning to 3.5mm adapter with the iPhone 7, negating the need to buy a new version of your favourite headphones, so it’s fair to surmise that there may be other reasons for removing the 3.5mm headphone port on the iPhone 7.
The form factor. We know that Apple loves to make our devices as pocket-friendly as possible with a good slim down. Removing the 3.5mm jack might help with the next (think iPhone 8) wafer-thin iteration of the device. But considering the iPhone 7 shipped with the same physical dimensions as the iPhone 6S, I doubt that’s the primary reason this time around.
Battery life. This is a biggie. Silly as it may sound, every millimeter of space inside your iPhone is valuable to Apple. You can slim down a device’s battery usage using clever software tricks, but nothing is as effective as making the battery itself that little bit bigger, and occupying the space where that headphone jack ought to be could be worth an extra 5% of battery, and who could possibly refuse that? Not Apple.
Some of the loudest critics I've seen of the decision to remove the audio jack seem to be audiophiles. Those people that love music, who complained for years that a 160GB iPod classic would never be big enough and who will happily spend £1,000 on a pair of headphones.
But why are they so mad? Because of the removal of what is undeniably an under-powered analog audio port? On a highly capable digital music device?
Apple is and always has been a disruptive force in technology. It looks at a device based on its use case and it re-designs it the way you would design it if it had never existed. In a world that is now almost entirely digital in terms of consumption, why would any device manufacturer design a music player with an analog output?
Sticking with the audio jack has literal real world consequences, as far as good quality headphones are concerned;
There can be no native noise cancellation. Noise cancellation requires power inside the headphones, and 3.5mm audio doesn’t provide that power, so you need to charge two devices in order to use it. So they may as well be Bluetooth, right?
There can be no tuning. The 3.5mm port outputs audio, and the headphones receive it. So long as they’re configured correctly everything will be fine, but if you want to change the sound or ‘tweak’ it somehow?
Not unless they’re digital. Sorry.
One thing is for sure; with the removal of the 3.5mm audio jack, people are going to be complaining for a while. As sure as I am of that, I’m equally sure that 90% of iPhone 7 buyers will use the standard (now lightning connected) Apple EarPods that come with the new iPhone and be happy.
The audiophiles will be harder to sway, sure, but if you’re an audiophile upset by the change, you should be asking yourself why you’ve been content to listen to your music with the restrictions of analog for so long.
Why is it acceptable to insist on digital audio in the home, in the studio, even in the car, but insist or more likely put up with, analog audio in the ear?
I suspect with a little time, everyone will realise why Apple are making this change; for the good of audio quality and to move the world onto better audio experiences.
Apart perhaps, from those guys who still insist on listening to vinyl, everyone will more than likely move on in a very short space of time. But I’ve got a feeling the vinyl guys may just be a tad change averse.
SCART to HDMI. Copper to optical. Tape to CD. CRT to LED. Things move on.
There is a plethora of functionality missing from headphones in 2016, and it’s largely because nobody has ever dared to change the connector we use from analog to digital. As Phil Schiller said, a change this big takes courage.
Enjoy it. Embrace it. Listen to it.