Why Removing the Headphone Jack is Bad News for Consumers and Music Lovers

Opinion

After months of speculation it has finally been confirmed that the iPhone 7 — the world’s most iconic smartphone — will do away with the traditional headphone jack. What does this mean for consumers and music lovers? In this piece I will explain my opinion about why the 3.5mm headphone jack we know and love will always be relevant

1.You will be carrying a dongle around — just like you did with that phone you had in the 00's

Image: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ericsson-Adapter-Headphone-Speaker-Converter-Black/dp/B0013PXUIK

Remember these? Headphone adapters were common in the 00’s when feature phones were too small to include 3.5mm headphone jacks. Listening to music is something people do every day and carrying around a dongle just to do this is inconvenient at best — what happens when you lose/forget it? Not everyone wants to buy new kit to run perfectly good headphones.

2. You lose access to music privileges with friends

Image: http://www.ebay.com/itm/6-Ft-3-5mm-AUX-AUXILIARY-CORD-Male-to-Male-Cable-Plug-for-Car-Audio-iPod-MP3-PC-/272005467006

The aux cable is a magical thing and access to it when listening in a group is an honor and a privilege. Be it at a party or in the car I’m sure you will have fought over the aux cable with your friends at some point. Do you think your friends with devices that actually have headphone jacks are going to let you waste time connecting your 3.5-less device to their stereo? No! The 3.5mm jack allows quick and easy access to music. No pairing, no charging Bluetooth adapters, just music.

3. The removal of the headphone jack benefits Apple more than you

Image: https://techcrunch.com/2012/12/05/trader-allegedly-attempted-to-flip-1-billion-in-apple-stock-with-firms-money-plan-backfired/

In 2014 Apple acquired Beats, one of the most fashionable headphone brands. Just two years later they have dropped the headphone jack from their best selling product. Why? Simply, Apple wants you to buy it’s wireless Beats headphones. Apple has a vested interest in forcing you to buy new headphones and is trying to do so by making your current cans inconvenient to use. What’s wrong with the headphones you have now? Nothing. But Apple and Beats have sales targets to meet.

4. The iPhone is thin enough anyway — there’s no excuse

Image: http://www.hypable.com/apple-iphone-6-iwatch-live-blog-photos-video/

Apple justified the removal of the headphone jack by saying it allowed for more space internally for components. But the iPhone is already small enough and very thin. What is the need for it to be thinner or smaller? Apple released the iPhone Plus a couple of years ago which proves that Apple believes phones don’t need to be any smaller than they are. This is just another example of how Apple take form more seriously over function, like the use of comparatively tiny batteries in iPhones for the sake of a thin profile.

5. You won’t be able to use your wired headphones and charge the phone (!!!)

Image: https://ipadhelp.com/ipad-help-tips-tricks/iphone-6-wont-charge-heres-fix/

This one is probably the worst of all. For those of us who are not going to rush out and spend more £££ on wireless audio and want to enjoy music on our already-great headphones/hi-fi systems we will be stuck with the dongle I mentioned earlier. The biggest downside to this deserves it’s own title in my opinion — how on earth are you going to listen to music when your phone needs to charge? Well, bluntly, the answer is you won’t be able to. Maybe a third party will make a dongle that allows you to listen and charge but we shouldn’t have to make do with that in 2016. Our phones should be equipped for all our everyday needs.

6. The alternative sucks

Image: http://www.reviversoft.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/bluetooth_fail.png

Apple is clearly making the argument that wireless is the way to go for audio. And it is true that Bluetooth audio streaming has come a long way in recent years. Bluetooth devices connect quicker and perform better than they did in the past but they are still not good enough a replacement for wired audio in my opinion.

6a. Batteries suck

Image: http://appadvice.com/appnn/2012/02/upcoming-app-find-your-missing-idevice-even-if-the-battery-is-dead

Batteries add a level of failure to the device by nature. At some point they are going to run out of battery and need to be recharged. I can think of plenty of situations (such as a long journey) where recharging of headphones will not be feasible. This has been my own experience when using a set of Bluetooth headphones — it is gutting being left to travel a long journey without being able to listen to music. Also, if you thought your phone battery was bad now, just wait until you add Bluetooth streaming to it’s burden.

6b. Bluetooth does not provide the same level of audio quality

Image: http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/sony_7band_graphic_equalizer_seq_711.html

EDIT: After a little more research, I can say this may not necessarily be true, depending on the Bluetooth version of the devices you are using.

Bluetooth compresses your music when it sends it to your headphones. This means that if you like high quality ‘ lossless’ (uncompressed) audio files then they are going to get compressed by your headphones anyway. Compressed audio from mp3s or streaming services will get compressed even further.

6c. I thought Apple valued simplicity?

Image: http://www.inspiringwallpapers.net/imac-evolution-of-simplicity.html

Nothing will ever be as simple or convenient as just plugging in your headphones. Bluetooth audio requires you to jump through hoops to connect, and don’t get me started about pairing new devices. It takes far longer than just plugging in a jack. The jack is also the closest in technology you get to a universal connector standard. It is the only connector you need to listen to music on a sound system. What happened to Apple’s love of simplicity and ‘it just works’ attitude?

7. It doesn’t matter because everyone will copy Apple — whether it’s anti-consumer or not

Image: https://samotako1.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/apple.jpg

Finally, does it really matter? Apple has spoken, which means that everyone else will probably follow this trend, for better or worse. I personally hope that Android devices will continue to carry the 3.5mm jack forward and I will — for as long as possible — refuse to buy a phone without one. I am all for moving forward with technology, but only when a meaningful alternative is available. At this time, the alternatives are not meaningful and the removal of the jack only serves to line the pockets of Apple/Beats and other tech/audio companies.

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