The iPhone 7’s jack problem: Proof Apple cares more about their walled garden than their customers

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Look, the obvious problem with the iPhone 7 is the missing headphone jack.  The industry simply isn’t ready to ditch it as there isn’t a good replacement for it yet.  But that’s not the only thing that ticks me off about the new iPhone.

Han Solo likes wires

I can’t take credit for this, but wherever it came from, it’s genius.

Here’s a list:

  • No fast charging
  • What appears to be a only modest boost in battery life (2 hours on average is what they’re advertising, but, in my experience, they advertise ideal conditions.  Real world performance will likely see less of a boost).
  • No wireless charging
  • And, of course, NO HEADPHONE JACK.

Why do these things tick me off?  Because Apple went ahead and built a phone largely ignoring what users most wanted in a pre-release survey (single connection port was at the very bottom of the list).  I mean, they did get waterproofing, but Samsung has been doing that for quite some time.

black-vs-jet-black-02

Oooohh! Black and JET black! How revolutionary!

Now, don’t get me wrong, they did some things right, the biggest of which, in my humble opinion, being said waterproofing.  All new phones should be waterproof, frankly.  Heck, even the new “AirPods” (despite the name) are pretty cool (if overpriced and lacking in battery life).  The phone looks to well made too, just like the iPhones in the past–no surprises there.

But, ignoring all of that, I’m going to focus on the lack of headphone jack and the “lightning” port.  Some of you might be saying that exclusion of the headphone jack is not a big deal because Apple is shipping an adapter that allows you plug in a typical pair of headphones.  There are three main problems with that:

  1. You need to carry around an adapter to use your existing headphones (which you may want to do if you bought something expensive like Bose QC 25s).
  2. You’re taking up your charging port when you use the headphone adapter.
  3. You still have to have a proprietary adapter for the proprietary lightning port on the iPhone.

The proprietary nature of this set-up is what really gets my goat.  Motorola already removed the headphone jack in their most recent smartphone (the Moto Z), but they did it in conjunction with a USB-C port, which is a standard open to pretty much everyone.  While I think Moto excluding the headphone jack is no bueno, it’s worse for the iPhone 7 because of the lightning port.  Look, I can buy a pair of USB-C headphones, and they’ll work with computers, tablets, and other phones.  When lightning port headphones come out, they will only work with Apple products (right now, just the iPhone 7 and, maybe, the MacBook).

UPDATE: I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. Check out this very poignant commentary from The Verge as to why this proprietary mess could be even worse for consumers than I was originally thinking.
abedasks

Great question, Abed!

Oh, and wireless earbuds?  Sure, if you aren’t sitting at work listening all day, or on a long flight.  Plugging in is easier, and you don’t have to worry about yet another battery going dead.  Battery technology simply isn’t there yet .  Even if it was, audiophiles will tell you that BT simply isn’t good enough for truly high-fidelity listening.  Oh, and what happens if you forget to charge your headphones before a flight or a long day at work?  Until you can give me a battery in a pair of good cans or buds that lasts for months instead of hours, wireless simply isn’t ready to take over for wired.

Speaking of wireless, the whole, “I can’t charge with earphones plugged in” problem would go away with wireless charging, which Apple didn’t add to the iPhone 7 because reasons.

In short, there aren’t any tangible short-term gains for consumers with the iPhone 7’s port arrangement.  Because of the proprietary nature of Apple’s charging port, there aren’t any long-term gains for the consumer either.  People buying iPhone 7s will be locked into wireless earbuds/headphones, carrying an adapter, or into proprietary accessories that only work with iPhones (and maybe other Apple products in the future).

airpods

They even look goofy and unstable on models . . .

Because there are no tangible consumer gains in this move, one can only conclude that the decision is driven purely by business.  Sometimes that’s inevitable and OK, but, in this case, I would argue that Apple is going too far.  This isn’t like removing a floppy drive because Apple isn’t replacing it with an open standard that everyone can use (like an optic drive).  Instead, they’re basically saying, “you want to listen to music? You’re going to have to buy crap from us or licensed by us to do it.”

If Apple wanted to impress me while still taking the unnecessary step of removing the headphone jack, then they would’ve switched to USB-C and packaged USB-C earbuds with each iPhone sold. I don’t put up with this overly proprietary crap from any company, and you shouldn’t either.  Even if you love Apple (as many of my friends and colleagues do), I challenge you to find some sort of positive side effect of the 3.5 mm jack exclusion that I can’t counter with one, simple argument: if Apple gave a crap about you, they’d have switched to USB-C.

Hell, the “lightning” port on an iPhone is outdated tech anyway–it’s based on the USB 2.0 standard.  We’re now two generations removed from that (though, to be fair, USB 2.0 is still pretty ubiquitous).  My point is: USB-C would’ve been better regardless of what they did with the headphone jack, and by not switching to it, and removing the headphone jack, it’s a double “screw you” to consumer.

If you want a more technical/audiophile analysis, check out Engaget’s piece on why USB-C and Lightning audio might not be good for the masses.  There’s a lot of good points in there.  For a funnier take, see below:

PS: the whole, “we removed it because of courage” thing has to be the most pretentious bullshit Apple has possibly ever said. Just like the argument that it was done for waterproofing is crap.  My s7 Edge is waterproof and has a 3.5 mm jack.

colbertmicdrop

’nuff said

QThe iPhone 7’s jack problem: Proof Apple cares more about their walled garden than their customers

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