Wednesday, September 7, 2016

New iPhone 7 has no headphone jack but will come with Lightning EarPods and a dongle

Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 7 does not include a headphone jack. In its absence, owners will have to use Lightning or Bluetooth headphones, both of which will be more expensive than a pair that ends in the traditional 3.5mm connector.

Knowing that plenty of criticism would follow this announcement, Apple tried to address the jack's removal onstage by laying out three reasons for its removal:
  1. A Lightning dongle can adapt older devices
  2. It frees up space inside the phone for other tech
  3. It furthers Apple's vision for better audio
Basically, it's not a stretch to say that in the short term, this is going to be a huge inconvenience for a lot of people. The 3.5mm headphone jack is a technology standby and isn't going to die quickly or easily.

Getting rid of it does start to accomplish certain goals for Apple. It frees up more space inside the iPhone, which is supposedly already being used up for other tech, and it begins shifting technology as a whole away from an analog standard and toward newer, digital alternatives. It will also sell more Beats headphones.

Those digital alternatives do have their benefits. Headphones connected by Lightning should be able to deliver higher quality audio than headphones connected over a 3.5mm jack. Of course, that's been true for as long as there have been Lightning headphones; now you're just being forced to make that choice.

This quite possibly marks the beginning of the end of the headphone jack. Many will applaud — and already applauding — Apple for taking the plunge. And it's fair to see this as a step for technological progress. But in this case, it's very much a case of long-term progress begot by short-term frustrations and limitations. Potential buyers will want to keep this in mind while looking at the iPhone 7.

Apple has also updated its iconic white earbuds to include a Lightning connector and will bundle a pair with every iPhone 7 but the next one will cost you $9, which isn't that bad.

The headphones otherwise appear the same as the EarPod model that Apple introduced in 2012 — they just now end in a Lightning connector instead of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The change comes, of course, because the iPhone 7 has no headphone jack, meaning that all headphones need to connect over either Lightning or Bluetooth. Without bundling these headphones with each iPhone, it's very possible owners won't have a compatible pair of headphones to listen on.

Apple's newly announced iPhone 7 will need a separate dongle to connect headphones that use a standard 3.5mm jack. Similar to Lenovo’s Moto Z, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will ship with an adaptor in the box that plugs into the Lighting port to let you keep using your old (and now outdated) headphones. As expected, it’s a fairly simple adaptor that just allows for headphones to be plugged into the Lightning port, with no pass-through option for charging an iPhone 7 while using the dongle for music.

Actual photo of the new Lightning EarPods

While not everyone will be happy to see the headphone jack go, it’s nice to see that the iPhone 7 will ship with at least some Apple-built option to allow the new phones to continue using older headphones, even as the company is clearly pushing for Lighting and wireless headphones going forward.

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