Apple is rumoured to be ridding the iPhone of the headphone jack and introduce new EarPods which will work through the lightning connector on the device. The company is also said to be introducing some new wireless earphones to alleviate its users of the standard issue wired earphones.
For many, the 3.5mm jack had its days numbered. It had been around since the late 70’s on Walkmans, but the technology was essentially created in the 19th century for the sake of telephone switchboards. For technologists, it has been technology that has overstayed its welcome.
“Whether you’re getting your music through a USB-C connector, whether you’re getting it through a Lightning connector, or wireless Bluetooth, it’s digital. Different connectors still have to do some compression, decompression at the other side but the music quality can be drastically enhanced,” said Jaybird CMO Rene Oehlerking in an interview with Forbes.
For Apple, there are multiple advantages for doing this. It can make the iPhone slimmer while cramming in a bigger battery and more features.
That being said, if you talk to the users, you will get a very different story. In all honesty, even right now, it is very hard to tell what they really want.
I ran a poll on my Twitter last night and the results were mixed at best.
Will you miss the headphone jack on the #Apple #iPhone if they decide to remove it?
— Sahil Mohan Gupta (@DigitallyBones) September 6, 2016
As you can see, only 11 people replied but of them 45 percent claimed that they would be angry at Apple for removing the port, however, 27 percent said that they wouldn’t be angry while 28 percent didn’t know what to make of the situation.
While this was a very narrow test for what Apple is proposing, the Cupertino-based giant has numbers on its side. According to the latest data from NPR, wireless headphones have surpassed wired headphones in terms of sales revenue. Apple is also perfectly positioned to take advantage of this trend as it owns Beats which is the maker of the best selling wireless headphones.
Sean Hyams, a Delhi based blogger is in unison with what Apple is allegedly proposing. “I have been using wireless headphones forever. Don’t even know how people still use wires,” he proclaims.
Users, however, remain divided.
“I use EarPods. Works best not only for music, but also for great call quality and handoff. Not a big deal breaker for me. I would be worried to connect my iPhone to the car stereo which doesn’t support Bluetooth playback,” said Vijay Raj, who is a photographer and writer based out of Delhi.
Some people are more boisterous and vocal about Apple’s decision to junk the good old 3.5mm jack.
“If you don’t know how people use wires, I’m sure the only kind of wireless music you must be listening would be live music,” says a sarcastic Nishant Rajvaidya, who runs a startup called Skill Planet based out of Indore.
Headphones are also useful in an array of use-cases. For instance, during exercise wired headphones are preferable as they are harder to lose, while some on the ear, earphones can fall down and the user wouldn’t even get to know.
“I own an iPod yes and still prefer the jack on the phone while cycling,” says Kshitija Sharma, a Delhi based PR professional articulating this fact.
For many, the EarPods that Apple ships with the iPhone aren’t good enough, hence they go and buy third party headphones. Often these third party solutions may be more expensive than what Apple offers inside the box of the iPhone.
“I won’t be able to use my headphones. I spent a lot on them,” says Delhi based model Shivani Gupta articulating the type of problem Apple will face if it decides to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7.
Some prefer using wired headphones just because they are perceived to have better sound quality.
Delhi based marketeer and DJ Karan Khanna puts this in quite a clear way. “Better sound quality,” he says.
Even Sparsh Seth, a Delhi based event organiser claims he wouldn’t let go of his IEMs for what Apple offers. “I personally won’t give up my wired IEMs for anything wireless, the wireless stuff is just not there yet,” he says.
While the jury is out on whether wireless and wired connections can have parity in sound quality, thanks to newer standards like Bluetooth 4.0 the gap has narrowed. Bluetooth 5.0 is said to further narrow this gap.
“Wireless has improved over the years. With Bluetooth 5.0 coming out at the end of this year or early next year…it’s always-on (no pairing), streaming much large data packets and much higher bit rates,” explains Oehlerking.
Reportedly, Apple is also working on a new wireless standard that’d work with its rumoured AirPod earphones, which will be divergent from the Bluetooth standard.
Despite his preference for wired audio, Khanna is open to new technologies as long as they improve the quality of sound.
“If the new technology is revolutionary and Apple can provide with a decent pair headphones, why not?,” asks Khanna.
He is not alone here. “I don’t think it’s gonna be a big deal as long as the lighting to 3.5mm convert is included in the retail package,” says Seth.
From a pure sound quality perspective, there are advantages to Apple’s approach. It can keep control on the type of hardware that comes out through its MFi programme. Also headphone makers will be able to built higher-end digital to analogue converters on their devices which will enable them deliver better audio through their hardware and not be limited by the hardware on the iPhone.