A few days ago, an interesting rumor emerged claiming that the iPhone 7 may completely do away with the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack. Originally relayed by Macotakara, the report explains that Apple's decision to do away with a standard port that has been around for decades centers on its desire to make the next-gen iPhone even slimmer. Of course, if you ask any iPhone user about what new feature they care about most, they're likely to say 'improved battery life'.
In any event, if the rumor does happen to pan out, it's only natural to wonder what will it be replaced with. To that point, the report adds that Apple is working to develop a Lightning compatible version of its EarPod headphones. The Lightning connector does support audio-out so it's certainly technically possible; the looming question, though, is whether or not it's a smart move from a practical perspective.
The standard 3.5 mm headphone jack has been around for what seems like forever. That being the case, completely tossing it to the curb in one fell swoop could potentially alienate a number of potential buyers. And while a small clip-on adapter might provide a work-around, Apple's history suggests that such an adapter won't come on the house. What's more, an adapter only serves to add a clunky work-around to something already works as-is.
Another usability factor to consider is that if Apple assigns the Lightning connector double duty, users won't be able to charge their iPhones while simultaneously listening to audio. While arguably just a slight inconvenience, it certainly results in something of stunted user experience.
So at the end of the day, I guess we're left with the million dollar question: would Apple realistically ditch the 3.5 mm headphone jack and risk angering millions of potential customers? Well, if forced to answer, I'd wager that the answer is a resounding 'yes'. Remember, Apple has historically had no issues discarding technologies that it feels have long outlived their usefulness. We've seen Apple completely kill off both the optical drive and the floppy disk drive in the face of widespread complaints. As a result, perhaps Apple killing off the 3.5 mm headphone jack is simply par for the course.