As expected, the iPhone 7 that Apple announced yesterday will ship without a headphone jack. For many people, possibly including me, that will be a deal killer, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons.
+ Also on Network World: When it comes to the iPhone’s headphone jack, I’m with Woz +
Because while there won’t be a headphone jack in the box, there will be an adapter, so you can still connect all those suddenly obsolescent non-Lightning headphones all us Luddites have been spending big bucks on for the past 10 years.
Unfortunately, for a while at least, that little dongle will be a necessity for those unfortunate souls—definitely including me—cursed with ears that simply won’t hold Apple’s earbuds for more than few seconds.
How many adapters can you carry?
The dongle isn’t really that bad, I suppose. It’s relatively small and unobtrusive. But that’s part of the problem: something like this exists largely to be misplaced. Sure, you could leave it attached to the headphones you actually use, but what if you use more than one pair?
For example, I have a pair of earbuds that actually stay in my ears, a set of sport earphones for running and working out, and a pair of noise cancelling ones as well. Moving that adapter back and forth amongst those pretty much guarantees that I won’t have it when I need it. No music for me!
And that’s only the beginning. Once you ditch the headphone jack, you might as well go wireless, and Apple’s new Airbuds look pretty cool. But based on their resemblance to the regular earbuds, I’m guessing they won’t stay in my ears either. In fact, the Twitterverse is already churning with jokes and complaints about how easy it will be to lose the Airbuds.
How many pieces to track?
Even if they do, the Airbuds (does this make anyone else flash back to the cute 1990s dog movies?) set up seems more prone to loss than any other solution I’ve seen. Even though there’s no cord, there are at least three—maybe four—separate pieces to keep track of:
- Left Airbud
- Right Airbud
- Charging case
- Cable to charge the charging case (I haven’t seen this one, but presumably it has to be there)
I’m guessing the cable is a standard USB-to-Lightning connector… easily replaceable. But as for the others, who knows? If you lose your charging case, can you buy another for less than the $159 price of the Airbuds? What if—I mean, “when”— one of the Airbuds falls out of your ear and gets stepped on, can you buy a replacement without having to spring for a completely new set?
These may seem like trivial questions, and I guess in the grand scheme of technical progress, they don’t amount to much. But they are still likely to deeply influence the actual user experience of the iPhone 7 for anyone who doesn’t use the device only with the included Lightning earbuds.
+ Also on Network World: First look, Apple’s new iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus +
It’s still not entirely clear how Apple will deal with all these issues, but if history is any guide, I’m not optimistic. Eventually, other companies may deign to offer Lightning headphones as well, but the hassles of a bifurcated market are likely to persist until wireless headphones become the norm.
Better than catching on fire?
Will these hassles be enough to keep people from snapping up iPhone 7s? I don’t think we’ll be able to tell at first, there are plenty of folks for whom this isn’t an issue. Eventually, though, this could turn out to be another subtle drag on iPhone sales and market share.
On the other hand, of course, lack of a headphone jack may seem trivial next to the propensity of one of the iPhone 7s top competitors—Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7— to spontaneously catch on fire.