The iPhone headphone jack

There have been a lot of rumors surrounding a change to the headphone jack in an upcoming version of the iPhone. Basically, Apple is working with its supplier to use the iPhone’s Lightning port for audio and get rid of the traditional headphone jack.

If you look at the way Apple typically does things when introducing new technologies like this, there is no reason you wouldn’t be all for this new plan. They make it better, not worse.

I would fully expect that if Apple did implement this idea, the audio would sound better through the Lightning connector than the older headphone jack. Not only because Apple can add technology to the chip (noise cancelling, etc.), but because the headphone jack is not very efficient. It’s been around forever and hasn’t really improved how we listen to audio in a long time. A fully digital connection would improve everything.

One of the main complaints from people that I’ve seen is that their old headphones will no longer work with the new iPhones. That’s a pretty big assumption to make. We don’t know for sure, but Apple—or a third party—could make an adapter that would allow audio to pass through the Lightning connector and into your older headphones.

I would expect Apple headphones to adopt the new connector, of course, but I don’t see any reason people couldn’t use their old headphones. I don’t know why you would want to, but you could.

Let’s also not forget that pulling the headphone jack would make more room in the iPhone for other things, like battery. Seems like a win/win to me.

  • Bob

    And how much would a set of earbuds cost? And how much would yet another dongle to make anothe Apple product compatible with the rest of the world cost? Really?…there isn’t ANY way better to make more room for more battery?

    • if there are better technical solutions, for what reason should we remain with a legacy analog solution for all eternity? sentiment?

      do you think people had the same irrational hand-wringing when the world shifted from phono to mini-phono jacks?

      if they switch, new devices will come with a compatible set of earbuds. if you want to use an old pair, thats on you. buy an adapter and move on with your life.

      • Well, the mini phono jacks are worse quality, and are less stable, but that was a sacrifice for convenience. Not to mention the even superior durability and quality of XLR which remains industry standard, for analog usage anyway, but is of course a big honkin’ plug.

        • again, who’s lamenting the shift? a few audiophiles dont count for much. no, the world moved on to something else. and everything in the world is a compromise so that doesnt count for much either.

          again: for what reason should humanity stick to the current analog 3.5mm jack for all eternity?

          • atxzum

            Because lightning ports are primarily available on iOS devices, and many people use headphones across multiple devices.

            I’m trying to imagine what value the lightning adapter would add that would offset the pain of carrying an adapter or buying new headphones.

          • that use case (using headphones across devices) is not the primary use case of most people. the headphones that ship w/ iPhone will work with iPhone. if you want to use your other legacy headphones, you’ll simply use an adapter. me, ill stick with wireless, despite being told they dont sound as good. i simply dont care, the convenience is worth it.

            at this point only apple knows for certain what the advantage would be. we can speculate tho — battery volume, waterproofing, etc.

          • again — somebody please explain why the entire human race should use 3.5mm analog for the rest of eternity. if the only reason is “because legacy”, well, then prepare for disappointment.

          • mjm1138

            It’s an open standard. There’s a well-developed marketplace of extremely high-quality products using the standard. Or how about this: I haven’t heard a rational reason to abandon it that isn’t based on audiophile woo.

          • a well-developed marketplace of extremely high-quality products using the standard

            in other words, “because legacy”. not good enough.

            as for reasons to change — space, battery, waterproofing, etc. all toward giving me a better phone. i dont care about the audio woo (which is why i use wireless today anyway).

          • atxzum

            There is also a large market for cheap headphones. I use a $6 pair from Amazon. I can’t imagine seeing too many $6 lightning enabled headphones without those headphones having deep market saturation. Which, why would they? Only 1 phone uses them.

          • why would they? Only 1 phone uses them.

            the same reason hotels have a dock for only one brand device — Apple’s. they have market power.

            you can get cheap lightning cables. i dont know why there won’t also be cheap lightning headphones in time.

          • site7000

            There wouldn’t be cheap Lightening headphones because Lightening headphones will need be receiving a digital signal and require a DAC and amplifier built in.

          • rmonster

            1) Lightning. (Lightening is what you do when something is too dark.)

            2) The DAC can be built into the plug of the headphones, and the headphones will be able to draw power from the phone, so it shouldn’t be any problem to provide enough power for an amplifier.

          • matthewmaurice

            Adding parts and expense AND power draw just to get back to where we are now? Where’s the updside?

          • rmonster

            1) As has been stated about a zillion times in the thread, fewer ports to seal against water, if waterproofing is a goal, which it’s rumoured to be

            2) One less thing to be inside the phone, since Apple is always looking for space in there (that might mean slightly more battery, or just lighter phones, or some other thing that we don’t know about–there’s a lot of possibilities, even for such a small device since the tolerances are so small)

            3) More communication with the headphones. Basically, Apple can make ‘smart’ headphones, or have the phone react in a smart way. You might even be able to build noise cancelling tech into the phone by putting a mic on the headphones and having that relayed into the phone itself, then it does all the signal processing and pushes out a noise-cancelled version of the thing you’re listening to back out to the headphones. Certainly, you’d be able to at least power headphones that were noise cancelling from the phone, since it’ll be able to draw power from the port. I think you’re overlooking the potential power of having the communications port also be the audio port.

            4) More other companies’ licensing money so they can make headphones for Apple’s devices (this is an Apple benefit, obviously, not necessarily a consumer benefit)

            The extra power draw is probably a wash, since they ALREADY have to power a small amplifier and DAC inside the phone to drive the headphones.

            In the end, even the extra expense is probably not much of a concern to most people. I replace my headphones every few years because they wear out (my earbuds, anyway), and I still see people using the Apple supplied earbuds all the time. My good desktop headphones are plugged into a mixer that’s plugged into my iPhone dock, which means this change wouldn’t affect me at all from that perspective.

            I think for quite a few people–possibly the majority, though I have no way to know that right now–this won’t impact their lives at all. For some of us, it’ll be a little while until headphone manufacturers catch up and start releasing Lightning-based headphones in quantity (some already exist, but they’re not exactly mass-market).

          • matthewmaurice

            It’s pretty clear that no-matter how you slice it, the result will be less choice for iPhone headphones and increased expense for the choices available. While there are likely some performance and design advantages, the real question is can even Apple spin those (internally as well as externally) as out-weighing the, literal and potentially non-trivial, cost to consumers, many of whom are extremely price-conscious (c.f. 16GB iPhones), of going Lightning-only?

          • rmonster

            True, I can’t contest most of that. However, price conscious consumers will probably be satisfied with the headphones apple ships in the box, whereas people with nice headphones have already shown a willingness to pay. At least in the short term, I suspect it’ll be mostly the status quo. The real question is if Apple can get big headphone manufacturers to make compatible headphones.

          • rmonster

            (Worth noting: the Lightning port already has an analogue audio breakout, so the DAC doesn’t have to be shifted to the headphones.)

          • mjm1138

            Who is saying NEVER? I just don’t like the idea of a proprietary standard based on lightning, that no other phone/tablet/PC/audio component maker will use. You’re presenting a false dichotomy.

          • because the naysayers are saying “not now”. if not now, when? it has to change some day. and if/when apple makes it that day, i dont have reason to resist it other than “because legacy”.

          • site7000

            Straw man. The critics aren’t saying “no change,” they are saying “no Lightening.”

          • Mo

            It’s not just tech bloggers who are whining about this prospect. It’s also noodle-head consumers who haven’t been paying attention to similar changes like this.

          • site7000

            I understand you won’t ever make use of either type of connector, and hence don’t have any skin in the game, but Apple is proposing a PROPRIETARY plug for a UNIVERSAL accessory. That means everyone who likes headphones that aren’t specifically limited to a Lightening connection will require an adapter. Have you heard of a things called STANDARDS? It’s a process for resolving problems like this. Then we would get a successor for the 3.5 jack that all consumers and manufacturers can benefit from. Can you explain why it shouldn’t be handled in such a rational way?

          • rmonster

            One less port on the phone to seal if they want to make it waterproof. That’s the justification I’ve been hearing, and it’s a reasonable one. I’d definitely trade waterproof-ness for an audio port.

          • atxzum

            The entire human race =! iPhone users.

            If the 3.5mm jack were removed, and Apple shipped a nice pair of stock lightning headphones with the iPhone 7, a user would not be able to use those headphones on say, Macbook Pro or an iMac.

            I’m not convinced a different type of connector is really going to add a lot of value for most users.

          • since iPhone-users < human race, it makes it even less dramatic to migrate to different headphones. hell they already sell lightning headphones.

            if it allowed for, say, a waterproof iPhone? you bet id take it. (thats just a guess, i have no idea what their reasons are until they say so).

          • atxzum

            The current iPhone lightning port jack is susceptible to water damage. I don’t think the waterproofing ability lives or dies on this port.

          • as i said, its only a guess. an example of a conceivable tradeoff which could make the compromise worth it. if my phone got better, i wouldnt care so much about what type of headphone port it uses. I’m a techie software dev, and the only headphones i own are A) white earbuds that came with it, and B) wireless.

            the point being, a bunch of us care more about the device than the headphone port type.

          • site7000

            Of course you don’t mind a proprietary headphone port. You use wireless. That’s not the majority use case.

          • Prof. Peabody

            Your making a reducto ad absurdium here.

            This isn’t just any plug that has come and gone. The phone jack was invented 137 years ago and has been in continual use since.

            It’s not like switching from one variety of USB to another. This is a very pervasive plug type with deep, deep roots that is in billions of devices around the world.

          • stsk

            Well, the phone jack was invented in the 19th century, but the MINI or 3.5 mm jack came MUCH MUCH later (don’t remember when, but not earlier than the 1950’s.) While the phone jack has been in continuous use since the days of manual telephone switchboards, the near-complete REPLACEMENT of the phone jack by the 3.5 mm mini-jack for headphones within my lifetime kind of cuts the knees out of your argument.

          • rmonster

            And you’re making an Appeal to Tradition. Just because the jack was a good solution for the last 137 years doesn’t mean that it’s the best solution now. It takes up space that Apple doesn’t want to sacrifice. They can output sound over their lightning connector already, so it’s a redundant port.

          • JohnDoey

            The thing you are not recognizing is the existing pain of the analog phone jack because you are used to it. And you are imagining that going digital will mean more pain, when it will actually mean much less pain because fundamentally, digital can be smarter and self-configuring and adaptable where the analog phone jack cannot.

            And you are minimizing the pain of analog audio by pretending there is just one analog cable. There is not. Some headphones have a 1/8th inch plug with 2 rings, some have an 1/8th inch plug with 3 rings (the extra is for the microphone) and that won’t work with some extension cables or with some sound sources, and some headphones have a 1/4 inch cable. Further, the size of the phone plug casing is not standardized, so you often cannot plug the plug into the jack because it simply won’t fit. For example, just the other day I was in a car that had an 1/8th inch phone plug cable hanging out of the console, so I plugged my iPhone into it and it didn’t work, because the phone plug was too fat to fit into the hole in my iPhone case, so it could not connect. If it was Lightning, it would have connected, because Lightning plug enclosures are a standard size. In this case, the phone plug did not go in at all, but in other cases, I have had it go halfway in so you get shorted-out sound. Some people can’t recognize that is what they are hearing and just suffer with that terrible sound. That is all analog pain that you are just used to, so you don’t notice it.

            Lightning is not exotic because it uses the USB spec. Everything that has an analog phone jack these days has USB.

            Your digital headphones will likely work like an Apogee MiC, which is a digital microphone, and basically a mirror image of a digital headphone. I use my MiC with my iPad mini 2 and iPhone 4S and MacBook Pro interchangeably even though the iPad mini 2 has Lightning, the iPhone 4S has iPod dock, and the Mac has USB. That is because the MiC came with 3 cables, all of which have a connector on one end that goes into the MiC, and then on the other end the cables are Lightning, iPod dock, and the big USB you see on a Mac or PC.

            The MiC travels in a little case, and in a pocket of the little case, there are the 3 cables. If your headphones are not a disposable kind, then they likely also travel in a little case that can has a little pocket with 2 or 3 cables in there for any situation. Today they come with 2 analog cables: one with a microphone in it and one without, plus they may also have a charging cable to recharge the battery in the headphones. The analog cable without the microphone is there today solely because the one with the microphone won’t work with some gear. So you are already managing multiple cables just to get a crappy little analog microphone in there. In the future, you’ll manage 2 digital cables (Lightning and desktop USB) and that cable will also charge the battery in your headphones, or maybe the headphones won’t even need a battery because they are always able to get power from your iPhone or Mac through the same cable that is bringing the sound (because Lightning and USB both have power.) Or maybe they charge while you listen with a wired connection, but when you pull the wired connection, the headphones run on battery over Bluetooth. So if your headphones run out of battery, the music doesn’t have to stop, you just have to switch to a wired connection to charge-and-listen until the battery is charged up enough to go to Bluetooth again.

            So what we are really talking about is replacing the 3 analog cables inside, for example, a Beats Studio headphone package, with 2 digital cables, one Lightning and one USB. That is less pain, less complexity.

            Sure, choosing the right digital cable depending on what device I am plugging a digital headphone or Apogee MiC into is work. I wouldn’t characterize it as pain, but it is work. However, it is much, much, much less work than an analog headphone or microphone because the digital cables are self-configuring and the analog cables are not. When I plug the MiC into a device, the MiC and device talk to each other and setup the best possible sound. For example, when plugged into iPad or iPhone, the MiC works in 16-bit audio, but when plugged into a Mac, the MiC works in 24-bit audio. I don’t have to know anything about audio bits or do any configuration to enjoy the much better 24-bit sound when using a Mac. I don’t have to know about 48v phantom power like I have to know about when using an analog microphone. I don’t have to know about gain like I have to know about when using an analog microphone. The result of this is that even though MiC is a tiny (very tiny) little $199 microphone, it typically provides the audio quality of a much larger, much more expensive analog microphone.

            All this works the same for digital headphones, except that they are like a mirror image where the sound comes out of the device instead of going in. Your digital headphones will self-configure for much better sound, so that the sound quality you are getting is that of a much more expensive analog headphone.

            Further, imagine a kid who gets their first iPhone 6 and they have to learn that the headphones plug in here and everything else that is wired plus in there. With iPhone 7 and 8 and 9 and etc. all the wires plug into the one and only port, which is Lightning. That is much less pain also. Multiplied by millions and millions of users. The choice will be wireless or wired, as appropriate to your taste.

        • stsk

          Mini “phone” not “phono” Phono refers to what are now called RCA jacks. Phone refers to what are now used for electric guitars (mostly). XLR is “balanced” vs. “unbalanced” for phone and mini phone, and has generally completely different impedance and voltage. It requires much more to convert to either phono or phone, than phone to mini-phone, for example. A simple adapter plug won’t do it for XLR to anything else, but you’re right – XLR is much more resistant to hum, but 2 XLR plugs (required for stereo) weigh more than the entire phone.

          • Good thoughtful info. Yeah, phono was a typo, but from one stickler to another, thx, good catch!

      • Better technical solution is debatable. Phono to mini-phono was just a size change. That adapter cost pennies and came with most incompatible devices. Switching from analog with an common jack to digital with a proprietary jack is a whole different animal.

        • I’m sure the DAC will be pennies, too.

          • So you’ll get one free with every pair of third-party headphones and not have to pay $29 to get one from Apple? I don’t see that happening.

          • I have no idea what Apple will charge. But the chip itself will be cheap, and others will sell adapters cheap.

      • Harry_Beaver

        I wish I had your ears where I could listen to digital music. My poor ears only can’t appreciate ones and zeros as they only understand analog sounds.

        Did you perform a firmware update to your ears?

        So many new devices (from other manufacturers) have incorporated the Lightning connector. Gosh…I’ve lost count how many non- products use Lightning years after its release.

    • Prof. Peabody

      Apple adapters of any kind are generally in the hundred dollar range. The adapter should be in the box in this case though.

  • Plus the lightning port would allow wireless headphones to charge, while still listening to audio, yeah? Just a thought.

    The adapter will be essential in the short term, especially if you use your headphones with other devices, including (very frequently) your MacBook. The benefit of higher quality audio would probably be lost with the adapter, which could be a really great way to encourage wide adoption.

    Also, if the lightning port allows for improved recording quality, via the headphone mic or any other external mic, that would be really amazing.

    • Bill Voigt

      The charging question is an important one for me, too. I’m often talking/listening via earbuds on teleconferences for hours a day at my desk, all the while my phone is charging. If a charging pass-through wasn’t allowed while on headphones, that may be problematic.

  • mjm1138

    Umm…unless someone has invented “digital” voice coils and magnets and I didn’t hear about it, the sound is still getting converted to an analogue signal before it reaches the speakers in your headphones, right? What reason do I have to believe that the d/a converter embedded in a pair of headphones or earbuds would be better than the dac in the phone? Argue for it for thinness or whatever, but an argument from sound quality doesn’t really make sense unless you want to start making Pono-type arguments.

    • Yes, I’m curious about that, too. Jim, you’re a major expert on audio, so definitely curious for your thoughts. I’ve mentioned to others before that I thought a lightning cable would provide higher quality audio, but on occasions engineers have indeed rebutted that claim.

    • Nicholas Chan

      the problem i’m having with my Bose headphones is that my triple A battery for noise cancellation inside needs replacement every 2-3 days (especially when i forget to switch it off). would be nice to have it powered via iPhone.

      • mjm1138

        I don’t think people will be too happy about it if their headphones start draining the phone battery to power noise cancellation. Apple already gets a lot of flack about iOS battery life; this use case would make it that much worse.

        • Nicholas Chan

          my iPhone 6+ has been consistently ending the day at 40% except when I’m on vacation. removing headphone jack means more room for battery.

          i’m assuming if you’re enabling noise cancellation, you’ll be using the same amount of power as audio over bluetooth headphones.

  • Nicholas Chan

    unfortunately if iPhone 7 is sticking with lightning, we’ll need adapters for our Macbooks to plug in our lightning headphones into.

    or maybe the headphones are usb-type c and there would be a lightning adapter?

    • Or maybe the iPhone 7 will ditch lightening and be USB-C?

      • Nicholas Chan

        hard to see. apple a few months ago released a keyboard, mouse, and a trackpad that charges over lightning. i don’t think they’ll ditch lightning that soon.

  • atxzum

    Excited for the possibility of carrying two pairs of headphones: one for my macbook and one for my phone.

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  • Still not a fan of this idea. The gains would be negligible. Wireless, hi-def, digital, earbuds aren’t going to make surrounding noise go away. It’s just going to cost more money to get the same quality of sound. And I don’t think anyone wants another dongle/adapter or another thing to charge.

    • i dont plan on using an adapter. i use wireless today and I’m fine with it. i dont have a listening room — i use my headphones while working, at the gym, to talk to people, etc. most people won’t care about the lessened quality. and for the rest, you can get adapters.

      • site7000

        You have certainly made the case that you “don’t care” because quality is of no concern to you and you won’t be using a headphone port in any event, but you still haven’t made the case of why a PROPRIETARY plug is necessary. The screamingly obvious answer is to replace lightening with USB-C now, since they are going to do it eventually anyway. They probably won’t do it that quickly, but that doesn’t make the choice of Lightening for headphones any more sensible.

        • Actually, they don’t have to replace Lightning with USB-C. Not sure if you’re aware, but the iPad Pro and its Lightning cable support USB-3.x speed.

          I saw this coming years ago, when Apple showed how it could improve transfer speeds over Thunderbolt just by swapping cables with different internal chips and materials.

          Sorry, but I think Lightning is fairly adaptable, and will be around for quite a while…

          • site7000

            You missed my point, which is that Lightning as an audio port is needlessly proprietary. Any of the advantages of Lightning can be accomplished by USB-C, which would have the advantage of being a universal interface for all other attached devices. Replacing Lightning with USB-C is nothing but win.

          • Understand it’s proprietary, but my point was that Lightning is more versatile than USB-C,

            As I mentioned it’s already transitioned from USB 2 to USB 3, and yet it’s using the same connector and it’s still backwards compatible.

            Not to mention that USB-C ports and connectors are still fairly scare among the vast majority of existing PCs and Macs. It could be a standard worth shooting for in a few years, but not today when almost nothing can connect to it.

          • site7000

            You’re right, Thunderbolt is agnostic. So run it over USB-C, which isn’t proprietary and runs everything else. Apple has the opportunity to be the market leader into USB-C if they act now.

  • atxzum

    What exactly is the value add of moving audio to lightning?

    • Nicholas Chan

      power noise cancellation headphones without needing a triple A battery for one.

      • atxzum

        Has that functionality been confirmed?

        • Nicholas Chan

          nothing is confirmed. no one knows if the headphone jack is even going away.

      • mjm1138

        Rechargeable headphones would solve that problem instead of turning it into a phone battery capacity problem.

        • Nicholas Chan

          no, i don’t want to worry about yet another device to charge.

      • Prof. Peabody

        Yeah, but “noise cancelling headphones” are really a bit of a boondoggle to start with. Most don’t really work at all. You can get comparable results wrapping your scarf around your head.

        • komocode

          Try on the Bose QC15 or QC25. I hated noise cancelling headphones in the past because they degraded the sound quality too much for a not-so effective noise cancellation effect, but Bose seem to hit it out of the park with those pairs.

          • Prof. Peabody

            Well I have a pair of top end Beats at the moment. My point was only that “noise cancelling” is one of those selling points that isn’t really true, not that it degrades the sound quality (which of course it does). It doesn’t really “cancel” the noise as much as it just muffles it. Everything outside can be clearly heard, just muffled. As I said previously, it’s really about the same as wrapping a scarf around your head or putting your hands over your ears.

          • komocode

            I highly recommend you try on the Bose. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference in noise cancellation effect. From what I’ve heard, the Beats Studio noise cancelling headphones doesn’t even come close to the QC15’s or QC25’s in terms of noise cancellation effect, but I haven’t personally tried on the Beats Pro.

          • Wow. The noise cancelling function on my headphones is MUCH better than what you’re describing. (I think I paid $40, though they were originally somewhere in the $100-200 range.)

  • StruckPaper

    The cleanest solution is to go exclusively wireless – BT or WiFi. No more messy wires. Sure, you have to add batteries. But so much cleaner than Lightning audio.

    • Nicholas Chan

      absolutely not. whenever i turn on my headphones, my headphones seem to connect to my iPhone first. then i have to manually goto my ipad settings to force connect the bluetooth headphones.

      but then, when i receive a new email, my iphone takes over my bluetooth headphones to play a mail notification noise. i then have to manually disconnect my iphone from my bluetooth so that my bluetooth can continue receiving sound from my ipad.

      • StruckPaper

        It is a simple problem to solve when you have a dedicated accessory.

        • komocode

          so you want me to buy two headphones?

          now i have the problem of “which headphones is connected to which device”

          scratch that, i would need to buy 4 headphones. 2 Macbooks, 1 iPad, 1 iPhone.

          • StruckPaper

            How would that be different if Apple went with Lightning audio instead? You haven’t thought this thru and are simply trolling.

          • komocode

            You’re saying go bluetooth/Wifi exclusively. That means my wired headphones will not work at all. I do not want bluetooth headphones. I want one pair of wired headphones and I can plug into whichever device I want. I’ll deal with adapters if needed. Bluetooth headphones give a bad user experience when I have multiple devices. I am not buying 4x pairs of $250 noise cancelling headphones if that was what you were suggesting. How is that trolling?

    • Jim McPherson

      Have you tried watching movies with BT headphones? The lag is horrendous. The lips are about 3-4 seconds ahead of the words.

  • Matthew Shettler

    The way Apple does things, they’re more likely to make the phone smaller than to add extra battery, and to promote it as choice made for waterproofing. It’s a typical Apple move, so we can expect to say goodbye to $15 headphones or hello $30 adaptors.

    The question though, is what happens to Beats headphones? Do they double the number of SKUs to offer a lightning cable option? Or include an adaptor in all new headphones? Switch all headphones to lightning and include adaptors for analogue jacks? Or only feature bluetooth models in advertising? That last one sounds about right.

    • atxzum

      Good point.

      Not sure where all these waterproofing ideas are coming from though. The port is still susceptible to water damage. It’s still a hole with electronics in it

      • Matthew Shettler

        Waterproofing is part of the design of Lightning. It was in the news in 2012 when Apple disclosed that fact in MFi vendor agreement documents.

        “Lightning I/O is waterproof. So, knowing the dynamically assigned pins of the Lightning connector won’t corrode or degrade if dunked into water should make you feel good.”

  • sleepcountry

    This is a hell of a lot more of a pain in the ass than dropping a serial port or floppy disk. It’s one thing to hang a dongle off a computer, quite another to hang an adapter off something as portable as an iPhone.

    It annoys me to see everyone giving this ridiculous rumour the time of day… I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • is it any more of a PITA than shifting from 30-pin to lightning? i dont see how. i now use different cables and accessories for my i-devices than i did a few years ago. never looked back.

      • sleepcountry

        Absolutely. Changing data interfaces froze out a bunch of consumer Apple accessories, but dropping the headphone port freezes out connectivity to ALL audio devices ever made. Anything ranging from thousands of headphones, car stereos, bookshelf systems to professional mixing boards.

        To wit, I’ll be damned if I ever spend over a hundred dollars on a set of headphones that only works on my Apple devices.

        • because theres no such thing as an adapter? are you reading what you’re typing?

          • sleepcountry

            And what are the chances that such a necessarily tiny $30 adapter would have a half-decent DAC and amplifier? The best headphones/speakers in the world are going to sound only as good as that cheap DAC.

          • sleepcountry

            How’s that a solution when sound quality is going to be only as good as the crummy DAC/amplifier in a tiny $30 adapter?

      • ChanceDM

        Me personally, no, because I use BT with everything. I see headphone issue as different from charger, because those chargers are only used for iPhones/iPads, so it’s only a pain if the iPad/iPhone use different chargers, but even then, you must likely have unique charging cables for each iDevice anyway. Even in case of microUSB, it’s a slight pain, but again, each device has it’s own cable. For headphones, however, people theoretically use the same headphones for multiple devices. I’m not saying I disagree with removal of headphone jack, but it’s not quite the same as a charger cable.

        • switching cable types was pretty disruptive. every single 30-pin dock and accessory was rendered obsolete. i had to replace my car’s head unit. but it was a temporary pain point.

          id wager normal, every-day people, use the white earbuds that came with it. they will get phased onto any new port when the devices get replaced… so its no more of a big deal that the 30-pin shift.

          • ChanceDM

            hmm, yeah, didn’t think about accessories. I think it’ll be something people complain about at first, like the optical drive, but then they’ll get used to it.

  • Poki

    While I agree, the availability of a small adapter is a must. I own a very nice pair of Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2 and don’t plan to part with them anytime soon, and I’m sure there are many others out there with even more expensive headphones for on the go (like Marshall’s €1,500 ones).

  • chjode

    Sure thing, I’ll just carry around yet another adapter…

    While I personally don’t use my 3.5mm connection very often, I know almost every school and university has that connection in their classrooms and those are used all the time.

    That said, if they swap the silly lightning connector for USB C, I’m all for it because then at least we’ll have a unified standard connection for smartphones and computers.

    And on your last point about battery size, Apple will continue to make the iPhone thinner and thinner as the expense of a larger battery. Heck, why not stick with the iPhone 4 thickness for the iPhone 6+ and gain another hour or two of battery life?

    • do you still carry your 30-pin-to-lightning adapter? i dont. in fact, despite buying one, i dont think i ever used it.

      • chjode

        In my car, yes. And I have to keep a few of those around the house for various accessories.

        • lord, i can’t imagine using a years-old 30-pin accessory any longer. even with the adapter some of them won’t work properly, downgrading to only charging, if even that. i upgraded my car stereo and my household devices. and i like the replacements better — far easier to plug in and slimmer profile.

          • site7000

            You replace everything whenever Apple changes a connector? To rich for my blood.

    • Poki

      You could just let the adapter plugged in to your headphone cable all the time (provided it’s small enough), so you basically wouldn’t need to carry anything extra.

  • ack — the sky is falling. i must return indoors. have fun without me…

  • Ozu

    Apple has now released four bluetooth devices that have a lightning connector exclusively for charging—the latest mouse, keyboard, AppleTV Remote and Apple Pen. If Apple is ditching the headphone jack in the iPhone, doesn’t it seem more likely that they’re doing the same thing with their earduds? That is, the new earbuds won’t be lightning earbuds; they’ll be bluetooth earbuds that charge via lightning?

  • deviladv

    “One of the main complaints from people that I’ve seen is that their old headphones will no longer work with the new iPhones. That’s a pretty big assumption to make. We don’t know for sure, but Apple—or a third party—could make an adapter that would allow audio to pass through the Lightning connector and into your older headphones.”

    Jim, this rumor, while unconfirmed, doesn’t tell us one way or another what’s going to happen. It’s the uncertainty that has people upset. No, we can’t assume there will be an adaptor. I think it’s unfair to think concern isn’t warranted. To use an old 30 pin with a new phone, you had to buy an adaptor and that adaptor was like $19 or $29 from Apple. Not cheap until a bunch of third party companies started making them reliably.

    “I would expect Apple headphones to adopt the new connector, of course, but I don’t see any reason people couldn’t use their old headphones. I don’t know why you would want to, but you could.”

    I could think of some reasons. Because they only have a budget for a new phone not new headphones. Because they have hardware that requires the headphone jack. Because an extra adaptor creates additional bulk in the pocket. Because an adaptor might not be as strong as a headphone jack and be damaged as it wiggles (Apple makes some damn strong headphone jacks). Because Bluetooth headphones are typically limited to only two devices you can pair with and pairing is a bit of a pain if you have three or more devices you want to listen to things on. Because people want to use one set of headphones across multiple devices, and only apple iOS devices have lightning ports. I want to use headphones on my iPad, Iphone, and Mac, but suddenly I have to wait until all three have an appropriate port?

    That last one is the big one. The rest to me are kind of edge cases.

    I think saying there are no problems and that you don’t understand the other side of the argument is basically saying you aren’t listening to the argument at all in order to understand it.

    PS noise cancelling is often done in the headphones already, so I don’t understand your noise cancelling example.

    • inquiringbeard

      “PS noise cancelling is often done in the headphones already, so I don’t understand your noise cancelling example.”

      Right – for noise cancelling to be effective, the mic picking up the surrounding noise needs to be pretty close to the drivers in the headphones. Your iPhone being in your pocket would be mostly useless in this regard.

  • inquiringbeard

    “the audio would sound better through the Lightning connector than the older headphone jack”

    What I worry about here is that the DAC and headphone amp in the iPhone are actually pretty damn good for a consumer device. We will now be asking headphone manufacturers to not only include decent DACs, but also decent headphone amps, and be able to implement them well electronically – one only has to listen to a cross-section of current Bluetooth headphones to know how that is working out (although Bluetooth chips certainly add to the complexity and cost as well). Marco’s mentions of bluetooth headphones are a good summary.

    I do agree that Apple will always be looking ahead and making decisions that drive progress harder than most companies. This has worked out really well for all of us in the past. But as a company that has “music in their DNA,” I am concerned that removing their technical expertise from the equation in this area may result in a worse experience for users.

    This, of course, could be entirely rectified by whatever EarPod replacements Apple decides to include with the 7 – though the EarPods themselves do not give me much hope.

  • “I would expect Apple headphones to adopt the new connector, of course, but I don’t see any reason people couldn’t use their old headphones. I don’t know why you would want to, but you could.”

    A surprising comment from such an esteemed writer. When you’ve invested hundreds of dollars on high quality headphones or in-ear phones, of course you’d want to be able to continue to use them. I have top of the line Etymotic in-ear phones and have no interest in outlaying hundreds of dollars more just to get back to status quo. So naturally I would buy an adaptor to allow continued use of my equipment.

  • Prof. Peabody

    What would make sense is actually putting in the lightning headphones but leaving the analogue jack for a season, so that we don’t all have to immediately go out and buy new headphones.

    Apple will almost certainly not do this, and that in a nutshell, is why a lot of folks don’t like Apple.

    Not everyone is a millionaire from California. I pay roughly a thousand dollars a year for the privilege of owning a 16GB iPhone. Next year, it’s a hundred or more extra for new headphones (if they are actually available at launch).

  • zaph

    Consider that I have a couple of Bose noise-cancelling headphones at aroung $300 each so replacement is not a real option. Noise-cancelling headphones a basic requirement in many work situations such as software development. Now I have to add a dongle to them? Really? If Apple does that the iPhone 7 will be the first iPhone I will not buy and I have purchased each model. I’m really getting tired of Jony putting thinness ahead of usability.

    • rmonster

      This may very well be a real usability factor for them–word on the street is they want this one to be waterproof. Removing the audio jack is just one less port to seal.

      For my part, I also listen to my phone at work with headphones, but I have it on a standard Apple dock, which has an audio jack at the back. It charges at the same time that I listen. (And I also pass it through a small mixer so my PC sound and my phone sound are on different controls, which is super handy in game production.)

  • whl

    I use my iPhone entirely with earbuds. As my iPhone is an iPhone 3GS, as you can imagine, when I have a long phone call, I leave the phone plugged into the charger. How will I be able to charge and listen at the same time with this use of the Lightning port? Will there be a power hub I’ll have to carry as well, a passthru port on SOME earbuds? Like the single USB C port on the MacBook, it seems elegance at the expense of functionality.

    • rmonster

      It’s likely there’ll be an adaptor with a passthrough, yes. There are also rumours that this iPhone will use inductive charging, so you may be able to just lay it on a charging mat while you have your headphones plugged in. An iPhone dock would probably also work, since it’s got an audio jack at the back. (An audio jack that works with remotes, actually–I just tested it with my earbuds.)

  • Mo

    Oh, of course there’d be third-party adapters. For heaven’s sake.

  • MarcoL

    I don’t care if they eliminate the headphone jack or not, but the writer of this article doesn’t know what he is talking about. Traditional 3.5 mm connectors have no bearing on the quality of the audio. It’s used on hi-fi equipment all the time. Apple’s AD conversion circuitry and headphone amplifier are already well regarded. There’s little reason to believe that most headphones with an integrated AD converter and amplifier would sound any better. Sure, somebody could build such a product, but they could already do it now if they wanted. Apple seems to be adding analog capability to the lightning port which will enable people to use a passive adapter to plug in their existing headphones. It’s going to sound EXACTLY the same. If they decide to support 24 bit, high resolution recordings they could do it on future 3.5 mm connections just as easily as passing it through the lightning connector. If you want better sound, buy better headphones.

  • Shannon Routley

    The vast majority of consumers are not going to notice any improvement with the lightning connector over the headphone jack. The bottleneck is not the 1/8inch analog out, it is the transducers of the average consumer headphone set. Just for the heck of it, I’m listening to a pair of Audeze LCD2 directly out of the headphone jack of an iPhone 6. Yes, Audeze, the same company who is smartly marketing their ‘next-gen’ of headphones to work directly out of the lightning jack (see the EL8 Titanium and the new Sine announced at CES 2016).

    The iPhone 6 has a perfectly good DAC and the amp is decent. The science behind creating DACs and amps is age-old now. With the right app you can play FLAC files and 24bit files (limited to 48khz). Truthfully, you’d need to be a bat to hear anything better than 16bit-44.1 (the noise floor is already very low, and Nyquist Theorem is sound. 24bit is useful for studios and mix engineers but a 16bit final master is fine). The quality is already there, even a very high-quality MP3 it has detail that most people can’t hear because the transducers of their headphones/speakers (followed by their amp, and then DACs) are limited. And even then, it’s not a big deal if they are enjoying their music. Our brains fill in the blanks, and you won’t notice what you are missing until you hear it.

    The sound quality out of my O2 Amplifier and DAC is better than the iPhone 6, but not a giant leap. The biggest improvement is the headphones themselves. Anyone looking for an improved listening experience would be best to invest in a better pair of headphones. But caution, there are a number of pricey headphones that aren’t that much better than cheaper sets. You really have to do a bit of research.

    I’m just hoping Apple doesn’t start pushing the whole hi-res angle. If they want to make a thinner, more efficient device great. There is room for wireless audio and there are many practical reasons people on the move would prefer wireless audio with a portable computer/phone. It is the future, and it will improve beyond BlueTooth 4.0.

    But, if they start banding ’24-bit’ ‘hi-res’ and trying to convince consumers to download/stream massive bandwidth wasting files – then its pure marketing shill along the lines of Tidal and Neil Young’s Pono.

    Also, a converter from the lightning port to analog is not much different than what is already going on with that ‘old’ headphone jack you already have. At some point in time, the signal needs to get converted from digital-to-analog. So expect a converter to be a bit of clunky dongle (actually it may be quite slim see Audeze’s new EL8 Titanium as it has a DAC/amp on its cable).

    Some headphone recommendations that you can enjoy right out of your headphone: Oppo PM-3, Astell & Kern AK T1p, Beyerdynamic T5p, Sennheiser HD598, Fidelio X2, Audeze EL8, Hifiman HE-400S and 400i, not too mention the many quality in-ear monitors out there.

    Bottom line. Apple is not going to revolutionize audio quality. But they may just sell a boatload of wireless Beats.

  • yummyyummyfly

    Non press-release press-release.

  • Josh Ockert

    This seems like another reckless change-for-change’s-sake, like replacing mDNSresponder with discoveryd or most of the more egregious UI mistakes of iOS 7/8 (many of which can be turned off now, thankfully).

    The only difference is, when and if Apple comes to realize how terrible of an idea this is, it will prove much harder to backtrack on a hardware change than it has been to backtrack on software changes.

    I’ve owned an iPhone since the original 4GB aluminum model in 2007. I am struggling to imagine continuing to do so if the standard audio jack is removed.

    Recall that Apple has previously worked on phones that were incompatible with the standard 3.5mm jack. It didn’t work out so well. I’m not going back to the bad old days of 2005 and I don’t think I’m the only one.

  • JohnDoey

    I understand the upgrade weariness that many people feel, but the complaints about this are really absurd if you understand the technology at all. If you have adapter fatigue, complain about the simultaneous existence of USB 3.0 USB-C plugs and USB 3.0 Lightning plugs in Apple products. No plug in the history of Apple products was ever more ripe to be Steved than the headphone jack. Complain about every other plug but the headphone jack.

    The iPhone 5/6 series has three (3) audio outputs:

    • Bluetooth/AirPlay is wireless and digital and matured into a true audio output during the 2010’s

    • Lightning is wired and digital and invented in the 2010’s

    • the phone jack (not headphone jack, but phone jack, as in telephone) is wired and analog and invented in the 19th century (yes, the 19th century — the 1800’s) and is the plug that switchboard operators literally plugged in and out by hand to connect your phone call when you were a kid, if you are 100 years old right now

    … which one of the 3 do you think Apple is going to stop using?

    Your iPhone is a tiny device that can plug into potentially millions of accessories. Not everything can be on board. Now that Bluetooth and Lightning are both better audio outputs than the 1874 phone jack, how can you justify building and shipping millions and millions of phone jacks to all of the future iPhone users? The only true function of the iPhone phone jack today is to encourage the user to use the worst of the 3 audio outputs out of habit, and in turn to encourage headphone and audio gear manufacturers to enable that habit out of convenience. But everybody gets higher expense and reduced functionality as a reward.

    A key thing to understand is that you are hearing worse sound and you are suffering an unnecessary technical overhead because you are using a 19th century phone jack for your audio output. If the headphones or audio system is connected to the iPhone digitally through Lightning, they can self-configure for best sound and most ease of use, and even for safety, for example by preventing huge volume spikes which are what damages hearing (if you listen to something loud and it fades up from soft, your ears can adjust to prevent them being damaged, but if you go from silence to really loud in a millisecond, your ears get damaged.)

    And how much would yet another dongle to make anothe Apple product compatible with the rest of the world cost?

    The phone jack on your current iPhone is already an adapter and you already pay for it. Possibly more than US$29. All that is purportedly happening with iPhone 7 is the analog phone jack adapter is being moved outside of the iPhone case as the final step of phasing it out completely.

    Ultimately, this makes your iPhone 8 cheaper because it will have only 2 audio outputs (one wired, one wireless) instead of 3. The analog phone jack adapter will be gone and you will not have to pay for it in your iPhone 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or all the Windows Phones you use after that (I kid.)

    This is so not arbitrary on Apple’s part, and is so not a way to get you to buy dongles. There are many, many technical reasons to finish phasing out the analog phone jack:

    • because the phone jack gets electromagnetic noise that you can hear, just because it is inside the all-digital, many radios iPhone enclosure

    • because the phone jack is too big for future, thinner iPhones — not just big on the outside, but inside the enclosure there is an analog audio amp, a digital to analog converter, and mounting to make the phone jack strong enough to weather repeated headphone insertions and removals — all that can go, and your iPhone can continue to shrink in physical size and volume until maybe it is the thickness of a business card

    • because the digital-to-analog converter and amplifier don’t belong in the iPhone, they belong in the headphones or audio system, which enables them to self-configure, to come in various qualities for different users (tiny earbuds can use a basic digital-to-analog converter, giant over-the-ear headphones can use a much more sophisticated converter) and to match the digital-to-analog converter and the amplifier to those headphones and design the whole thing as one, which enables a $100 set of digital headphones to sound like a $400 pair of analog headphones

    • because now that we have 24/96 HD audio content we can purchase, download, and listen to with our iPhones, the 16/44 analog-to-digital converter in the iPhone phone jack is no longer one-size-fits-all and therefore it is a waste to ship it to every single iPhone user this year, and even more of a waste next year and so on as we all move to HD audio — going forward, the digital audio output is the one-size-fits-all because it simply sends out the waveform from the content you are playing to whatever small or large or cheap or expensive headphones and/or speakers you are using

    • because most of today’s headphones that aren’t disposable have a cable that can be removed and simply replaced with a digital one with Lightning on it

    • because the phone jack is 150 years old and no longer technically necessary

    Again, out of all the progress that you could fight, and all the upgrade fatigue and adapter fatigue you could have, the phone jack is the worst thing to defend. In a few years you will be embarrassed by your skepticism today. You don’t realize how much you are destroying the sound of your iPhone and audio gear by hooking them up with analog connections. You are limiting your digital content and digital iPhone by making them imitate a phone switchboard from 1874, and limiting your headphones and audio system by making them receive an imitation of a phone switchboard from 1874 as their input.

    If you know the history of computer displays, at one point they were big analog tubes hooked up to the computer via an analog cable, and inside the computer, a digital image was converted into an analog image and sent out over that cable. Then later, we got flat panel digital displays, but computer makers (other than Apple) still hooked the digital displays to the digital computer with an analog cable for years and years. The digital computer converted its digital image into an analog image and sent it over an analog cable where at the other end, the analog image was then converted to a digital image by a digital display. MADNESS. Millions and millions of people spent years looking at fuzzy images on their digital displays for no reason at all except manufacturer inertia.

    Well, that is where we are with your headphone jack. You are listening to a fuzzy audio image because your digital iPhone is converting your digital music into low-quality analog music to basically imitate a 1960’s stereo or a 1980’s Walkman so you can continue to use the same old analog cable with your headphones. MADNESS.

    • Shannon Routley

      Saying the phone jack was invented in 1874 and therefore must be obsolete is a poor argument. There are many foundational aspects of technology who have their roots in the 20th or even 19th century. Old doesn’t immediately equate obsolete. The jack is very simple part of the chain of DAC and amp. It is as simple as conductive wire.

      Keep in mind, even if a Lightning jack is used, the digital signal will need to be converted to analog. The DAC and amplifier, will now will reside either along the headphone cable or within the headphone housing. Some manufacturers will do a great job with this such as Audeze, but there is no guarantee that you will get good quality with others and this will add to the cost of any 3rd party headphone.

      Right now, the DAC and amp in the iphone are excellent, and is capable of 24bit playback.

      According to the Nyquist Theorem, 16bit 44.1kHz is already at the point of audibly transparent sound. This isn’t like a ‘Retina’ screen or even a 4k screen where you can see the difference. Hi-res is truly the case of the ’emperor’s new clothes’. Even if you hear a difference, it would need to be under such stringent conditions using the best and most expensive possible equipment (and even then, this is debatable). This isn’t what a mobile device was designed for. Most users aren’t going to be upgrading from their Beats to $1000+ headphones anytime soon. For the ones that have, we’ve been saying the DAC/amp on the iPhone is good. Conenct it to one of the many aftermarket DAC / amps like the Chord Hugo if you want. That will be technically ‘better’ than anything Apple implements.

      There is, however, an argument to force change to create a more wireless market, and thinner phones.

    • MarcoL

      “A key thing to understand is that you are hearing worse sound and you are suffering an unnecessary technical overhead because you are using a 19th century phone jack for your audio output.”

      This is flat out false.

  • Johnny Styler

    apple started the whole “audio jack vs. lighting” discussion and i’m sure, they are tracking every post/comment on the internet for a decision. i’d be pissed off to use a adapter for my lovely sennheiser in ears. how will apple solve the problem with charging the iphone and allowing me to listen music at the same time with only one lighting port (cause i have to do exactly that while i am working)?

  • bear_in_mind

    Here is an angle no one has yet commented upon: the robustness of the Lightning port and plug.

    I don’t know about your experience, but I’ve had both Apple and third-party Lightning cables display micro-arcing marks on the male end of numerous Lightning cables, using numerous iDevices. That’s only using the Lightning port for charging and back-up activities (probably 2-3 cycles per week) and I’m pretty gentle with using these cables and connections.

    When I look at friend’s and colleagues Lightning male plugs, I typically see the same micro-arc marks. You have to look closely, but they’re almost always there. Now, you start using that same Lightning port for audio connectivity and the number of connection cycles is gonna skyrocket, creating way more wear-and-tear on that port.

    Even more importantly, unlike current Lightning cable usage, headphone usage essentially GUARANTEES that this headset cable will get snagged by protruding objects such as hooks, switches, buttons, paws, limbs, branches, you name it — all of which will introduce severe torsion loading on that port and the end of the Lightning cable.

    Given this port is the primary (non-Cloud) data connection for backup of the device, the integrity of this port and cables are paramount, unless you’re 100 percent Cloud-based backup (via cellular or WiFi).

    I don’t have any of these concerns with the mini-audio port. Despite snagging earplugs and headsets dozens of times (one of the things I hate with all wired headsets), I’ve never had a mini-audio port fail. Headsets, most definitely. So, this is my biggest concern if Apple truly proceeds to place wired headset connectivity in the Lightning port.

    Lastly, I’d love to see Apple move to a higher-quality wireless headset technology, but so far they haven’t been able to crack this nut. To me, this is where Apple could really break-away from the pack. Thought AirPlay might become widely adopted, but I presume either the sound quality difference between AirPlay and Bluetooth is negligible, or AirPlay power demands rule-out lightweight mobile audio applications.

    Regardless, this is where I would gladly pay a premium for a quality wireless earbud and headphone solution.

  • Harry_Beaver

    Much like Donald Trump, I understand that  has EXTREMELY thin skin. Don’t even THINK about saying anything negative about them or they will banish you from all future  events etc. Don’t believe me, just ask Leo Laporte.

    However, having said that, Jim, you REALLY opened a can of worms on this issue. I’ve been following  for some time and haven’t witnessed this level of vitriol leveled against an “improvement” before. Even after they changed the pin configuration within the 30 pin connector to address some crosstalk issues they were having.

     really needs to rethink this mistake before it becomes public at WWDC and the stock takes an ever worse beating than it already has with the news of the 30% production drop because of market saturation.

    Yearly upgraders, such as myself, will not (upgrade), and it’s not because they will lose the white EarPod look. It’s because of they love the 3.5mm connector for their own reasons. If someone wants to go the wireless route, they’ve long had that option. Don’t take the other option away from the rest of us.

    Wait…scratch all of that…there is a LOT of money to be made shorting  stock when the news breaks. AND…when the stock price gets so low,  can become a private company by using all that money they squirreled away selling bonds (they have plenty of cash, why did they borrow more. This must be the reason 😉 when rates were low to buy back all their outstanding shares.

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  • 4DMessiah

    I think we need to find out what Kim Jong Un wants – since the Apple campus would be an easy target if he can reach ConUS. I don’t want my fav company upsetting a fat baby man because he has gastrointestinal cabbage pressure – and then he finds out that Rodman is a hermaphrodite and he doesn’t like the Lightning Jack headphones too!

    What does Putin say? You people are all concerned about the wrong people… yourselves!!