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Apple Cites 'Courage' As Reason To Remove 3.5mm Headphone Jack (arstechnica.com) 761

It didn't come as much of a surprise when Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller revealed that the iPhone 7 doesn't feature a headphone jack, since rumors have mentioned this possibility months before the announcement. In fact, what some may find more surprising is Apple's justification. The company cited three reasons why they decided to eighty-six the port, as well as one word: "courage." Ars Technica reports: "[Schiller said] the company can't justify the continued use of an 'ancient' single-use port. He described the amount of technology packed into the iPhone, saying each element in Apple's phones is fighting for space, and it's at a premium. Schiller explained that no company has tried to deliver a wireless experience between your devices and your headphones that fixes the things that are currently difficult to do -- and since there's only one major industry-wide wireless-audio standard, it's easy to assume that he's talking about Bluetooth there (though he didn't say the B-word out loud). To promote Apple's wireless-audio push, Schiller announced the new AirPods, which look mostly identical to the last official Apple earbud model, only with a small piece of plastic replacing the full cord. While Schiller and Apple designer Jonny Ive talked a lot about wireless being 'the future' of audio devices -- and thus being the reason for Apple's 'courage' to move on from the 3.5mm standard -- Apple is curiously not packing those AirPods into new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus boxes. Instead, those devices will ship with the updated Lightning EarPods by default. AirPods will begin shipping in late October and will cost $159."
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Apple Cites 'Courage' As Reason To Remove 3.5mm Headphone Jack

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @09:55PM (#52844911)

    We can't justify an ancient single use port... Not unlike our proprietary power connectors

    • Power connector that does audio, data, charging, etc. Single use, like the A-10 and its 6+ mission type capability!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @11:05PM (#52845277)

      Their proprietary power connectors that break easily and frequently [google.com].

      If Apple had true courage, they'd announce that they were dumping Lightning for USB C. That would have been courage.

      If Apple had true courage, they'd have announced a new open Bluetooth protocol for dealing with higher bitrate audio. That would have been courage.

      Replacing a set of $30 earbuds (or $3 if you avoid the Apple Tax) with a $160 one? That's not courage. That's a cash-grab.

      • With Lightning it is so true, Apple is repeating situation with early Windows OS days: their incompatible stuff doesn't bring anything substantial to the table, just incompatibility itself. There is nothing wrong with USB-C standard. Audio jack situation is laughable. You often don't have headphones or earbuds around when you need it, so you go to nearby shop and buy one for few $. Whats wrong with that?
      • by Maritz ( 1829006 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @07:54AM (#52847049)
        You're not going to see the kind of 'courage' from Apple that involves allowing people to buy their headphones/connectors elsewhere. Make 'em proprietary and make 'em expensive.
    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @11:26PM (#52845387)

      Real courage would've been changing the iPhone connector to USB-C.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by inflex ( 123318 )

        Courage would be USB spec ditching their obsession with fragile tongue-on-equipment configuration and going with lightning type design. Not keen on everything Apple does but the lightning connector is good engineering against human incompetence. Empirically* micro / USB-C are a lot more prone to user-damage, hell people manage to break USB-A sockets.. how the hell!?

        (*Phone & PC repair shop)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Except that Apple themselves use USB-C rather than Lightning for their Macbook.

          Is there any reason to prefer one port for macOS hardware and another for iOS?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 08, 2016 @02:29AM (#52846183)

            Yes, because one came before the other.

            USB-C has 4 lanes, lightning has 2. USB-C devices started coming out in 2014, but USB3.1 wasn't standardized until 2013, yet motherboards didn't start coming out with them until this year because INTEL. Motherboards have to add chips to support USB 3.1, which takes lanes away from PCIe until Intel integrates a controller for it.

            Lightning (and Thunderbolt) are basically extensions of the PCIe bus. Lightning came out in 2012. So, basically it was Apple's move to Lightning that lit a fire under USB-IF's ass to come out with a better engineered connector and the "alternate mode" system that Lightning/Thunderbolt have.

            To add insult to injury, the micro USB-B connector was selected as the European charging standard. WHOOPS. To which nearly every device still uses their own proprietary cable and power supply for quick charging. So much for that idea.

            What I expect, is by 2020 we will have two USB standards. USB-C for "compact" devices that provide all the services that a "docking port" would have in 1996. So you plug your laptop or iPhone into a USB-C monitor or television and it will switch to the Super MHL 8K profile, while providing 10G-ethernet and 24bit/192khz 22.2 surround sound. None of this is going over wireless, and anyone who thinks so needs their head examined. The second standard which I'll just call "USB-D" for Desktop will be a larger connector that extends 20 PCIe bus lanes. So a laptop or desktop connected to this will shut down it's internal GPU/Audio and connect to the external PCIe bus where an external GPU, Audio processor and USB input hub will be present. The desktop/laptop will still use it's own CPU, RAM and hard drive. This allows the maximum flexibility. If a laptop doesn't have a USB-D port, then it doesn't have 20 PCIe lanes, and may only have 4 (over USB-C, thunderbolt 3 profile)

            As for what such ports would look like, a USB-D port would be a USB-C port (which connects the first 4 lanes) with a small cutout and adds 16 lanes by extending the connector.

        • by Entrope ( 68843 )

          A lot of old-school EEs have a hate for any design where a power conductor is exposed to easy contact. (Sometimes they'll relent if no power return is exposed, but ground tends to find a way...) How does Apple mitigate the risk of shorting the Lightning connector?

  • by ChodaBoyUSA ( 2532764 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @09:55PM (#52844913)
    "Courage" would be to stop making the phone thinner with less battery life and forcing owners to purchase overpriced items. Of course, Apple gets paid by any company that licenses their "Lightning Port" design. Courage? NO, more like GREED.
    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:01PM (#52844935)

      They didn't make the phone thinner, they increased the battery size and life, the adapter is not particularly overpriced at $9, and they include one with the phone.

      So... you're saying they do have courage?

      • by gweilo8888 ( 921799 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:52PM (#52845183)
        Oh goodie, it's only $9 to have a clumsy unnecessary extra box in my pocket, all so Apple could shave a tenth of a millimeter off the case and boost their accessory and patent licensing profits. What a WIN for the Apple customer!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DaHat ( 247651 )

          Not to mention, how are you to use the port to charge your device while listening to music through the aux port of your stereo (for those of us who do not have A2DP)?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Just keep that *clumsy unnecessary* dongle attached to the earphones, so you don't have to carry it along with the phone when not using it.
    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:19PM (#52845017)
      Courage is a strange way to spell profit. I'll assume that these $159 wireless earplugs don't have replaceable batteries, and it seems they're proprietary, so it's just another recurring profit stream. Since users aren't as willing to upgrade their phones every 2 years (although thinner phones might make them break more easilly, which helps), Apple is searching for a way to get them to upgrade the accessories on a regular basis. There's no benefit to the user, unless they'd like a lighter wallet.

      To quote Jobs: that's brain-dead.
  • Courage vs Ego (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gavron ( 1300111 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @09:57PM (#52844921)

    Courage is what others can judge you to have shown.

    Ego is when you call your own decision "courage".

    If they had a good reason they should have said it. Self-claiming courage is a coward move.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:02PM (#52844941)

    Subject says it all. Pure, unadulterated greed with the chutzpah to convince the fanbois that it's worth it...

    • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:11PM (#52844995)

      Umm, no. The EPI pen is life and death. This is a phone. The EPI pen was marketed to schools in what may be illegal dealings. This is a phone. The EPI pen forces you to buy a 2 pack, and has a very short shelf life. This is a phone - apple sells others, other companies sell others. This is a phone.

      And Apple has sold roughly a billion phones. Are you saying that there are that many fanbois out there? If so, maybe you're the odd one - the fanboys are the normals.

      And, this is a phone. Its a great camera in your pocket, but it's a phone.

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:04PM (#52844947)

    Per a Buzzfeed interview, summarized by MacRumors:

    The idea for the removal of the headphone jack was raised during the development of the iPhone 7. In a nutshell, the "driver ledge" for the display and backlight, traditionally placed near the camera, was interfering with the new camera systems in the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, leading Apple to explore other placement options. It was moved near the audio jack, but it also caused interference with various components, including the audio jack itself, so Apple engineers toyed with the elimination of the jack altogether.

    When the headphone jack was removed, Apple realized it was easier to install the new Taptic Engine for the pressure-sensitive Home button, implement a bigger battery, and reach an IP7 water resistance rating, so the elimination of the headphone jack became essential for all of the other features in the iPhone 7.

    Apple executives also believe the headphone jack is outdated technology that needed to go to make room for new advancements. According to Dan Riccio, it was holding Apple back "from a number of things" the company wanted to add to the iPhone, taking up space that could be used for camera improvements, battery, and processors.
    "The audio connector is more than 100 years old," Joswiak says. "It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn't been touched since then. It's a dinosaur. It's time to move on." [...]

    For Dan Riccio, Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering, the iPhone's 3.5-millimeter audio jack has felt something like the last months of an ill-fated if amicable relationship: familiar and comfortable, but ultimately an impediment to a better life ahead. "We've got this 50-year-old connector -- just a hole filled with air -- and it's just sitting there taking up space, really valuable space," he says.
    According to Apple's Phil Schiller, there's no ulterior motive behind the move away from the 3.5mm headphone jack. "We are removing the audio jack because we have developed a better way to deliver audio. It has nothing to do with content management or DRM -- that's pure, paranoid conspiracy theory," he said.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:22PM (#52845035)

      > It has nothing to do with content management or DRM -- that's pure, paranoid conspiracy theory," he said.

      Yeah, that's just a nice, completely unexpected side benefit.

      > "The audio connector is more than 100 years old," Joswiak says. "It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn't been touched since then. It's a dinosaur. It's time to move on." [...]

      Also, it still works. With any pair of headphones or any gear, purchased from any store. That's why we like it.

      This is just Apple ensuring that everyone (at least, all Apple fans) must pay the Apple tax on every bit of hardware.

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @12:31AM (#52845779)

        Apple is the one company who pushed for, and got, major studios to release non-DRM media. This whole slashdot meme where Apple lives on DRM is just a delusion. It's the slashdot RDF. Apple doesn't even protect their OS, and only go after people trying to sell hackintoshes.

        • by Atticka ( 175794 )

          It has nothing to do with media DRM, but accessory DRM.

          If you make a set of earbuds and want them to be compatible with IOS devices you have to pay a licensing fee to Apple for the pleasure based on their connector (patented) and now their proprietary (and patented) wireless technology.

          Any device or accessory where you see a "Works with IOS" or "Compatible with iPhone" had to pay a fee to Apple, this is their major source in income.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @12:43AM (#52845853) Homepage Journal

        > "The audio connector is more than 100 years old," Joswiak says. "It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn't been touched since then. It's a dinosaur. It's time to move on." [...]

        "The tire is almost 200 years old. It had its last big innovation about 70 years ago (radial tires). It's time to move on," Joswiak said, when asked why the new Apple car uses spider legs.

        I mean seriously, what does the age of a technology have to do with whether it is the best choice for its particular purpose? I've never read a more mind-blowingly ignorant comment from a major corporate exec in my entire life.

      • I wouldn't disagree with many of his points, but he seems to have forgotten what the word "improvement" means.

        I don't object to the replacement of the 3.5mm/2.5mm jack with something that's really ACTUALLY an improvement, perhaps:
        - make the jack a side-edge clip in, instead of a 360-degree inserted plug (if it could reliably hold)
        - go with the already-recognized 2.5mm jack and make that better (for whatever reason it hasn't already been adopted)
        - DON'T replace it with something that obviates all current har

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      But keeping everything the same is better than changing things. Internet people told me that. Strangely though, they didn't tell me me that by sending me a handwritten letter in the mail.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:51PM (#52845171) Homepage

      "It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn't been touched since then. It's a dinosaur. It's time to move on."

      You know, fine. I don't disagree with this idea. It's an old port that takes up a lot of space, and it's time to move on by replacing it with something better. What's the replacement here?

      You can use Bluetooth, which I haven't found to be a very good solution. Someone's going to say that I'm crazy, but I've had problems with various devices where the connection drops or is unreliable. I've had experiences where I've had problems with pairing, and the process of unpairing and repairing every time you want to connect to a different device is unwieldy. Plus, I just don't like having another battery that I need to keep charged. I want a simple and reliable wired solution. Bluetooth is out.

      Apple's other offering seems to be the lightning connector. You know, I wouldn't mind, but then they need to make it an open standard and get others to adopt it. Make it USB type-D micro, or something. Convince everyone to make it a standard connector for peripherals where you want a smaller connector than USB type-C. Make it the new universal standard for headphone ports, and get it installed everywhere. But they haven't done that. They don't even have lightning ports on their computers. Lightning isn't a standard, and no one else is using it. So Lightning is out.

      So come up with something else that replaces the existing port, but is better, more convenient, easier to use, and able to provide even better audio quality. Then convince every manufacturer of audio equipment to use this new standard. *Then* get rid of the old port.

      • by kencurry ( 471519 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @11:33PM (#52845423)

        ... Lightning isn't a standard, and no one else is using it. So Lightning is out.

        So come up with something else that replaces the existing port, but is better, more convenient, easier to use, and able to provide even better audio quality. Then convince every manufacturer of audio equipment to use this new standard. *Then* get rid of the old port.

        In the keynote, they showed a pair of JBL wired noise-cancelling headphones that used lightning. so, there are some third parties chipping in now. Not saying I love this decision, but you have to admit Apple's track record on these changes is decent enough to give it a chance.

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          In the keynote, they showed a pair of JBL wired noise-cancelling headphones that used lightning. so, there are some third parties chipping in now. Not saying I love this decision, but you have to admit Apple's track record on these changes is decent enough to give it a chance.

          By "every audio manufacturer", the GP didn't mean every headphone manufacturer, or even many headphone manufacturers. When I buy a pair of headphones that costs $200, I expect to be able to easily use it with my laptop, with my phone,

    • by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @11:24PM (#52845379)

      I don't doubt that those are the actual reasons, but that's not really the point. All it means is that they're pushing off their (engineering) problems on their users. Apple has a long history of deprecating stuff that (at the time) people thought was premature - but in essentially all the other cases it turns out that the new thing really is better. Serial ports, the floppy drive, non-USB connectors, CD drives in laptops, even replaceable batteries - there are tangible benefits to switching to the new thing, and they usually relate to speed, capacity, or physical size.

      The headphone jack is slightly thicker than a Lightning connector (the only remaining jack) - but they didn't make the phone thinner to take advantage of the extra depth. And other than the connector itself a Lightning headphone is worse in every way, because headphones are driven by your ear technology, not the phone's. The newest fanciest Lightning headphones in 5 years (assuming this decision sticks) will never be more than today's headphones plus a built-in Lightning dongle.

      What does this decision get me as a user? Let's go through. Headphones are headphones; there's two channels of audio that are the result of a varying electrical signal. I don't really care what the cord to the device looks like and considerations like "do these phones work with other things? do other phones work with this?" easily dominate that area. I guess this lets them use a little extra power but there was already more than enough output to damage your ears. If there were wild battery life improvements... maybe? But someone on the other thread did the math and a headphone jack's volume of battery is good for ~12 minutes. Meh. What about water resistance? Other phones have no problems with the IP67 rating and a headphone jack - I have no doubt that it was easier for Apple's engineers, but Apple used to not push their problems on their users.

      So what does that leave? They wouldn't be able to have a force-sensitive home button? Honestly I'd rather have the headphone jack. Or just get rid of the home button - it works just fine for Android - or at least make it oblate or rectangular rather than round.

      I have had every non-S model iPhone since the 3G, so I'm "due" to buy this one. In addition I have apps that I rely on that only work on iOS. It should be a slam dunk. But... honestly? I knew someday I'd lose the reason to buy an iPhone, and this might be that day. Not just the headphone jack, but the whole package. It doesn't look like a bad phone as such, but the only thing I'm really interested in is the waterproofing. And I'm not careless enough with my phone that getting it ruined is a big risk. The headphone jack thing isn't a dealbreaker, mostly because I don't listen to music much on my phone, but it's damn close.

      Honestly Apple is just out of ideas. I bought a new MBP last year and it was the first hardware purchase I made in my entire life that I wasn't excited about. Roughly as functional as the 5-year-old one it replaced, more in some ways and less in others, but the same price. I needed a new one because the older one wasn't really working but boy did they manage to turn something I used to enjoy into something kind of boring and depressing. I'm still annoyed about the large size of the smallest iPhone still available - I was in London a few months ago and had to use my (out of contract and unlocked) iPhone 5, and it was sooooo nice. I assumed I'd gotten used to the wider width, but nope - and I didn't miss the extra screen at all.

    • "The audio connector is more than 100 years old," Joswiak says. "It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn't been touched since then.

      Not true. The 2.5mm plug was released, as were the OMTP and CTIA 4-ring jack standards.

      I would have been fine with Apple moving from a 3.5mm to 2.5mm plug. Adapters are cheap and the plug is an industry standard.

  • Bluetooth headsets (Score:5, Informative)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:31PM (#52845087)

    Not that I care, as I do not own any apple stuff, but I have not seen a bluetooth headset that was not absolute shit.

    I had a phone earpeice thing from plantronics that was worse than simply using the speakerphone in the car. When the thing would actually stay connected the speaker was inaudible. When I could hear the other side, my mic would not pick up.

    Bought some LG headphones, failed within 2 months. And in those 2 months it was nearly impossible to get the things to stay connected. Press the connect button, beeps loudly, searches for phone, gives up. Bought earbuds, returned the next day. Worthless.

    Bluetooth audio is complete garbage.

    • There are decent bluetooth headphones, but there still is no low-latency BT audio transmission. The best out there is 30-60ms for aptX (which iOS does not support), which is still too long for any critical work. Normal bluetooth latency is measured in hundreds of milliseconds, making all non-compensated video noticeably out of sync. The head unit in my van was nearly a second out of sync with my iPhone 5 (the last iPhone I owned). Obviously that's not a huge deal for the driver, but if you happen to be watc

  • One (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:53PM (#52845191)
    Another problem is that there is only ONE single use port. I usually listen to music while my phone is plugged in, and to my knowledge there is no way to both listen with the headphone dongle and have the device plugged in.
  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:53PM (#52845193)

    If this leads to the abandonment of a2dp, I am all for it.

    It's actually quite embarrassing that a2dp is still a standard in widespread use. The very fact you can't bidirectionally stream audio at a high bitrate is so 90s.

    If this move brings on 6ch, 320kbit bidirectional audio, I'm all for it (even as an Android user).

    • I want this new wireless audio standard (which is not BT, if reports are correct) to be a near-zero latency. Right now BT aptX is 60ms, and regular BT is 300+ ms. If 3rd parties start making transmitters and receivers on the standard with 2-6ms latency, and price them at consumer levels ($100), that will mean I can skip buying half a dozen $1000 Sennheiser IEM (in ear monitors) for my band and just pick up some AppleSound(TM) packs instead.

  • by thygate ( 1590197 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @10:55PM (#52845223)
    yet another device to charge, what will the autonomy be on these $160 suckers ?
  • by BlackSabbath ( 118110 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2016 @11:56PM (#52845569)
  • by crbowman ( 7970 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @01:20AM (#52846003) Homepage

    OK, I've converted to a cell phone. No landline any more. So when I'm on a long conference call using my headset so people on the other end can hear me, how do I charge my phone for the long call?

  • by zAPPzAPP ( 1207370 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @04:46AM (#52846507)

    Even though I do not care about the phone at all, if all of this excitement over one port somehow leads to a new standard for wireless audio, that would be awesome.

    Bluetooth sucks for anything above skype calls.
    Bluetooth hifi-headphones are a joke. The better the headphone, the more you realize how horribly bluetooth compression mangles the sound quality.

    Because of this, every manufacturer is running their own wireless audio format. Your typical audio sources (phone, pc, hi-fi system) do not support any of them. Adapters everywhere...
    I guess now we have yet another standard with Apple's... But maybe they can push theirs to more devices than just their phones? Any chance of something Apple to ever become an open standard?

  • by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @04:57AM (#52846517) Journal

    You can give it the spin you want, but what you cannot say is that the earphones plug has fallen into disuse. I think it's the single most used phone accessory nowadays, with no second competitor in sight.

    So you remove a widely used feature, and you provide a worse alternative, or rather, you simply point out that an alternative has always existed. The glaring fact that practically nobody used that existing alternative is gloriously lost on you. Or rather, you don't care.

    So basically you are doing something to screw your users, thinking that it will improve your company. Again the glaring fact that your company is nothing without your clients, is lost in the glare of your new shiny state-of-the-art office.

    Let's see how it plays out. People can be really dumb that way, and certainly that's not a deal breaker. Also, there is always the possibility of backtracking. Never underestimate the marketing department ingenuity of selling an Apple 7 Super Plus "With earphones plug!!!", only for 100$ more. But IMHO, Apple is accumulating small mistakes with a sore lack of the former big hits that could ,in past times, have covered them.

  • by sabbede ( 2678435 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @08:14AM (#52847145)
    The phono jack, in it's 3.5mm, 2.5mm and 1/4" incarnations, is the standard for analog audio connectivity for a good reason. It's the oldest electrical connector still in use for a good reason. It works fantastically well! They're cutting themselves out of the audio market, and it's a dumb move. That jack could, with a $5 adapter, connect a phone to virtually any other audio device as input or output. You could plug a guitar into it, you could plug it into a mixing board, a car, a microphone, an instrument amp, a stereo amp, anything. A DJ could entertain a crowd with just a phone and a sound system, any sound system.
  • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Thursday September 08, 2016 @09:57AM (#52847685)

    They aren't wrong. They're going to get a lot of crap for this, and if they brought it on themselves knowingly but did it anyway, that does indeed take courage.

    However, I'd also imagine it takes courage to publicly be a White Supremacist these days. Those public-area preachers who call random passing women "whores" while their husbands/fathers/sons are with them are being pretty courageous too. Just because you are showing "courage" doesn't mean you doing the right thing, or that you aren't also being a total asshole.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll