Apple announces Lightning-enabled headphone standard in WWDC session

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2014
During a WWDC session earlier this week, Apple revealed a new Lightning module for headphones that promises to provide deeper system controls, direct analog audio out and power to compatible accessories.


Slide from Apple's WWDC session on accessories.


Unlike the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack used in modern portable audio devices, the new Lightning headphone module offers a number of advantages to third-party accessory makers, Apple said during the "Designing Accessories for iOS and OS X" session on Tuesday.

According to Apple's manager of platform accessories Robert Walsh, the new Lightning headphone module connects directly into an iOS device's Lightning port, breaking out analog audio. In addition, the module offers more bandwidth and a digital interface for richer control of system services like iTunes Radio.

"If your headphones support, for example, noise cancellation, you can offer an app on your device that communicates with your headphones that controls how it operates," Walsh said.

Alongside the increased bandwidth on tap from Lightning, the connection standard can deliver power to advanced headphone accessories. By offloading energy supply duties to an iPhone or iPad, a headphone maker can do away with some of the bulk that comes from designing space for a battery pack.

Finally, Apple said it is working on specialized small form factor connector modules for manufacturers looking to build form-fitting cases and cables.

It is unclear when hardware makers will roll out a Lightning-enabled headphone, but with the specification now available the first models may see release in time for iOS 8. Apple may also be working on its own solution in a Lightning-enabled EarPods design, though evidence that such hardware is in development has yet to surface.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    I'm betting that this may mean that the iWatch only has a lightning port and no traditional headphone jack in it. It would allow Apple to save some internal space.
  • Reply 2 of 48
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by toolsoldier View Post

    I'm betting that this may mean that the iWatch only has a lightning port and no traditional headphone jack in it. It would allow Apple to save some internal space.

     

    I’m betting that this means the product doesn’t exist and that the next iPhone only has a Lightning port. :p

  • Reply 3 of 48
    dimmokdimmok Posts: 359member
    Adios 1/8" Jack
  • Reply 4 of 48
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I’m betting that this means the product doesn’t exist and that the next iPhone only has a Lightning port. :p

    I think the most likely outcome is Apple will wait to see how this works out before making that jump. There are definitely benefits to this option, especially when you consider the higher data rates that may be needed for getting biometrics from in-ear phones to send back to the iPhone's Health app.
  • Reply 5 of 48
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I don't see the headphone jack going away...yet. I can see a lot of people being upset if it did happen as plenty of people use headphones while charging their device.
  • Reply 6 of 48
    ajbdtc826ajbdtc826 Posts: 190member
    Seems like a step back for a typical consumer. Bluetooth headsets are clearly the future, especially with an ipod app in a watch. Who's gonna walk around with a cable hanging from their wrist? Bluetooth, my friends.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    rogifan wrote: »
    I don't see the headphone jack going away...yet. I can see a lot of people being upset if it did happen as plenty of people use headphones while charging their device.

    Is there no reason one can't have a cable splitter or dock with a Lighnting port for headphones in the front?
  • Reply 8 of 48

    It was obvious when they introduced Lightning ports that the stereo jack was on its way (slowly) out.

     

    Two solutions come to mind for charging and listening. Either a "splitter" type short cable that allows charger cable and earphone cable to both be plugged in.

     

    Or simply have two lightning ports. Which is actually an interesting idea as it allows for multiple things to be used at once not just charging and ear buds. 

     

    Assuming that Apple won't think of a solution before shipping is just being lazy.

  • Reply 9 of 48
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ajbdtc826 wrote: »
    Seems like a step back for a typical consumer. Bluetooth headsets are clearly the future, especially with an ipod app in a watch. Who's gonna walk around with a cable hanging from their wrist? Bluetooth, my friends.

    I don't think this has anything to do with a wristwork device, but either way a Lighnting cable or 3.5mm cable for headphones on your wrist (like with other smartwatches) all look silly.

    I agree that BT, or rather wireless, is the future, but is the battery life for the needed data hear yet? BLE would be great but it can't support the needed bitrate.
  • Reply 10 of 48
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

    Is there a reason one can't have a cable splitter or dock with a Lighnting port for headphones in the front?

     

    I imagine it would be something like this.

     

    On that note, I really want to find an Apple Bluetooth Headset to have. New in box. Not getting earwigs from someone.

  • Reply 11 of 48
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,795member
    Imagine a flat, super-light, and thin Lightening cable. No more twisted-sheath problems. This will not replace the traditional audio jack, at least for several generations, but does set the stage for an entirely new breed of headset and other body accessories.
  • Reply 12 of 48
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    coolfactor wrote: »
    Imagine a flat, super-light, and thin Lightening cable. No more twisted-sheath problems. This will not replace the traditional audio jack, at least for several generations, but does set the stage for an entirely new breed of headset and other body accessories.

    Didn't Beats pioneer the headphone cable that doesn't tangle?
  • Reply 13 of 48
    curtis hannahcurtis hannah Posts: 1,798member
    I’m betting that this means the product doesn’t exist and that the next iPhone only has a Lightning port. :p
    i was thinking that but next iPhone not quite there, maybe next iPod and you haft to but lighting to 3.5 mm to replace it.

    solipsismx wrote: »
    I think the most likely outcome is Apple will wait to see how this works out before making that jump. There are definitely benefits to this option, especially when you consider the higher data rates that may be needed for getting biometrics from in-ear phones to send back to the iPhone's Health app.
    Could be something like iPhone 7.
    rogifan wrote: »
    I don't see the headphone jack going away...yet. I can see a lot of people being upset if it did happen as plenty of people use headphones while charging their device.
    easily a splitter could be added for such a case

    ajbdtc826 wrote: »
    Seems like a step back for a typical consumer. Bluetooth headsets are clearly the future, especially with an ipod app in a watch. Who's gonna walk around with a cable hanging from their wrist? Bluetooth, my friends.
    Apparently the market in headphones is not yet ready for Bluetooth so something like this to serve the next 8 years till Bluetooth is more reasonable and the lighting port itself is replaced.
  • Reply 14 of 48
    dimmok wrote: »
    Adios 1/8" Jack

    Don't worry. Apple will sell you a dongle for $29.95. ;)
  • Reply 15 of 48
    netmanetma Posts: 2member
    I really do think the is the foray into amalgamating all cables into one. I suspect also that the acquisition if beats electronics was to have industry influence to move this change from old 1/8"lug over to lightning. Why have many cables when one can do all. If the lightning cable is the new thunderbolt 3 cable, it could do everything. Bluetooth although practical for lightweight headphones, earphones are too small to support noise cancellation by themselves. I guess apple would hope this becomes a standard. Thunderbolt did not take off as expected in terms of wide adoption, principally I think because of the price. But I think apple is determined to get lightning mainstream. Ubiquity of ios devices would certainly help this plan.
  • Reply 16 of 48
    iaeeniaeen Posts: 588member
    How is this different than what speaker docks already do? (other than the obvious fact that one is a speaker and the other is a set of headphones)
  • Reply 17 of 48
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,431moderator
    ajbdtc826 wrote: »
    Seems like a step back for a typical consumer. Bluetooth headsets are clearly the future, especially with an ipod app in a watch. Who's gonna walk around with a cable hanging from their wrist? Bluetooth, my friends.
    solipsismx wrote:
    I agree that BT, or rather wireless, is the future, but is the battery life for the needed data hear yet?

    Yes, Sony's bluetooth headphones manage 40 hours of wireless audio ( http://www.amazon.com/Sony-DRB-TN200-BLK-Bluetooth-Headset/dp/B00BN0N0A8 ) but they don't have to stream the audio continually if it's local music playback. They can have hardware inside the headphones that buffers the audio so instead of the headphones using wireless for the whole 3-5 minutes of a song, it can buffer that amount within seconds and then shut off the wireless. They can in fact do that with all audio and simply buffer blocks of a few MB. There can be a whole iPod inside the headphones.

    The other reason for wireless is that the headphones will be used for more than iOS devices. Macs don't have Lightning ports. I suppose they could use a USB to Lightning adaptor but they'd have to add more USB ports.

    The downside with wireless would be having the wireless headphones disconnecting and the iOS device reverting to the internal speaker. They'd have to have a manual control to switch to internal. Ideally they'd mute and pause audio on disconnection of the headphones so the user has to manually turn it on if they wanted and it would be nice if they'd do this when normal headphones disconnect too.
  • Reply 18 of 48
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Marvin wrote: »

    Yes, Sony's bluetooth headphones manage 40 hours of wireless audio ( http://www.amazon.com/Sony-DRB-TN200-BLK-Bluetooth-Headset/dp/B00BN0N0A8 )...

    I was expecting something much smaller with in-ear phone. That size with only 40 hours doesn't seem like a lot to me.
  • Reply 19 of 48
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member

    Amen.

     

    Apple has the tightest hole in the biz. I like the story of Steve Jobs telling his engineers to tighten it up at the late hour nearing the iPhone introduction. It seems I've had more than a few gadgets where the jack started malfunctioning and the sound went in and out and generally drove me nuts.

     

    I'll take the lightning connection with a splitter or whatever they come up with so I can charge and listen. Time to retire old holes.

  • Reply 20 of 48
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    I hope this doesn't mean the traditional 3.5mm jack will disappear from Apple  devices.  What percentage of headphones actually in use, or that will be, are powered or will require all this other stuff?  Less than 5% I would say and I think all this health monitoring shit is just that.

     

    If Apple had introduced a new headphone coupling along the lines of the mag-safe power connector then that would have been a brilliant move and I would even have put up with the inelegance of an adapter in order to reap the benefits, but not this.

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