Apple defends decision to ditch 3.5mm jack, says AirPods development began years ago

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2019
As expected, Apple did not include a 3.5mm headphone jack in its upcoming iPhone 7 and 7 Plus handsets, but company executives say the legacy port's demise has been a long time coming.
Screenshot of Apple's Sept. 7 special event showing iPhone 7's distinct lack of a 3.5mm jack.
In a lengthy interview with BuzzFeed News, Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller and SVP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio explained the many benefits of ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack in this year's iPhone, chief among them being additional internal space. "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," Riccio said. "It was holding us back from a number of things we wanted to put into the iPhone. It was fighting for space with camera technologies and processors and battery life. And frankly, when there's a better, modern solution available, it's crazy to keep it around." According to Riccio, Apple engineers played with a variety of design solutions to cram all the tech that comes with iPhone 7 into a svelte aluminum chassis. The handset's new 12-megapixel camera, or cameras in the case of iPhone 7 Plus, posed a particularly difficult challenge. As with previous iPhones, iPhone 7 includes a small circuit board called the driver ledge, which hosts display and backlight drivers. The driver ledge previously sat near the top of iPhone, but the cameras in iPhone 7 forced a relocation that inevitably led to experimentation with the removal of the 3.5mm jack. Deleting the jack assembly freed up space to more easily install the Taptic Engine that powers the solid state iPhone 7 home button. In addition, the extra headroom allowed Apple to pack in bigger batteries. The 4.7-inch iPhone 7 boasts a battery 14 percent larger than the iPhone 6s, while the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus nets a cell 5 percent more capacious than its predecessor. In removing the jack, Apple also removed a key point of liquid ingress, permitting the company to meet the IPX7 water resistance specification, Riccio said. While conspiracy theorists believe Apple is looking to lock customers in to the Lightning format, the company says iPhone 7 is just the first step in a quest to deliver a truly wireless device ecosystem. As part of that initiative, Apple today announced AirPods, a pair of $159 wireless headphones built to work seamlessly with other iOS and Mac products. Apple's new W1 wireless chip lies at the heart of all AirPods earbuds. A low-power, high-efficiency chip, W1 is a bespoke Bluetooth solution slathered in what Apple calls "secret sauce." "As you can imagine, by developing our own Bluetooth chip and controlling both ends of the pairing process there's a lot of magic we can do," said John Ternus, Apple VP of Mac, iPad, ecosystem and audio engineering. "We use a Bluetooth connection, but cover it in a lot of secret sauce." Ternus' comments are an allusion to AirPods' simple pairing method which calls for users to simply open the included carrying case/recharger and confirm pairing on iPhone. From there, iCloud syncs the linked pair of AirPods to other owned devices for automatic audio source switching. A separate report from Re/code notes AirPods are compatible with other Bluetooth devices, but connecting the device requires manual pairing. "These are as advanced a project as Apple Pencil," Schiller said of AirPods. "We started this project when we started the Watch project. We knew we needed a great wireless solution for audio. We said, 'What if you could design what the future of headphones should look like?' That's we asked the team to do." For some, however, AirPods will be merely a stopgap as audio hardware manufacturers build out their own Lightning or wireless offerings. In particular, audiophiles and customers who have invested in wired headphones have expressed early dissatisfaction at Apple's decision to delete the ubiquitous legacy port. Apple is including a Lightning-to-3.5mm headphone jack adaptor in the box, though the solution is far from ideal. As can be expected with any disruption in the consumer technology space, detractors were expressing outrage on various social media platforms just seconds after Apple confirmed iPhone 7, and assumedly all future iPhone and perhaps iPad models, would no longer support the jack. "Remember, we've been through this many times before," Schiller said. "We got rid of parallel ports, the serial bus, floppy drives, physical keyboards on phones -- do you miss the physical keyboards on your phone? ... At some point -- some point soon, I think -- we're all going to look back at the furor over the headphone jack and wonder what the big deal was."
nolamacguyrevenantrepressthis
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 140
    It seems obvious. The camera modules and top speaker use a lot of volume. Previous components that were there needed to be put elsewhere. 3.5mm headphone jack is dead. Simple. 

    Apple now has the 5 fastest phones on the market and they improved and are top notch on every aspect. I gave them shit, but now they deserve all the credit. Superior on almost everything. No explosions needed. 

    Now to fix the broken and disgusting Mac line up with TN panels here, has well processors there, amd power hungry pigs, non-ssd options on macs costing thousands of dollars, non high PPI displays, etc. 

    Also, jet black 18" slim, almost no bezel, MacBook pro with a 100 W SoC made by Apple :) 
    mdriftmeyerDeelronkevin keecaliwatto_cobrarepressthis
  • Reply 2 of 140
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,523member
    I fully support Apple in this.  Like the floppy, legacy ports, CD drives, etc.. Apple laid the path down - with the whiners kicking, screaming, and whining - then "suddenly" everyone else did it to... and not a peep from those f**kers.  

    The analog jack, and the DAC circuitry that goes with it is obsolete.  Time to move on.  I can count the number of times I've used a wired headphone this year on one hand.  Screw the haters.  

    Just wait... watch the rest of the industry follow along and try to look the other way when they do it.
    lkrupptmaykevin keenolamacguypscooter63sockrolidairbubblewatto_cobrawilliamlondonargonaut
  • Reply 3 of 140
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,006member
    The Internet always amplifies the negative. Remember that when reading all the “outrage” about the headphone jack. And here’s one for you. I have a relatively new Yamaha RX-V673 AVR that has the longtime standard 1/4 inch (6.35mm) headphone jack. I wanted to use my Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones that also have a 3.5mm jack and cord for wired connections. You guessed it. I had to buy a 6.35mm->3.5mm analog jack adapter/dongle to be able to plug my Beats headphones into my Yamaha AVR. So trashing adapters doesn’t fly with me or anyone else with half a brain. You can shove that argument up your rear ends. And while you’re at it talk to any professional audio sound engineer and ask them about adapters, dongles, converters, inverters, ground loop isolators, etc. Their toolboxes contain a veritable arsenal of these things, dozens of them. Anybody still using those 1/4 inch unbalanced -> three pin XLR balanced adapters? Yep, they’re still around aren’t they. Where’s the outrage?
    edited September 2016 xmhillxDeelronkevin keemacsince1988nolamacguypscooter63sockrolidwatto_cobrawilliamlondonargonaut
  • Reply 4 of 140
    Schiller has to go
  • Reply 5 of 140
    Dongle hell. Moving DAC into a dongle, shocking
    edited September 2016 baconstangcnocbuixixo
  • Reply 6 of 140
    lkrupp said:
    The Internet always amplifies the negative. Remember that when reading all the “outrage” about the headphone jack. And here’s one for you. I have a relatively new Yamaha AVR that has the longtime standard 1/4 inch (6.35mm) headphone jack. I wanted to use my Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones that also have a 3.5mm jack and cord for wired connections. You guessed it. I had to buy a 6.35mm->3.5mm analog jack adapter/dongle to be able to plug my Beats headphones into my Yamaha AVR. So trashing adapters doesn’t fly with me or anyone else with half a brain. You can shove that argument up your rear ends. 
    My MDR-V6's came with the 1/4" adapter. I've never used it but I know exactly where it is. It's not that hard to not be careless with possessions.

    That being said, I'll likely leave the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter in my car. I still have to use a tape adapter, so I'll need a 3.5mm there. I use my iPad for more serious audio listening and that still has a 3.5mm jack.


    Schiller has to go

    I'm not a Schiller fan and even I thought he did fine today. One of his better performances, TBH.
    tmayDeelronkevin keecornchipcalisockrolidwatto_cobraanton zuykovirelandrepressthis
  • Reply 7 of 140
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,006member
    Schiller has to go
    Neither Schiller nor Cook is going anywhere anytime soon. Too bad for you.
    TurboPGTtmaymwhitexzukevin keecornchipcalinolamacguySpamSandwichsockrolid
  • Reply 8 of 140
    lkrupp said:
    The Internet always amplifies the negative. Remember that when reading all the “outrage” about the headphone jack. And here’s one for you. I have a relatively new Yamaha AVR that has the longtime standard 1/4 inch (6.35mm) headphone jack. I wanted to use my Beats Solo 2 Wireless headphones that also have a 3.5mm jack and cord for wired connections. You guessed it. I had to buy a 6.35mm->3.5mm analog jack adapter/dongle to be able to plug my Beats headphones into my Yamaha AVR. So trashing adapters doesn’t fly with me or anyone else with half a brain. You can shove that argument up your rear ends. 
    My MDR-V6's came with the 1/4" adapter. I've never used it but I know exactly where it is. It's not that hard to not be careless with possessions.

    That being said, I'll likely leave the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter in my car. I still have to use a tape adapter, so I'll need a 3.5mm there. I use my iPad for more serious audio listening and that still has a 3.5mm jack.


    Schiller has to go

    I'm not a Schiller fan and even I thought he did fine today. One of his better performances, TBH.
    Federighi & Schiller are two of Apple's best presenters.
    kevin keecalinolamacguysockrolidairbubblewatto_cobrawilliamlondonargonautapple headrepressthis
  • Reply 9 of 140
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,523member
    Schiller has to go
    Where?  Schiller left his parent's basement decades ago.  When are you going to go?
    tmaymwhitemonstrositykevin keecalicornchipnolamacguypscooter63sockrolidchia
  • Reply 10 of 140
    rf9rf9 Posts: 70member
    Why couldn't they have said this? They dismissed it with "courage" which even made me cringe and ridiculed ancient technology (which by the way is still very effective.) They could have easily said that the larger improve camera, battery, and taptic engine required us to finally say goodbye to this space hogging port without making the phone huge.
    baconstang
  • Reply 11 of 140
    rf9rf9 Posts: 70member
    I wonder how long it'll take someone to come up with an iPhone case that has a headphone jack built in (built in dongle.)
    xzucalibaconstangjohnmcbostonapple headrepressthisbadmonk
  • Reply 12 of 140
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,077member
    Looks like iPhone 7 is the impetus for a rapidly expanding market for Bluetooth headphones and EarPods.

    Most people will move on from wired and never look back.
    calisockrolidwatto_cobrawilliamlondonargonautrepressthisurahara
  • Reply 13 of 140
    I thought it was nice that Apple is providing an adapter and not making the consumer buy one at this point. I don't think everyone is going to just simply move to BT headphones because in general corded headphones are still higher quality given their bigger drivers and high-impedance. After the presentation today this seems like a non issue, those that still want to use corded headphones can still do so at no extra cost.

    I don't believe Apple is simply trying to move everyone to BT, in the end they are moving people from analog to digital which will provide higher quality audio. 
    freshmakerkevin keecalisockrolidwatto_cobraargonautrepressthis
  • Reply 14 of 140
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,348member
    I'm an audio engineer and iOS developer. I can say that digital audio has taken over the live production and recording space. However, those pesky headphone jacks and bulky XLR cables still remain. While we have this incredible technology that can fit into a shoe box, we are limited by the size of these connectors.  If everything were digital, the technology and ease of use would advance immeasurably.  It's my hope that this change will push this process forward.

    For instance, there are now microphones and pickups that plug into a network router with a standard CAT5 or CAT6 cable.  From there, you can route the audio of that device, run it through effects and everything and route it back out to an amp. There is precisely ZERO reason to switch back and forth between analog and digital and back again (sometimes multiple times).  That all adds signal noise and another point of failure.

    What's really missing is something better than standard, kinky, CAT5 cable.  It needs to be a heavy duty cable with a great connector that stays in place.  Also all of the analog devices (mics, guitar pickups, amps, etc) need to output digital audio natively.

    There are tons of reasons that this is a good thing for the consumer.  It will drive prices of digital and wireless headphones down while advancing the technology that is possible.  It will reduce the price of headphones that have features like active noise cancelation or VR, 3D sound capabilities.  The Lightning connector is great and more reliable and proven than USB-C at this point.  I think we all need to move on and work with the adapter until we can get the new functionality we want in the market.
    edited September 2016 Deelronkevin keetmaycaliSpamSandwichpscooter63sockrolidwelshdogjibberjwilliamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 140
    "Keep the 3.5mm jack foreverrrrr!!!!! Apple is so stupid" - Idiot
    nolamacguysockrolidicoco3repressthisanton zuykovurahara
  • Reply 16 of 140
    So they got rid of the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack which delivers audio, to make more room for...the stupid home button's "taptic" feedback? Hey, here's an idea - get rid of the damn home button and use the screen! If you want to "wow" us, figure out how to get the touch screen to register fingerprints. Now that would be magical! By pushing us toward wireless earphones, we now need yet another charger and more table space to charge yet another widget overnight. You forget to charge your AirPods last night? Oh well, no music for you! And, these expensive wireless headphones' battery is going wear out in a year or two, and not hold a decent charge. I guess then we toss the headphones and buck up for another pair?
    freshmakerbaconstangxixo
  • Reply 17 of 140
    I don't get the fuss over the removal. Never have. I haven't used the headphone jack in years as I've been using the Jaybird X2s and the original X before that. They sound fantastic and last for around 8 hours. Plus plus they cost about $10-20 more than what Apple is asking for at full retail cost. You can buy cheaper sets, you don't have to buy Apple's. Bluetooth headsets are going to come down in price as well in the long term. People need to relax. 

    Now, to actually upgrade my 6 Plus or still hold out for next year for the supposed big bang. Only thing I really wanted more was a better screen than 1080 which we might actually get next year with OLED. That's my biggest want. 
    xmhillxDeelronnolamacguy
  • Reply 18 of 140
    Dongle hell. Moving DAC into a dongle, shocking
    Go back to the circle jerk that is The Verge.
    Deelrontmaycalipscooter63sockrolidwatto_cobraargonautTurboPGTrepressthisjony0
  • Reply 19 of 140
    I'm amused by the people that see it as a cash grab, while seemingly ignoring the other changes that would significantly reduce repair revenue (such as a non-moving home button and water resistance.)
    xmhillxDeelroncalinolamacguypscooter63chiawilliamlondonargonautTurboPGTjony0
  • Reply 20 of 140
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    fmalloy said:
    So they got rid of the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack which delivers audio, to make more room for...the stupid home button's "taptic" feedback? Hey, here's an idea - get rid of the damn home button and use the screen! If you want to "wow" us, figure out how to get the touch screen to register fingerprints. Now that would be magical! By pushing us toward wireless earphones, we now need yet another charger and more table space to charge yet another widget overnight. You forget to charge your AirPods last night? Oh well, no music for you! And, these expensive wireless headphones' battery is going wear out in a year or two, and not hold a decent charge. I guess then we toss the headphones and buck up for another pair?
    Here, here is a better idea. F*ck off. 3.5mm is dead, you hear me, DEAD. Once that goes through your thick skull, I welcome you to 2016.
    tmaycalinolamacguyfallenjtsockrolidwatto_cobrawilliamlondonTurboPGTjony0urahara
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