Seven years later, Apple was right to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack

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in General Discussion
Seven years later, it's more clear than ever that the days of the headphone jack on mobile devices are numbered. Here's how Apple was the vanguard for the death of the port -- and what might be next for the connector.

Headphone Jack
Headphone Jack


Since the iPhone 7, Apple has been slowly removing the headphone jack from its main consumer products. Although initially criticized, a number of other companies have since followed suit.

There are still a few products in the lineup that retain a headphone jack, but recent rumors suggest that the number of Apple-designed devices with a 3.5mm port will soon dwindle again.

Apple's removal of the headphone jack

The 3.5mm headphone jack can trace its roots back to 19th century switchboard operators. Over a century after its humble, low-tech beginnings, Apple killed it on its primary money-maker: the iPhone.

Apple killed the headphone jack on the iPhone in 2016 when it launched the iPhone 7. As is the case with most tech that Apple kills off, the move was initially criticized and mocked by consumers, industry watchers, and other companies.

Since the iPhone 7, subsequent models have also lacked a 3.5mm headphone jack. Initially, Apple shipped adapters in the box so that users could still plug wired headphones or other accessories into their devices. It soon stopped doing that.

Each iPhone 7 shipped with a dongle adapter, which Apple still sells.
Each iPhone 7 shipped with a dongle adapter, which Apple still sells.


Apple nixed the headphone jack on its other products starting in 2018. The redesigned iPad Pro of that year was the first Apple tablet to lack a headphone jack. Now, the only iPad with a 3.5mm port is the entry-level model.

According to recent reports, that could soon change. Current rumors suggest that Apple's upcoming 10-generation iPad will finally lose the aging jack, leaving users to rely on alternative ways of listening to content on their devices (or to simply use an adapter).

Third-party manufacturers

Apple's competitors wasted no time mocking the company for removing the headphone jack, even running ads poking fun at the decision. Eventually, however, most other major Apple rivals ended up copying the company's move.

Samsung is a frequent Apple-mocker, and published multiple ads criticizing the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone. However, Samsung eventually followed suit and -- starting with the Galaxy S20 -- killed the 3.5mm jack on its own flagship devices.

More than that, Samsung tried to rewrite history by sneakily removing the ads mocking Apple's design choice.

Google mocked Apple's move with a parody before following suit the year after.
Google mocked Apple's move with a parody before following suit the year after.


Google has similarly poked fun at the headphone jack's removal on the iPhone. A parody of Jony Ive's design videos touted that the Google Pixel 5a still had a headphone jack.

However, a year after releasing the Google Pixel 5a -- and the Apple-mocking video -- Google eventually fell in line and removed the headphone jack from its Google Pixel 6a.

It's a similar story across the Android landscape. While not all companies openly ridiculed Apple for removing the headphone jack, the majority of major smartphone brands have since followed suit.

An argument for why

At the time, Apple justified the removal of the headphone jack by saying that Lightning was an overall better standard for audio. It added that removing the single-use port also freed up internal space for larger or additional components.

The more cynical among tech industry watchers likely think that Apple's removal of the headphone jack was about money. After all, at the time the device was released, Apple's Beats by Dre brand accounted for nearly half of Bluetooth headphone sales.

It may be easy to forget that Apple didn't sneakily kill off the headphone jack to sell wireless headphones -- it did so openly. During its September 2016 keynote, Apple's announcement of the headphone jack's removal was immediately preceded by the debut of AirPods.

Apple's AirPods were -- and are -- a runaway success.
Apple's AirPods were -- and are -- a runaway success.


Looks back on the runaway success of AirPods and other true wireless competitors, it's hard to argue that Apple was wrong here.

Beyond ushering in the wireless future, however, Apple also pushed the smartphone market as a whole forward. Many of the advancements seen in today's smartphone technology likely owe at least part of their existence to the removal of an aging standard.

Apple's alternatives

In the vast majority of cases, there are going to be better options for listening to audio than a pair of wired headphones.

True wireless devices like AirPods are convenient, easy, and won't get tangled up in your pocket like standard headphones. Even if AirPods are too expensive for some, there are plenty of Bluetooth options on the market at a much more affordable price point.

On the iPad, any argument for keeping the headphone jack goes out the window when you consider how most people use the tablet. This isn't a machine used for workflows that require wired headphones. On the Mac -- which is actually used for professional audio and visual work -- there's still a headphone jack.

More than that, users with workflows that actually do require the use of no-latency wired studio monitors on an iPhone or iPad can resolve that problem with a $9 accessory.

There are obviously arguments for keeping a 3.5mm headphone jack, such as the fact that it's a simple and cheap solution for companies and consumers to implement. For audio or video workflows, a 3.5mm headphone jack with high-impedance headphones also offers low latency and clearer audio.

However, those positives don't outweigh the upside of ditching the jack for Apple -- and most consumers. Looking at the industry, it's clear that most other companies feel the same way Apple does -- they just took longer to warm up to the idea.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,339member
    There are pros and cons to having a headphone jack.

    It isn't about 'courage' though. That has nothing to do with anything. 

    Right now (2022) I'd still Rather have one than not have one.


    M68000neoncatlkruppjeffharrisMrBunsidepulseimagesITGUYINSDmuthuk_vanalingambaconstangFlaSheridn
  • Reply 2 of 64
    ronnronn Posts: 515member
    I was leery at first. But then a loss a couple of wired 'phones and haven't looked back once I got use to wireless cans & buds.
    scstrrfAnilu_777lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 64
    The headphone jack is installed on all of the new Apple laptops as well as the Mac Studio.
    neoncatjeffharriswilliamlondonpulseimagesITGUYINSDfred1baconstangkestralFlaSheridngrandact73
  • Reply 4 of 64
    As a shareholder, I guess I should be glad they got rid of the headphone jack, but it sure was annoying last week when I got on the subway and realized that I didn’t have my dongle with me, so I was carrying the earbuds around all day and unable to use them except as earplugs. Apart from a way to push people towards a more costly solution, I haven’t heard any reasonable justification—if they can make a waterproof Lightning jack, they can do the same with stereo mini, and even the “saves space” argument seems a little weak given that the slimmest and most compact iPhone had a jack, and they have only been getting bulkier since the jack was removed. And I know there are people who will say they are glad about the omission, but honestly, just the fact that people are still discussing and arguing about it shows that it’s contentious. I doubt we’ll still be discussing the merits of, say, the Touch Bar seven years down the road, even though it has its fans too. 
    M68000lkruppwilliamlondonMrBunsideFileMakerFellermuthuk_vanalingamfred1baconstangbeowulfschmidtkestral
  • Reply 5 of 64
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,213member
    Part of the issue is BT. I remember crappy, unreliable, prone to dropping BT connections that if they didn’t just refuse to connect in the first place, from back in the day. Now it’s very reliable, and quickly reconnects if the speaker, keyboard, headphone, mouse, or whatever loses power. I was one that questioned removing the jack back then. But now, with modern accessories, it’s really not a problem. Plus not having to deal with tangled cords getting caught in everything is a real boon.

    Typing this on a Brydge BT Keyboard / Trackpad that has worked flawlessly from day one.
    edited August 17 ronnlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 64
    JP234JP234 Posts: 210member
    I don't get why anyone is beefing about losing the jack on the iPhone or iPad. First of all, there are many great Bluetooth audio devices to choose from for consumer level listening. Second, all current Macs have the port. Third, There is a cheap adapter for anyone still resisting wireless tech. Fourth, the same kind of users were complaining when Apple abandoned SCSI, serial, RS232, ADC, VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, Firewire 400, Firewire 800, Thunderbolt ports, SuperDrives and who knows what else.

    True, I'd still like to be able to swap hard drives and upgrade RAM. And I'd like an SD port on my M1 Macbook Air, but I got a $17.99 USB-C hub that has HDMI, SD, Micro SD, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0. Also got a $7.99 USB 3.1 micro-B to USB-C cable to use with my external backup drive.
    DAalsethronnkiltedgreenlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 64
    When the port was dropped from the iPhone, I neither celebrated it as "courage" or bemoaned it as the end times. It was easy enough to adjust, and to be honest, I quite like my AirPods (and the various no-name bluetooth headphones I've owned for years). But this unrelenting need to reinvent the narrative of every. little. thing. Apple does as manifest destiny, the very prow of technology cutting the ice of the unwashed, is completely miserable to read. Sorry, it just reads like weird fan-service.

    Please know I really appreciate 99% of what AI does. Your how-to guides are among the best on the 'net. 
    JapheyFileMakerFellerbeowulfschmidtWalkierbala1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 64
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 831member
    BT5 is so good, and BT5 + H1 in AirPods from your Watch even, while streaming music from LTE, is also SO AMAZING, it's like come on...  And the the thing is if you have that 1% use case, then break out the adapter.

    BT3 was horrible (BT4 bearable), but walking with a headphone cable flopping around getting in your arms ways and such PLEASE...
    caladanianlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 64
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,363member

    An argument for why?

    You seem to have forgotten to include it.

    dewmeJapheyFileMakerFellermuthuk_vanalingambaconstangFlaSheridnWalkierbala1234
  • Reply 10 of 64
    Wired headphones just sound better. Period.
    I use Etymōtic (ER4SR and HF3 headset) and (Grado RS-1X and SR325) headphones.

    I found dongles that let me listen AND charge simultaneously, so no problem with no headphone jack.

    Yes, I have AirPod Pros which I HATE. Mediocre sound and they never feel comfortable and constantly fall out. 

    The real question…
    Why does the iPhone still have a Lightning port instead of a USB-C port?
    williamlondonJP234MrBunsidepulseimagesITGUYINSDmuthuk_vanalingambaconstangcaladanianbeowulfschmidtdarkvader
  • Reply 11 of 64
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,256member
    I hated tethered headphones and still do. The wires always got yanked and were in the way especially when biking or at the gym. Never looked back after the first AirPods
    mike1ronnlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 64
    JP234JP234 Posts: 210member
    The real question…
    Why does the iPhone still have a Lightning port instead of a USB-C port?
    Lightning is thinner, allowing more room for electronics, and thinner cases. And thin is in, baby!
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 64
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,213member
    Wired headphones just sound better. Period.
    I use Etymōtic (ER4SR and HF3 headset) and (Grado RS-1X and SR325) headphones.

    I found dongles that let me listen AND charge simultaneously, so no problem with no headphone jack.

    Yes, I have AirPod Pros which I HATE. Mediocre sound and they never feel comfortable and constantly fall out. 

    The real question…
    Why does the iPhone still have a Lightning port instead of a USB-C port?
    That may be true, but for most people’s use case absolutely top fidelity is not that critical. If you’re working out, your breathing or general noise from the machine will make noise and degrade the sound quality. If you don’t have top quality speakers/buds/headphones then that will degrade the sound more than BT. If you are using it in a car, there’s no contest, road noise will vastly be more than the difference between wired and BT. And let’s be honest most people couldn’t tell the difference even under ideal conditions. You may be able to, but not me, and not most people.

    I will agree with you about AirPods. I’ve tried them and find them very uncomfortable. My ear canal must be a different shape because they just don’t work for me either. 
    edited August 17 lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 64
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,395member
    When everything works out and customers do not revolt it's easy to look back on a decision like this as having been a smart move. Truth be told, Apple removed the dedicated headphone jack because they wanted to, not because customers were demanding that they remove it. If iPhones offered built-to-order options that included having a dedicated headphone jack, I would check that option box every single time, even with the upcoming iPhone 14.

    Apple knew there would be some pushback when they removed the headphone jack, but they also knew the vast majority of their loyal customer base would quietly go along with their decision and whip out their credit cards to buy the latest iPhone anyway, plus throw in a few more bucks for a couple of dongles so they could still use their wired headphones, some of which cost more than an iPhone.

    Apple banked on our loyalty and willingness to go along with a change that they wanted to push on us. They prevailed and we went along with it despite there being no obvious benefits for us. It's not like removing the headphone jack was ever a prerequisite for the other audio connectivity options that were already available on the iPhone, like Bluetooth, AirPlay, and Lightning dongles. The AirPods would be no less groundbreaking or any less delightful to use from an iPhone that also sports a 3.5 mm audio jack.

    I'm not applauding Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack on the iPhone and will be even less enamored if they do the same with the iPad. They got away with it and we caved. They knew we'd still keep buying iPhones, and we have. I still have. This pattern of taking advantage of our loyalty isn't something Apple should be celebrating or something that we should view as a feather of inspiration in Apple's cap. They can only play the loyalty card so many times.

    The fact that other vendors blindly followed Apple's lead should surprise nobody in the least. It does not validate Apple's decision, it merely shows that they are going to copy anything Apple does without putting any thought behind what or why they do things. Just like the removal of a charger from device packages, Apple's moves only embolden the hangers-on and followers. They know if Apple can get away with it, maybe they can get away with it too. 
    FileMakerFellerMondainmuthuk_vanalingambaconstangbeowulfschmidtFlaSheridnretrogustoWalkierarlordarkvader
  • Reply 15 of 64
    rezwits said:
    BT5 is so good, and BT5 + H1 in AirPods from your Watch even, while streaming music from LTE, is also SO AMAZING, it's like come on...  And the the thing is if you have that 1% use case, then break out the adapter.

    BT3 was horrible (BT4 bearable), but walking with a headphone cable flopping around getting in your arms ways and such PLEASE...
    Yeah I remember almost losing my phone because I knocked it out of my pocket tangling my arm in the wire. Glad to be rid of them for the phone. For the iPad I like my AirPods Max so again I’m not tethered while I watch something on it. I can get up and get myself a snack while still listening. 
    Japheywatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 64
    dewme said:
    When everything works out and customers do not revolt it's easy to look back on a decision like this as having been a smart move. Truth be told, Apple removed the dedicated headphone jack because they wanted to, not because customers were demanding that they remove it. If iPhones offered built-to-order options that included having a dedicated headphone jack, I would check that option box every single time, even with the upcoming iPhone 14.

    Apple knew there would be some pushback when they removed the headphone jack, but they also knew the vast majority of their loyal customer base would quietly go along with their decision and whip out their credit cards to buy the latest iPhone anyway, plus throw in a few more bucks for a couple of dongles so they could still use their wired headphones, some of which cost more than an iPhone.

    Apple banked on our loyalty and willingness to go along with a change that they wanted to push on us. They prevailed and we went along with it despite there being no obvious benefits for us. It's not like removing the headphone jack was ever a prerequisite for the other audio connectivity options that were already available on the iPhone, like Bluetooth, AirPlay, and Lightning dongles. The AirPods would be no less groundbreaking or any less delightful to use from an iPhone that also sports a 3.5 mm audio jack.

    I'm not applauding Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack on the iPhone and will be even less enamored if they do the same with the iPad. They got away with it and we caved. They knew we'd still keep buying iPhones, and we have. I still have. This pattern of taking advantage of our loyalty isn't something Apple should be celebrating or something that we should view as a feather of inspiration in Apple's cap. They can only play the loyalty card so many times.

    The fact that other vendors blindly followed Apple's lead should surprise nobody in the least. It does not validate Apple's decision, it merely shows that they are going to copy anything Apple does without putting any thought behind what or why they do things. Just like the removal of a charger from device packages, Apple's moves only embolden the hangers-on and followers. They know if Apple can get away with it, maybe they can get away with it too. 
    Well written. I 100% agree.

    Apple is large and powerful enough to dictate and/or change the rules of the game, and there is very little anyone can do about it. I still intensely dislike not having an audio jack.
    baconstangdarkvaderAI_lias
  • Reply 17 of 64
    HrebHreb Posts: 30member
    My partner's iphone 6s is still in daily operation because the headphone jack IS a killer feature.

    I have never owned a pair if lightning-connected headphones.  I have however owned quite a number of lightning to headphone jack dongles of various qualities and price points.
    baconstangFlaSheridndarkvaderMplsP
  • Reply 18 of 64
    I would like Apple very soon to abolish everything regarding mobile devices.  I mean, even side buttons.  And I would like, in addition to wireless, the charging to be done also with a MageSafe nano, and not with usb-c or lighting, because I believe it would be a more robust and waterproof solution.
  • Reply 19 of 64
    I don’t intensely dislike that Apple got rid of the headphone jack. I can see the courage part as as there is still disagreements. I still use a wired headphone, partly because I dislike having another thing that has batteries that has to be charged and replaced when the batteries die. The issue didn’t affect me for years because I don’t replace my phone often. Then I tried adapters so I could charge and listen at the same time. I found name brand adapters were noisy. Regular wireless chargers didn’t work well and were finicky. I ended up buying a MagSafe case for my SE2, and use a regular Apple MagSafe charger. 

    Benefit to the consumer is getting rid of a port that is being used less and less. Also a port that got abused, loose, lint and water. Quit pretending there wasn’t problems with the port. I’ve replaced those jacks for a fast food restaurant’s headsets as they got broken. 
    FlaSheridnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 64
    JP234 said:
    The real question…
    Why does the iPhone still have a Lightning port instead of a USB-C port?
    Lightning is thinner, allowing more room for electronics, and thinner cases. And thin is in, baby!
    Is there actually anything over or under the lightning port inside an iPhone?  The teardown pics don't show much of anything.  What electronics would be squeezed out if a USB-C port were installed?
    JP234darkvaderMplsPbala1234
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