What's Up Jack?
So the new iPhone 7 has finally jettisoned the mini-jack headphone connector much to the annoyance of many ‘Applephiles’ in favour of using the Apple patented Lighting connector.
By why, I hear you ask, when the mini-jack has served us so well for many years and has been universally accepted as a recognised standard and used by manufacturers of all manner of devices from headphones to computers to MP3 players, smartphones to radios.
There seems to be several reasons that Apple give for their shock decision to remove an important piece of connectivity from their new smartphone.
1. It’s old tech!
Admittedly the original 6.4mm standard jack was invented in the 19th Century for use with manually operated telephone switchboards or exchanges, as they become to be known. Yes, believe it or not there was a time when every telephone call made was switched manually by plugging a jack into a socket by an operator who you would speak to directly and request them to connect your call to the receiver’s telephone. Jacks continued to be used by the GPO as a method of connecting phone lines until 1955 when the first cordless exchange was opened at the GPO’s Thanet Exchange. The Standard Jack was adopted by the telecommunications industry as a standard connection device for use on radio and wireless telecoms equipment.
When Sony brought out their successful portable radio and then the portable cassette music player (The Walkman) in 1979 they reduced the size of the standard quarter inch jack to enable headphones to be connected to their ‘miniature’ players and the 3.5mm or mini-jack was born. So successful was this mode of connection it’s since been available on all audio devices ever since.
So, is it old tech as claimed by Apple? Yes, it is, but is that a good enough reason to dispense with a universally accepted connection device? Is the new method (Lightning) any better than the old 3.5mm jack? No, it isn’t, the sound quality is exactly the same, so is this a justification for change?
It does have the disadvantage that you are unable listen to music and charge your phone at the same time plus you have to carry an adaptor if you want to use older headphones that have a mini-jack connector.
2. We needed the space!
Apple claim that to incorporate new tech such as dual lens camera system, 40% larger battery, Taptic engine and new circuit boards they had to remove the jack socket to create valuable space. Whilst this may be the case they also claimed that the jack breached the waterproof integrity of the new iPhone. How then did Samsung manage to retain the jack socket and yet still manage to maintain waterproof integrity on their new Galaxy 7?
So there does seem to be a ‘watertight’ (pardon the pun) reason to remove the socket to save much needed real estate inside the new iPhone but the ‘integrity’ argument just doesn’t hold water!!!
3. This is our future vision of how audio should work on mobile devices!
Apple is claiming that wireless is the de facto standard for all future audio connectivity. It is true that the current sale of Bluetooth headphones is outselling their wired equivalent. However Apple seem very keen to promote their new ‘Airpods’ earbuds which are on sale for a staggering £159. Apple are also charging other manufacturers a ‘Made for iPhone’ fee for a developers licence which will then authorise them to use the Apple proprietary solution to enable production of compatible wired headphones for use with the Lighting socket on the iPhone. So what about those very expensive analogue designer headphones you recently purchased? Well if you want to continue to use them with your sparkly new iPhone 7 you will need to buy a lightning adaptor and contribute, indirectly, toward the profits of the Apple Corporation.