Back when the iPhone 7 was launched, it came with a controversial decision: no headphone jack.
Instead, it had this new port called “lightning” that served both for plugging in your headphones and charging your phone, but not at the same time. Was this Apple suddenly going mad? or was it a genius move on their part to increase margins and gain marketshare?
In this post we’ll look at Apple’s reasons to remove the headphone jack:
Why did Apple Removed the Headphone Jack?
The main reason why apple removed the headphone jack lies in its competitors: Android phone manufacturers kept coming up with bigger and bigger screens, but the one thing they never dared to touch was the phone’s controllers at the bottom of the screen.
Looking for how to compete, Apple figured out a way of minimizing the top and bottom bezel of their phones (and consequently, eliminating the famed home button):
By using the OLED panel’s flexible properties, they could fold its controller behind the display. This would give Apple the capability of manufacturing iPhones whose screens nearly touched the edge of the phone.
There was just one problem: the headphone jack had to go in order to make room for the display’s controller.
The first phone that took full advantage of this technology improvement was the iPhone X, but since removing the home button was already a controversial move (not to mention the price increase from $650 to $1,000), Apple decided to remove the headphone jack starting from the iPhone 7 to take some heat off the iPhone X’s lauch a year later.
The one advantage the iPhone 7 got from having its headphone jack removed was that it eliminated the easiest way water could damage the phone: a 3.5mm hole where liquid could easily enter.
Even without the headphone jack, the iPhone 7 is not actually water-proof. Apple branded it that way because without the headphone jack they were able to get an IP67 rating for dust and water-resistance, which means that the phone can be fully submerged in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes without being damaged. So water-proof in this context actually means that it’ll survive a water incident.
In its place, the lightning port was added, which brings us to the next point…
The Lightning Port is Proprietary to Apple
This means that any manufacturer that wants to create an accessory that uses the lightning port (think headphones, chargers, etc.) has to pay Apple royalties for the right to do so.
This was a fantastic business move for Apple since they found themselves a new income stream, however this meant higher prices for consumers: either you get Apple headphones with a lightning port or you get a lightning port adapter to use your generic 3.5mm universal headphones.
Either way, Apple ends up winning big.
Increased Demand for AirPods
The inconvenience of having to use headphones that were compatible with a lightning port drove many users to consider using AirPods.
It was not only that you couldn’t buy some cheap replacement on the road in case your headphones started failing, it was also that you couldn’t charge your phone and use your headphones at the same time because there was only one port for both.
At the time, bluetooth headphones usage was not mainstream, so Apple saw an opportunity and took it.
So, that’s why Apple removed the headphone jack.
Were they right in doing so?
Google seems to think so, as they followed suit in their new releases and released this statement:
“The primary reason for removing the headphone jack is establishing a mechanical design path for the future. We want the display to go closer and closer to the edge.”