Phone manufacturers have been working hard to keep the specifications of their new products under wraps. This proves especially difficult as these products have to be tested at length in the real world before designs can be finalized and testers and engineers like to go out to bars at night. This need to be secretive is not only to keep competitors at bay but with the millions of dollars spent on marketing and the anticipation not only from the public but from investors staking fortunes on the product release, it is imperative that a company hold its product as close to the chest as possible until the last moment. Nevertheless, the public, myself included, continues to scour the internet for any trace of news about upcoming phone releases especially when it comes to a new Apple product.
Besides the possible new camera on the iPhone 7, one of the biggest and most controversial alleged changes to the upcoming iPhone is the removal of the auxiliary jack used for 3.5mm headphones. The 3.5 jack and it’s larger quarter inch jack have been the standard for music and communication technology for over 100 years and some enthusiasts have even purchased headphones in excess of $1000 to get the best quality possible with their music experience. So if the most recognizable music device currently in use ceases to allow these connections, there would be understandable outrage. In fact, over 200,000 signatures have been gathered on a petition to stop Apple from making this choice. But, according to recent Analysts, it appears that Apple will move ahead on removing the beloved little hole from the bottom of its phones.
Apple is not leaving the masses in the dust, however, as the same report states that Apple will be shipping a lightning to 3.5 dongle so you can still use 3.5mm headphones. But with all such major changes, one is led to ask why change something that has worked, and worked well, for over one hundred years. Well for starters, the standard Tip-Ring-Sleeve configuration of the current jacks leads to potential damage, more often from lower cost manufacturers, and the lightning charger connection has proven to be a strong and reliable piece of hardware. Also, by eliminating a comparatively large component, Apple has the potential to make their phone much thinner than before and opens up the possibility for larger screens. But there are two more important things that this change improves that is audio quality and Bluetooth improvements.
For your headphones to play music the signal from the source to the earbud has to be amplified. Currently, phone manufacturers build in an amplifier into the phone so music is loud enough for you to hear. Unfortunately these amplifiers are often lower quality resulting in poor audio quality. A manufacturer using the power offered through the lightning cable, however, could build their own high quality amplifiers into their headphones giving you audio quality they can provide rather than your experience being limited to the device you’re listening with. Being that Apple owns company that has become the premier name in headphones, you can be sure Beats will have something ready to demonstrate this new quality right at launch.
While it is becoming more and more popular, especially with the success of LG’s line of Tone headsets, Bluetooth still has a long way to go to becoming the primary listening device for music. But by removing the standard jack, consumers may be more inclined to want to go wireless with their next in ear purchase rather than worry about amplifier quality. This would definitely force manufacturers to beef up their Bluetooth designs including improving battery life, removing cables, and significantly increasing range and connectivity.
Wherever you fall on the debate, it looks like the lightning train is coming. Personally I like to be able to grab a pair of headphones when I am doing a particular task especially when I forget to charge my Bluetooth headsets. But as a major audiophile, any increase to audio quality is extremely exciting and I am excited as we get closer and closer to a phone just being a framed piece of glass. But we would love to hear your thoughts, is the increase in quality enough to make a radical change to phone design or is this a potential cash grab for Apple? Let us know in the comments below!