Apple took a lot of heat for ditching the headphone jack with iPhone 7. Many labeled the omission a huge mistake, and some even went as far as to say it would leave sales in the gutter. But just over a year on, other big names are following suit.
It seems Cupertino was right again.
Apple has been first to scrap a lot of popular technologies. The company did away with the floppy disk drive and FireWire. And it eliminated optical drives. And Apple left off traditional USB ports in its most recent notebooks.
But Apple’s decision not to include a headphone jack in iPhone 7 was perhaps its most controversial move. Despite it being decades old, millions of people still rely on the 3.5mm port every single day to enjoy their music through their favorite headphones.
The reason behind the decision was simple: Apple needed to free up space for more modern technologies. The company wanted to bring new features to the iPhone, like brighter displays, stereo speakers, and the Taptic Engine. The headphone jack simply took up too much room.
Apple solved the problem on day one by shipping a Lightning to headphone adapter with every iPhone 7. But the complaints rolled in regardless.
Bemoaning the lack of iPhone headphone jack
“Apple wheeled out plenty of rationalizations for the decision, but at the end of the day, it was a bad call, and a step back for the forward-thinking tech giant,” wrote Caleb Denison of Digital Trends. “By alienating a broad base of users, Apple will certainly feel some fallout.”
“What exciting times for phones! We’re so out of ideas that actively making them shittier and more user-hostile is the only innovation left,” said Nilay Patel, co-founder of The Verge.
“The old Apple mantra, ‘it just works,’ is officially dead this week,” wrote Mashable’s Chris Taylor following the iPhone 7’s unveiling. “Now Apple has retreated into its walled garden, and it has built the wall higher. It is a wall beyond the dreams of Trump.”
“Apple has changed the jack and I believe this is a bad move for customers,” wrote Blake Morgan of Forbes. “Right now Apple feels it can do whatever it wants because it’s the market leader, however how long will they be as powerful and successful as they currently are?”
“I know there are many people who don’t care, but I think they should because this is as blatant an anti-consumer move that Apple has ever done,” cried Carter Dotson of TouchArcade. “And I hope enough people say to Apple that this is unacceptable.”
“I’m just not convinced there’s a good reason to get rid of it,” said Cult of Mac’s own Luke Dormehl. “There’s just no real upside to it.”
Except it’s the future!
Plenty of other fans and critics bemoaned Apple’s decision. Some said it was bad for consumers — but many conceded Apple would win in the end. Few predicted that the company would bring the port back for future iPhone revisions.
“I’m usually scared to make predictions, but my bet is that there will be an adjustment period for a year or two… And before long, most major smartphones will end up following Apple’s lead and ditch the headphone jack too.” reads Steve Kovach’s review for Business Insider.
As it turns out, it didn’t take a year or two. HTC, LeEco, and Essential all launched handsets without headphone jacks within the first year of iPhone 7’s launch. Motorola actually beat Apple to removing the port with the Moto Z launched in June of last year.1
And now Google has followed suit, despite mocking the iPhone 7’s missing port, with the Pixel 2. Like Apple, it will ship an adapter in the box, but it is pushing consumers towards its own wireless earphones called Pixel Buds.
Apple’s move didn’t hurt iPhone sales. The iPhone 7 helped Apple reclaim the top spot in global smartphone market share, and sales remained steady through June 2017, despite the launch of the Galaxy S8 a flood of rumors promising even greater things from iPhone X.
Still, the headphone jack lives on for some
The headphone jack is far from dead yet. Plenty of other smartphone makers are still pushing it, and that will remain the case for years to come. But a trend is emerging, and it will continue as our smartphones become thinner and more advanced than ever before.
Apple was right, then. We can live without a headphone jack, and removing it has its advantages. If you refuse to buy a smartphone without one, it might be a good idea to rethink your decision before your options become extremely limited.