Enough with iPhone Headphone Jack Kvetching

2 minute read
| The Back Page

I’ve had it with the kvetching and the complaining and the whining and the doom crying about Apple ditching the headphone jack on the next iPhone. Seriously, stop already.

A.) It hasn’t happened yet.

B.) If it does happen, you have no idea how Apple is going to handle the transition.

C.) When it does happen, you’ll get over it. Just like we did with floppy drives, ADB, FireWire, CD/DVD drives, 30-Pin Dock connectors.

Look at that list. Every time Apple cut one of those things, everybody and their brother was up in arms. I might have been one of them on the FireWire front. It’s hazy, and I’ve worked hard to let it go.

But is there one amongst us who can stand up now and say (with a straight face), “Jeesh, Apple was wrong to ditch [some legacy technology].”

I can’t make a case for wanting anything that Apple has dumped on the ash heap of progress. This is, after all, what Apple does. The company pushes relentlessly forward, whether or not we want it to. But in the end, we tend to be pleased as punch when we get there.

The Woz

Steve Wozniak is the highest-profile complainant. In an interview this week with the Australia Finance Review, Mr. Wozniak said, “If it’s missing the 3.5mm earphone jack, that’s going to tick off a lot of people.”

He’s right. It will. And then they’ll get over it.

[Edit: geoduck noted in the comments that the Woz also complained about Bluetooth. He’s right about that. Bluetooth isn’t the answer. Lightning connectors are. More on that below. – Bryan]

Out with the old

The headphone jack is old. It’s prone to being damaged from normal use. It’s a point of egress for liquid into your device. It’s surprisingly big for what it does (when viewed through a modern eye). Using a Lightning connector for our headphones solves all of those issues.

The only possibility for legit complaint (in my eyes) is if Apple fails to provide a method for passthrough charging or adapters for legacy headphone jacks. I doubt either will be the case. I will be the first to whine about either of those eventualities, but until we know, there’s just nothing to complain about.

For what it’s worth, part of what colors my thoughts here is that I have a pair of Audeze EL-8 Titanium headphones for review. They’re amazeballs, but my point is they came with two cables. The first is a standard headphone jack, and the second comes with a Lightning connector and a built-in digital signal processor (DSP).

Audeze-EL-8 Cipher Lightning Cable

Audeze-EL-8 Cipher Lightning Cable

The Lightning cable works great. It sounds better, too, but without an A/B test, I couldn’t tell you how much can be attributed to the DSP and how much to the Lightning connection.

My point is not about how great the very expensive headphones sound, but rather about having practical experience with a Lightning connector. It works wonderfully well, and I haven’t experienced any charging issues despite the lack of a passthrough option.

8 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    I do agree with Woz on one thing. I hate Bluetooth. A Lightning adapter at a reasonable price would be fine. But I’m not ditching my $120 Skullcandy headphones for some Bluetooth POS that’s always losing pairing or has a dead battery.

  2. BurmaYank

    The headphone jack provides an analog audio signal from its device. Without it, there will apparently no longer be any primarily-generated analog sound streaming possible for capture by other (especially recording) devices, so that IMHO the DRM side of the contest between producers & consumers will have thus won a significant battle (even if the only folks affected by this will be a tiny minority of geeks).

  3. jfutral

    If the iPhone passes on the DSP handling because lightning doesn’t pass analog audio, then likely all the credit goes to the headphone’s dsp/dac.


  4. jfutral

    The only thing that bothers me is most of the writing and proponents of this potential move simply just don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to audio technology. Yes, Apple has a history of ditching legacy COMPUTER technology.

    AUDIO technology is not the same thing. That analog connector is still around for a very valid reason. Sound is still ultimately analog. The only question is who gets to turn the audio material into the electrical impulses that create the sound—the player or the headphones. As to which is better, that debate has raged, pretty much since the beginning of audio electronics. Apple is not going to solve it with the iPhone.

    Also, all this talk about Apple pushing the future ignores that all this is available now, as you clearly show. Is it the future of the iPhone? Quite likely. Is it the future of audio? Not anytime soon and likely never. That analog connection is still capable of passing the highest quality audio. If it wasn’t, there would be no benefit to high quality DSPs and DACs because at the end of the line it still has to be converted to analog electrical impulses. You never get away from that last step. An analog connection is only limited by the quality of the DACs used. There is no such thing as digital sound.

    I agree with Gruber that Apple’s ultimate solution is wireless. That’s their push on everything Apple. And that is the only reason for Apple’s possible move that makes sense.


  5. Lee Dronick

    “That analog connection is still capable of passing the highest quality audio”

    High enough for most uses, and users. I stopped buying any speaker thing that has a dock because every so often Apple changes the connector. Bluetooth works reliably enough and I can always use a mini cord out of the iPhone. When I Bluetooth works reliably enough it depends on the gadget; my Big Jambox works very well and has good range, the Samsung sound bar can lose the connection from 15′ away.

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