Future iPhones May Not Feature 3.5mm Headphone Jacks

Earlier this week, Apple announced new specifications for manufacturers in the MFi (Made For iPhone) program, encouraging them to make headphones that use the Lightning port on iOS devices instead of 3.5mm headphone jack. Today, a report by AppleInsider is claiming that Apple may be planning to ditch 3.5mm headphones jacks in future iOS devices in favour of Lightning headphones, allowing it to produce even slimmer iPhones.

Ios

The headphone jack is believed to be the thickest component of the current generation iPhone 5s. Replacing the legacy audio jack, Apple could make headphones not only slimmer, but also smarter. The source highlights that “a bidirectional digital link with Apple’s uber-powerful handheld computers” could make for better noise cancellation, improved audio quality, and even turn them into biometric sensors. Furthermore, headphones could also be lighter, drawing power from an iPhone instead of an internal battery.

“The real victory, though, would come in hardware design. Because of the manner in which connectors are made, designers must account for a seating area around the jack, not just the jack itself. In the case of the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, Apple put this seating area at around 6 millimeters. Even the controversially minimalistic connector on Apple’s own EarPods comes in at around 5 millimeters, a full millimeter thicker than the first-generation Lightning connector — and the company promised yet smaller Lightning form factors at WWDC. The entire iPhone 5s, in comparison, is just 7.1 millimeters thick.”

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said when introducing the Lightning connector alongside the iPhone 5, “It’s a huge difference in the world’s thinnest smartphone.”

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  • NO WAY.

  • Al

    Nope.

  • iFone

    If anyone can pull a change, that’s Apple. They did it with the USB (getting rid of Floppy), no optical drive (getting rid of cd, DVD – this why they didn’t invest in Blu-ray), and now they will do this too. Just be patient. It will take time for the industry to adopt.

  • This is the dumbest thing I’ve read in a while. The 3.5mm jack goes far beyond computers and is used all over the place. That’s why about 95% of headphones use it. Ditching it would force people to buy headphones exclusively for their iPhone and who cares if the phone is 2nm slimmer if I have to carry a second pair of headphones that plug into everything else I need to use through the day.

    This is a case of design obsessed pundits forgetting about the practicality of said design. I’m sure we’ll see Lightning-enhanced headphones, but to ditch the 3.5mm jack is to attempt to shift numerous industries, many of which Apple has no presence in.

    Worth noting is that a Lightning connector is a proprietary Apple technology, not an industry standard. Apple was able to make the shift with USB and CDs because they were open standards that PC makers were just dragging their feet on adopting. The Lightning connector is a very different story.

  • Christian Henry

    And how, exactly, would you *charge* the phone while using Lightning-connected headphones?

  • My 1/2 cents

    Very good point. Maybe they don’t expect you to. Maybe they expect the device to be already charged up? Or even more likely, do away with the cable and have you use BT instead?

  • My 1/2 cents

    I don’t want that…so I won’t give them any time. If anything, I might jump onto the Android plane when the time comes.

  • iFone

    You guys get all bog down on one thing. How many times didn’t you get headphones with adapters for 3.5mm and 1/4” and so on? Potentially this may be the only way you get your audio from an Apple device in the future (with the earpods), but pretty sure a lightning to 3.5mm adapter will be provided/available. This will open a whole array of new high quality audio headphones with functions you never thought of possible before (just think of the Code Conference interview with Iovine where he explained the lack of high quality audio around and how it impedes listening to music as it was intended). As for taking care of charging, the sky is the limit (2 lightning ports instead of 1, or maybe IR/Wireless charging, etc.) Just thing for a second of the possibilities before saying “that’s a stupid idea”. Pretty sure Apple engineers have thought of what you’re thinking too.

    They will leave it up to you to choose between low-fi and hi-fi audio. Pretty sure.

  • iFone

    Be my guest. Android will always be there for you. However, I will ROFL when they start shipping phones with USB enabled headphones only to keep up with Apple. Then your current headphones will become useless.

  • lstcl4563

    While reading the article I was under the assumption that a second lightning port would be added where the headphone jack currently is. After reading your comment, I can see there was no indication for this to be true but I think it would be a better way to go.

    My concern is how easily a lightning cable might slip out. Headphone jacks attach very securely, enough so that I’ve dropped my phone and lifted it using my headphones. Lightning cables don’t have that ‘snap-in’.

  • Anon

    “They will leave it up to you to choose between low-fi and hi-fi audio.” lol.. I certainly hope you are not insinuating that the audio from the lightning connector will be better than the 3.5″ connector. Also, Lovine’s comment about “lack of high quality audio” is a complete joke, considering his own beats line not only lacks audio quality, but is severely overpriced.

  • Anon

    You do realize that USB is a universal standard. The lightening connector is completely exclusive to Apple, as mentioned above.

  • bspence88

    I personally love the idea! Think about it, cables have to change eventually as they continue to make things smaller. I remember when Apple changed to the lightning cable and everyone freaked out that all their docks and stuff wouldn’t work anymore.. I’m pretty sure that bitching passed pretty quick. Apple is such a big company that headphone companies will want to give the option to use lightning (probably as well as the standard 3.5mm jack). Don’t forget, Apple just bought out the largest headphone manufacture so I’m sure Beats and other companies will allow for both 3.5mm jacks as well as Lightning. It’s going to become a standard, just watch.

    Another example.. 3rd party companies all make micro USB chargers as well as Lightning. You always have the option. Lightning may be proprietary to Apple but it’s pretty standard out there in the marketplace when looking for aftermarket products.

    To the people so afraid of change, why don’t you go back to using cassette players?

  • Al

    “Think about it…”
    You need to think a little harder, then. It’s not just about converting to a different format like the switch to the lightning connector, where people just mildly grumbled. This is about major inconvenience. For example, imagine you are traveling and have a stop over and you need to charge your phone at the airport gate while listening to an audio book. You can’t do it if you only have one port. That’s just completely unacceptable. Therefore, this notion of combining the two will NEVER happen.

  • bspence88

    Who said there was only going to be one port? If there is, I’m sure there will be away to double connect.

  • Martin Tam

    Yay, I can pay another $30 for a adapter for my iPhone I have to carry around to use my headphones * sarcasam*

  • Al

    “I’m sure there will be away to double connect”

    You’re sure are you? LOL

  • bspence88

    My point is, Apple won’t do something stupid.

  • iFone

    Yes it would. Same as saying that studio headphones don’t benefit from using 1/4″ jacks than 3.5mm.
    And again, the standard would be open to everyone, not just Beats. Other manufacturers can use better, premium materials and reap the benefits of using lightning instead of 3.5mm. Clearly you’re shortsighted and don’t know how to read between the lines.

  • iFone

    Your comment accepts that if the standard was USB to make headphones better (just because it’s universal) you would completely agree with it, even though newer mini USB (that look awfully similar to lightning) will be the new standard in the coming years, and thus deeming all your existing accessories obsolete.

    Also, universal doesn’t mean better (beta vs. vhs or thunderbolt vs. usb)

  • iFone

    I got a solution for you. Go buy an Android

  • Anon

    No there wouldn’t be, especially nothing the average joe would notice. It would still be going through a DAC. FYI, there’s also no discernible difference in SQ between 3.5mm vs 6.5mm, other then the later having stronger physical connection and more widely used with desktop amps. For some reason you’re under the assumption that I’m against lightning port HP’s – I’m not, other there being fragile connection issues. My issue is with some of the comments you’ve made regarding SQ.

  • Steve

    It’s an “idea” that probably won’t get off the ground anytime soon. As far as charging is concerned, there are definite problems. 1: 2 lightning ports won’t do as the bottom of the iPhone is already cramped as is. Also note that the port requires additional space for internal electronics. 2: IR/WIreless charging is extremely SLOW. Charging via cable is 10x faster.

  • Well, Apple’s been known to do this in the past. The Retina MacBook Pro dropped FireWire ports and necessitated a new version of MagSafe so that it could be thinner. Those were a little less of an industry standard than the 3.5mm headphone jack is though.

    I certainly hope this doesn’t happen, for two reasons. First, I don’t like the inconvenience. Second, I happen to think the iPhone 5 is thin enough. I guess we’ll see…

  • iFone

    The average Joe doesn’t notice much. Everything is the same to them. As for audio quality, early reports does mention of a better audio quality support so let’s wait and see on that one.
    Just saying it won’t be of higher quality makes you arrogant at best.

  • iFone

    I wouldn’t be too concern about charging.
    Also, those were just examples I mentioned as potential workarounds to the “problems” some are seeing around charging the phone whilst listening to music. I am not advocating towards one, or saying one is better than the other. I will leave that to Apple to show us, as I am pretty sure they are smart enough and have thought of that use case as well. Let’s just wait before jumping into conclusions.

  • iFone

    Yes, sure. There are many examples of passthrough charging that can be applicable to headphones as well.

  • Al

    “Passthrough” is an often used, generic term that applies to all sorts of things, but I have not heard of ANY examples that would be applicable to this suggestion. But if it were possible, you would be giving up the existing simple elegance by introducing a Y-splitter. That’s just not Apple.

  • iFone

    That’s your mistake. You’re looking for existing solutions on how to charge your phone, but how Apple operates is that they look at something, re-engineer it and make it better. So, they might surprise you with the solution they may present.

  • Anon

    Arrogant? Lol. I’d say less ignorant than most when it comes audio. Especially those who think by simply changing the connection will drastically improve quality like some kind of magic wand.

  • iFone

    Let’s just wait and see. Is that OK with you, less ignorant Anon?

  • Steve

    The way I see it, everything is going wireless, and Blutooth headsets has vastly improved over the years while providing 2-way data communication, with an even faster BT 5.0 spec on its way. Last time I used a wired headset was a couple of years ago, and I’d never go back to that tangled mess of wires.

  • Jayme Capurso

    Great, ditch more functionality in favor of making it thinner.

    The iphone battery is already stupidly short in life especially considering it isnt removable.

    Will this moronic race of form ahead of function please stop!

  • Somewhat right, mostly wrong.

    There is no physical reason for any sound quality difference between a 3.5mm jack and a 1/4″ jack. And like mentioned elsewhere, everything’s going through a DAC which will limit the overall sound quality (and I doubt you’re going to see a substantially better DAC put into an iPhone).

    Like I said, I can totally see Apple opening up the lightning connector to 3rd party headphones, but the 3.5mm jack isn’t going anywhere. Apple was able to lead shifts in other technologies because they were largely confined to the computer industry. Audio interfaces stretch far beyond computers, and there are big players and established technologies. There is nothing “wrong” with a 3.5mm jack which is why it’s proved to be such an established and persistent technology.

    Apple will never put 2 of the same port on an iPhone. Ever. IR/Wireless charging is very slow and has yet to really produce a viable commercial product. I don’t doubt that Apple could design their way into that, but I don’t see it as something that’s going to come in the box with an iPhone.

    The other issue is that as much as Jimmy might lament the lack of high-quality audio, I’d be willing to bet that a vast majority of iPhone/iPod users are perfectly happy with AAC files at 160-256kbps. The number of people pining for a high-quality output of a lossless file is very small. Also, given the storage constraints of an iPhone (of which the 16GB model is the most popular seller), the value of having many albums on the phone at once instead of a few high-quality ones will trump for a majority of users.

    And remember, the iPhone is a portable device. I’m sure traffic noise or the squeal of subway wheels is a larger impedement to sound quality than a different type of connector or better DAC. 3.5mm jacks and headphones are so popular Apple would have to provide an adapter for them in the box, and they’re never going to do that.

    Like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple added support for high-quality audio output, but the 3.5mm jack won’t be going anywhere. Or at least, it won’t be going anywhere until they’d be ready to eliminate it on their laptops as well. And that’s not going to happen any time soon. Maybe in 10 years the audio landscape will have changed, but now certainly isn’t the right time.

  • Extra Domus

    apple splitter adapters LOL watch…

  • Extra Domus

    i think apple will make you pay for a splitter rather than 2 ports…2 ports would be a bad idea – the point is for the device to have less holes

  • One way I could see it improving the sound quality is if they make it a digital connection and then put the DAC in the headphones. That way headphone manufacturers could put a higher-quality DAC in their headphones, or standalone DACs could be developed for Lightning connections to go into higher-end stereo systems.

    That being said, you’re still dealing primarily with 256kbps AAC compressed audio, unless (hopefully) Apple has plans to increase the quality of the downloads in their iTunes store.