Apple’s recent reveal of the iPhone 7 has plenty of people in a frenzy over the fact that they did, in fact, ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of either Lightning-connected headsets or wireless headsets via Bluetooth. While Apple didn’t leave users without options, they did leave users without one important option, and arguably not a great reason as to why this decision was made.
It’s important to note that Apple isn’t the first company to get rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack, they’re just the biggest company that has yet to nix it. It’s particularly effective because Apple is the only company to manufacturer the iPhone, the only smartphone to run Apple's mobile platform, iOS; so while companies like Oppo or Motorola have already done this and people have seemingly made a much smaller commotion about them, it’s for good reason – they have plenty of other options when it comes to using Android.
The big question now is this: Will Apple’s decision cause a domino effect in the industry and cause more manufacturers to also ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack?
It really depends on how this all plays out in the future, as it could go one of two ways. On the one hand, Apple could very well respond to the vocal backlash and bring the standard jack back next year and act as if nothing happened, similar to how Samsung responded to backlash of the removal of the microSD card and removable battery (of which only one was brought back, but the return of the microSD card slot garnered a lot of praise). On the other, Apple might just stay committed to this change. I mean, they haven’t switched back to the 30-pin connector after changing over to Lightning, have they? And if we want to take things way back, Apple is also a big reason why floppy disks aren't still around.
But the change from 30-pin to Lightning brought over a couple of obvious improvements, such as faster charging time and stronger durability – both of which are things that everybody could benefit from. As for the floppy disk, Apple supplied proper replacements such as the CD-ROM and USB. Apple’s reasoning behind pushing for Lightning-connected headphones (higher audio quality), on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily benefit everybody and doesn't exactly serve as a great replacement - especially because we can reasonably expect Apple to be the only one to ever feature Lightning connectors. Very rarely, if ever, have I heard somebody complain about the quality of the audio on their phone when a good, comfortable headset is being used. Despite the fact that Apple has supplied a Lightning-connected headset and an adapter for 3.5mm connected headsets, for many it still serves as an inconvenience rather than a necessary change.
I think even if Apple sticks with this decision for future iPhones, other companies won’t follow suit. While some people either don’t mind the change or are outright pleased with this decision, the vocal majority seem to be displeased. Some avid iPhone fans are voting with their wallets by not purchasing the iPhone 7 (which doesn’t mean they aren’t buying the iPhone – in fact, I could see this move really boosting sales of the iPhone 6S considering the annual price reduction and the fact that Apple bumped up the base storage for last year’s iPhone to match the 32GB base tier for the iPhone 7), and some are jumping ship to other platforms completely. If anything, Apple has made the 3.5mm headphone jack a showcased “feature” rather than a standard at this point.
In short, I don’t think anybody has to worry about the standard headphone connector disappearing anytime soon. Maybe someday, but there just isn’t a good enough reason for most to do away with it at the moment. More importantly, most manufacturers don't have the same luxury and status that Apple does to get away with such a bold move relatively unscathed.
Readers, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think more companies will begin following suit now that Apple has done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, or do you think it will only ever be a rare, isolated occurrence?