Jack is dead

Rumor has it that Apple is once again going to kill a legacy technology : the headphone jack. The next iPhone will supposedly get rid of it, to only keep a single lightning port.

Jack Dawson, in the 1997 Titanic movie

Nothing has happened yet, but there’s too much smoke not to believe it. Moreover, removing an ubiquitous technology from a mainstream product seems like a very Apple-y thing to do. They have been known to kill so much technology over the past. Just to name a few : the floppy disk, the 30-pin iPod dock connector, the disk drive in laptops, or more recently pretty much all the ports in a laptop.

Apple Giveth, and Apple Taketh away. (Steve Jobs 1:21)

The outcry on the internet is already pretty loud and toxic. This is decision is called user-hostile and stupid by some (among them, Nilay Patel from the Verge), while others argue this in the order of things to finally get rid of an analog port (among them, Apple’s fanboy #1 John Gruber for daring fireball) . It’s the floppy disk all over again, they say. A full on fanboy flamewar is about to rage over the ternetz, grab the popcorn.

Like any technology transition, it will kind of suck at the beginning, but then we’ll get used to it. The only real question is : after the dust has settled, will we be better off in the end ? Well, digital headphones will hopefully bring some welcome improvements  (Vlad Savov has made a list of some of those).  Sure, the headphone jack has evolved over the year to offer more possibilities by adding pins to the connector (it enabled new functionality like being able to add a remote control on the headphone themselves), but it seems we’ve reached the limit of what can be achieved with a century old standard. Because of the striving headphones and speakers business, there is great market pressure to move things forward.

Lightning vs. USB-C

There is for sure a major annoyance : the Lightning port. This port is not a standard, not even across Apple products (only iOS devices have one). This means dongles, adaptators, and incompatibilities. For example, Lightning headphones would not work on your Mac (let alone on non Apple device). One way out this mess would be to get rid of wired headphones altogether, but let’s be realistic, Bluetooth sucks and that will probably not change anytime soon. Another solution would be to standardize everything around a single port to rule them all. There was great hope last year when the new MacBook came out that the USB-C port would be our savior. But this has not happened yet. The MacBook is still a niche product, there are still very few USB-C products available, and the many different flavors of USB-C are very confusing. For these reasons (and whatever other technical reasons I might not know), I’m guessing the iPhone is sticking with the Lightning port and its lucrative MFi accessories program for the foreseeable future. So I guess the last remaining question is : will Apple put a lightning port on Macs ?

 

 

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