Dumb Analogue Ports

by Rob Poulter


There has been a bunch of fuming about the web recently about the rumor of Apple removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from the next iteration of the iPhone (and presumably everything else). All of the complaints that I've seen so far have been of the "isn't it thin enough already?!" variety, which I feel misses a broader issue. There seems to be an assumption that everything that Apple does to the iPhone these days is in service to making it thinner and lighter, and I guess when you look at it, the 3.5mm port and associated internal hardware is the (very small) elephant in the room. 

The problem with the thin is everything sort of approach is that I feel (and have for a few years now) that the 3.5mm port should be done away with. There have been some interesting hacks using this port, such as the Square payments reader, but they are just that: hacks. By shifting everything over to say the Lightning port, you could get native support for digital transfers and encourage more flexible development that didn't rely on the older tech under the hood. The downside is that Apple is going to want their cut under their licensing scheme for people to do it (not that it'd stop the knockoff industry).

Anecdotally, I am seeing a much greater number of students with Bluetooth headphones now, which they tell me last all day and sound great, so I suspect a lot of the hand wringing over people not being able to use their old headphones will turn out Just Fine. If Apple indeed ends up getting rid of this port, I suspect it'll just turn out to be another instance of them being slightly ahead of the curve, a la the floppy drive, the optical drive, the spinning disk drive and having lots of ports on your laptop (although as has been pointed out, ironically enough, retaining the 3.5mm port on the 2015 MacBook).

Incidentally, Graham Spencer over at MacStories has done a pretty decent article on the 3.5mm drama. Check it out