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Asked by Todd L Ross in
iPhone
Mobile Phones

Why did Apple remove the headphone jack?

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Todd L Ross
August 19, 2019 7:52PM

Apple’s position is that the headphone jack is an old technology, and that its removal allows the company to produce better phones with more features. Specifically, the removal of the headphone jack allows Apple engineers to do more with the iPhone’s architecture.

“It was holding us back from a number of things we wanted to put into the iPhone,” Apple executive Dan Riccio told BuzzFeed News. “It was fighting for space with camera technologies and processors and battery life. And frankly, when there’s a better, modern solution available, it’s crazy to keep it around.”

“Some people have asked why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone," Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, said in 2016. "It really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on to do something new that betters all of us."

For many in the tech world, that explanation was, at best, incomplete. By eliminating the headphone jack, Apple effectively compelled users to use Lightning (the port used to charge iPhones or connect them to a computer) or Bluetooth headphones, and the company benefits from the growth of either technology.

Because Lightning is an Apple technology, any company that produces accessories that utilize the Lightning jack—including headphone-to-Lightning adapters—must pay Apple a licensing fee. And if you chose Bluetooth headphones instead, Apple still won—it owns Beats, the top Bluetooth headphone company when the removal of the headphone jack was announced.

When introducing the iPhone 7, Apple also brought AirPods to the market (with a hefty $159 price tag). AirPods have since become the world’s most popular wireless earphones. The takeaway is clear: When consumers go wireless, Apple benefits—and that might have helped the company justify its decision to drop wired headphones.

Of course, Apple denies that the removal of the headphone jack was a ploy to get people to buy more wireless headphones. The company’s position is that the move was an obvious step forward.

“Remember, we’ve been through this many times before,” Schiller told BuzzFeed News. “We got rid of parallel ports, the serial bus, floppy drives, physical keyboards on phones—do you miss the physical keyboards on your phone?”

“At some point—some point soon, I think—we’re all going to look back at the furor over the headphone jack and wonder what the big deal was.”

Schiller may have a point. After Apple nixed the headphone jack, other smartphone manufacturers followed suit; Google dropped the headphone jack from some of the models in its Pixel series, and Samsung eliminated the jack in its Note 10 and Note 10+ phones.