Requiem for a Headphone Jack

M.G. Siegler:

The latest bit of antiquated technology Apple is going to kill. Thank god.

I tweeted that last November in response to a rumor that Apple would remove the 3.5mm headphone jack in the next iPhone. Yesterday, the rumor re-surfaced, this time in a report about this fall’s forthcoming iPhone by The Wall Street Journal. This is happening, people.

And sure enough, right on cue, Nilay Patel over at The Verge got pissed off. Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid, was his headline yesterday. At first, I thought the post may have just been a clever excuse to use the phrase “jack off” in a headline. But reading it, he does seem to be legitimately mad about this forthcoming maneuver by Apple.

John Gruber calmly retorted some of Patel’s fears, and poked fun at others. To which Patel snarked:

Was counting on @gruber for the best argument possible for removing the headphone jack, and it’s “Apple knows best”

But here’s the thing about that notion: it’s said every single time Apple does something like this The removal of the floppy drive on the Mac. The lack of a physical keyboard on the iPhone. The removal of the optical drive on MacBooks. The end of the mouse. The removal of USB ports. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The outrage is as palpable as it is comical. Then everyone calms down. The news cycle moves on. People buy the new Apple device anyway. Life continues. All competitors copy Apple’s once-controversial move. And technology ends up in a better place as a result.

Because, ultimately, this isn’t about “Apple knows best,” it’s about progress. You cannot move forward if you don’t sever the ties to the past at some point. As Gruber points out, Apple seems to be particularly astute with its timing in this regard, but I’d argue these changes would ultimately happen regardless. They’d just happen a lot more slowly.

This isn’t rocket science, it’s simply sensing trends that are going to happen. Sometimes Apple may push the envelope a bit early (the one USB-C port on the MacBook is mildly annoying), but pushing that envelope is the lifeblood of innovative companies. If Apple wasn’t making a move like removing the headphone jack, I’d be worried. The plug is essentially 19th century technology, for Chrissake.

I actually welcome the move to no headphone jacks. I’m an avid user of bluetooth as well as the one pair of ear buds I have that are lightning.