Is Apple's quest for a slimmer iPhone 7 behind the decision to dump the standard headphones jack, or is it another cash grab? Despite being a year away, the rumors around the upcoming iPhone are heating up.
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The iPhone 6s is barely in the hands of consumers and already the rumor mill is beginning to turn with conjecture about the iPhone 7, which probably won't be released for another year.
This time, a report in Japanese tech site Mac Otakara quoted an unnamed but "reliable" source, which claimed Apple was getting ready to dump the standard 3.5-mm headphone jack, found on smartphones the world over, and use the iPhone's Lightning connector dock as the audio output jack as well.
This means of course that anyone with a set of headphones with the standard jack would have to buy some sort of dongle or adapter in order to plug in to the iPhone 7. The other alternative is that headphone manufacturers will have to reconfigure their products or offer a version that will fit the newest iPhone.
The reason behind the decision, according to speculation, is that Apple is working on making its newest handset even slimmer than the iPhone 6s -- a full millimeter slimmer, in fact, which means the 3.5-mm headphone jack has to go.
The blog post also claimed that the latest iPhone would come with Lightning-based EarPods, and would support third-party Bluetooth and Lightning-based headphones.
Apple's motivation for moving to a Lightning-based headphone jack could be read two ways:
Design purists would likely argue that Apple is simply working to make the thinnest and most streamlined device it possibly can.
Or critics and cynics will likely feel Apple is looking to corner the lucrative accessories market.
The same arguments surfaced in 2012 when Apple replaced the venerable 30-pin dock found on earlier iPhones with the Lightning connector, which meant an entire charging and docking accessories industry was out of step.
Of course, Apple made an adapter available.
While the first Android-based smartphone -- the HTC G1 -- also shipped without a headphone jack, the design decision didn't have any major influence in the smartphone industry. Apple's decision could have wider implications thanks to the iPhone's popularity and reputation as a cutting-edge, premium device.
Apple sold 46 million iPhones in the third quarter of this year, representing 13.1% of the market, according to Gartner.
This would not be the first time Apple has tossed out ports it considers a hindrance to its quest for ever-slimmer products.
The razor-thin -- just 13.1-mm at its thickest point -- MacBook, launched earlier this year, offer just one USB-Type C port.
Apple has been steadily reducing the number of ports on its notebooks to conform to its vision. The 13-inch 2012 MacBook Pro has eight ports, including a headphone/mic jack, the AC power port, plus an optical drive slot.
The 11-inch 2015 MacBook Air has four, including a headphone/mic jack.
The latest 12-inch MacBook has just two ports: An all-purpose USB Type-C port that doubles as the power source and a headphone/mic jack.
"The only intelligent vision for the future of the notebook is one without wires," said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, at Apple's media event in March.
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Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio
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