Rumors about Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 have been circulating since the company bought Beats in 2014, but as we inch closer to the launch date, those rumors are gaining credibility. Though Tim Cook explained that the purchase of Beats was less about hardware and more about Beats' curated music streaming, acquiring a company that features mostly Bluetooth-connected devices (though they still have a few wired devices) leads to raised eyebrows about the veracity of that claim.
The first issue is that the 3.5mm headphone jack isn't proprietary property, but the lightning port is. By handing out approvals and licenses for other companies to use lightning cables, Apple maintains control over exactly what it allows to be affiliated with its products and makes even more money doing so. If the headphone jack is eliminated, iPhone users will have two choices: Bluetooth connection or lightning cable. Either option means the majority of us will be shelling out money for new headphones if we want to keep up with the latest iPhone.
Eliminating that headphone port means that Apple can continue makes thinner phones (because that went well last time)...even though no one's particularly asking for thinner phones. Longer battery life, sure, but thinner phones? Not a top priority. That tricky matter of physics also means that Apple needs to come up with an astonishingly strong shell if it wants to avoid even more bending.
On the other hand, there's the issue of headphone jacks being a liability. It's fairly common for lint or crumbs to get stuck in a hole that serves as an accidental receptacle for everything lining the bottom of our pockets. If that happens and you try to plug your headphones in, you've just shoved the junk further down the hole and good luck getting it out. Actually, removing lodged detritus from the headphone jack can be downright dangerous because the battery is located right in front of the jack. Well-meaning iPhone users trying to fix their own headphone jack can inadvertently puncture the battery in the process and suddenly turn an annoying situation into a serious one. If the iPhone is the Death Star, the headphone jack is its thermal exhaust port.
The other benefit to eliminating the headphone jack is that lightning allows for higher quality music, which would give Apple Music a significant advantage over Spotify, its largest music competitor. But what if you're listening to music and hoping to charge your phone at the same time? Impossible with one port. This has led some to speculate about whether Apple will be incorporating wireless charging, but if it's true, that means iPhone users are limited to where and when they can charge.
The biggest question is whether or not Apple is--assuming the rumors are true--eliminating the lightning jack in an honest effort to modernize music streaming or if it's after tighter control and more money. With the abandonment of technology that's been standard since we had Walkmen, Apple is effectively making the choice for its customers. For those of us who enjoy the universality of the trusty headphone jack (I use one in my car, since there's no Bluetooth), Apple is telling me my choice is to keep using my iPhone 6 until it dies, switch to Android, or convert. And I'm not so sure I like being told what to do.