iPhone 7: Will it have a headphone jack and will it come with headphones? How Apple will spin its new phone

You're going to hate it. And then you're probably going to want it

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 06 September 2016 16:50 BST
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple is about to drop the new headphone jack. It could be a disaster – but it probably won’t.

The headphone jack has been used in various forms for more than 100 years. And it’s sat in the iPhone and almost every other computing device since personal computers were first created.

But it will be no more after the iPhone this year. It is a controversial change, but one that Apple must be confident about.

Apple is probably going to do well out of the change – Beats will almost certainly introduce new headphones and Apple might introduce AirPods all of its own. But if it handles it wrongly it could be disastrous, undermining customer satisfaction and happiness at a time when Apple needs to get people excited about the iPhone more than ever.

Here’s some educated guesses about how exactly Apple will spin the new phone – and why you might find yourself happy that the headphone jack has disappeared. We'll find out the truth at its big event.

Bluetooth is the future

Apple doesn't really think that anyone should use wires much, headphones or otherwise.

It's been active in getting rid of almost every wire and port that it can: when the new MacBook came out last year, for instance, it featured only one USB port and a headphone jack. The rest was gone to make way for a wireless future, Apple said, though it was notable that back then getting rid of wired headphones was deemed too much of a leap.

It’s true that wireless headphones have huge advantages over their wired competitors: they don’t get tangled up, they don’t break as easily, they don’t require that unsightly headphone jack. But they have big problems, too, like sometimes dodgy connections and a tendency to run out of battery.

Apple will have to make sure when it reveals the phones that it is able to make people focus on those advantages, and not the disadvantages, when it announces at the same time that it’s forcing everyone to use them.

Active noise cancelling and amplifiers

For those that do continue to use wired headphones, having them plugged in to the Lightning port does have its own advantages. The headphone jack can only send sound (and some simple instructions, when people have hacked it); the Lightning port can send power and even more.

Because of that, any headphones that are plugged into the headphone jack can do far more – like using power for active noise cancelling, which listens out for sound and blocks it, or for powering headphones to make them louder and better sounding. At the moment that relies on battery power, but sending power through Lightning would improve that.

And headphones will be able to receive data, too. That could allow them to borrow the iPhone’s microphones to listen to the world around and cancel it out, for instance, or it could allow phones to have extra powers like fitness tracking.


This is an obvious argument: having fewer holes inside a phone makes it harder for water to get in. There are phones that are waterproof and still use the traditional headphone jack – Samsung has made a number of them – but they usually rely on compromises.

Getting rid of that hole will allow Apple to go properly waterproof more quickly. It’s widely expected that this phone will be waterproof – whether or not Apple says that it is – and that’s probably a good part of the reason why.

Saving space

This was initially thought to be the main justification for the big change. The headphone jack takes up a relatively big amount of space in the phone – if you look at it from below, you can see that the handset couldn’t get much thinner without getting rid of it – and so it’s an important restriction on Apple’s never-ending quest to make its phones as thin and light as possible.

It’s not clear whether Apple is going to use that extra space this time around, though there have been some rumours that it will be filling it with extra technology to improve the screen. It could as much be a move about anticipating the future – by getting rid of it now, they can use the extra space in future phones.

5 things to expect on the new iPhone 7

It's old

Apple just likes to get rid of old stuff, whether or not it’s still useful to people. It got rid of the floppy drive before people stopped using it, and did the same with everything from the CD drive to the ethernet port.

Apple’s two guiding principles seem to be endless innovation and unforgiving shrinking of every device. The more-than-a-century old headphone jack is getting in the way of both – it doesn’t matter whether or not people actually use it.

And there'll be a new one coming next year

The most cynical version of the speculated reasons behind the headphone jack is slightly depressing. Apple is planning a huge new redesign for next year's phone - the tenth anniversary - and wanted to make sure that the most controversial thing happened before.

It's easy to imagine what Apple might have feared here. It's planning to make a huge range of changes next year, of which it will presumably be proud — and then annoyed if it turned out that everyone was talking about the headphone jack.

By adding it this year, Apple gets to take the flak now. And next year they can just use that extra space for good stuff.

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