September 14, 2016

MALPASS | Save the Audio Jack!

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p class=”p1″>As long-time readers (i.e my parents) might know, I take music pretty seriously. Usually, this has alienated my friends who chalk it up to another one of my pretentious behaviors and usually that’s a fair assumption. Because, realistically speaking, it doesn’t matter if you’re listening to your favorite artist on CD or streaming it, at 320 kbps or lossless quality, with open-backed headphones or five-dollar earbuds. If you’re enjoying the music, then you’re enjoying the music, no two ways about it. However, you do have to be able to listen to the music to begin with.

Which brings us to Apple. In what was widely considered a bad move (to quote Douglas Adams) Apple has decided to completely remove the 3.5 mm audio jack from the iPhone 7. You know, the thing that lets you listen to music with virtually any headphone set? The thing that facilitated the white-earbud-on-black-silhouette aesthetic featured so heavily in Apple’s early advertisement campaigns? Well, it’s gone now. All that remains on the business end of the world’s most iconic smartphone is the little eight pin lightning port, which will now serve all input and output functions.

Consider what this means. If you listen to music on your phone at all, you’re now out of luck with the new model. If your car has only a 3.5 mm input, you can now longer play music with your phone. Yes, a pair of compatible earbuds (sorry, “earpods”) will be shipped with the iPhone, so you can use them with the new phone until they inevitably break after a month of use. However, you are completely out of luck if you want to use any other set of wired headphones than the ones Apple provides, because there is not a single third party headphone manufacturer that uses lighting connectors for audio input since it’s proprietary technology.

But wait, Apple has announced that they will ship a lightning port to 3.5 mm input adapter with every iPhone 7, so problem solved right? Not really, because first, is there anyone who would prefer an adapter to no adapter? Less is always best. And second, this is still a step down from previous models because you can’t charge your phone and listen to music at that same time. There is a dongle for that, but guess what, it’s $40. So, essentially you can pay $40 to do something that every other smartphone is capable of doing right out of the box.

I’ve heard two arguments for the removal of the audio jack prior to the iPhone 7’s announcement. One, it will slim down the phone. Short answer, it doesn’t. The iPhone 7 is almost exactly the same thickness as the iPhone 6 (a couple of millimeters thicker in fact). I’m not even sure who wants a thinner iPhone anyhow, I feel as if I could snap my 5s just by having it in my back pocket and sitting down. Second, it will lead to higher quality and more efficient audio. This won’t happen, because getting the same volume will require the exact same amount of power as older models used. Personally, I can’t tell you if a lightning port is any better at transferring an audio signal, but the digital-to-audio converter won’t be much different and so the signal will remain unchanged. Not to mention that Bluetooth headphones are never better quality than a comparable wired set simply by virtue of a less reliable wireless signal.

This is a business move by Apple to phase out the 3.5 mm jack, pure and simple. If they can effectively kill the audio jack, then they can charge for adapters or simply dominate the headphone market for people who use Apple products. That is, unless you want to drop  $100 plus for a Bluetooth set (and who doesn’t want something else to charge?). Remember, the lightning port is proprietary technology; no other company can use it without Apple’s licensing. And I can guarantee you they will not include an adapter with the iPhone 8 if this catches on. It’s a slow game they can afford to play. And how long until Samsung and Microsoft decide to create their own proprietary ports? Unless you want to live a life of endless adapters, it will be the death of headphone universality.

Adapters are cheap, yes, but why should we as consumers be forced to use them? There is no upside to lightning ports as a replacement for the humble audio jack. The only way to stop the phasing out of the audio jack as an industry standard is to boycott the iPhone. If you need a new smartphone, consider getting Android. Otherwise simply listening to music may become much more trouble than it should be.

Soren Malpass is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Sorenity Now appears alternate Thursdays this ­semester.