Apple iPhone 7 Airbuds

Apple’s removal of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 is a disappointing money grab

Apple’s decision to remove the trusty headphone jack from the iPhone 7 is a disappointing signal that the company is more interested in squeezing ever more money from its fans that doing anything technologically interesting.

There were rumours that Apple was going to remove the headphone jack on the iPhone 6 a couple of years ago, but now they have actually followed through and the reality is that this is a change no-one wanted, and is definitely not “courage” like Apple’s PR team would have you believe.

It was not courage, but licensing fees and control that has resulted in Apple dropping the headphone port – Apple’s management could just not deal with the possibility that headphone companies could manufacture a compatible product and companies like payment processor Square could make use of the jack in different inventive ways – all without paying Apple for the privilege.

Apple wants a slice of every pie – they take a cut of each monthly subscription fee for music services and magazines sold through the App Store, making it far more difficult for those companies to compete with Apple’s own streaming and news products. And now they are closing down the last possible way manufacturers can offer products compatible with iPhones without having to pay Apple. For a company with more than $215 billion and who pays nearly no tax, Apple sure does seem keen on squeezing everyone for every last penny.

The headphones jack is old, reliable technology and something that was truly universal – everyone’s headphones and hifis were compatible and there were no licensing fees. Now, the option for those that purchase an iPhone 7 is to carry around an annoying dongle all the time (which prevents you from listening to music and charging the iPhone at the same time) or dropping a further £159 on some “Airbuds”.

Apple’s execution of Bluetooth wireless technology may be great (and it is Bluetooth-based even if Apple does not mention this other widely-used wireless tech anywhere on its website), but you will be hard pushed to find anyone that has found Bluetooth to be better or more stable for audio than a physical wire. And worse, the Airbuds are just wireless versions of Apple’s already poor Earbuds – style is everything, sound means nothing.

The Apple-owned Beats has also released some compatible wireless earphones at varying prices, starting at £130, but Beats has always been style over substance as well, so while these will be more comfortable and likely better than Apple’s Airbuds – they still won’t be worth the money.

Apple was right to remove the DVD drives from its laptops, because the world was already moving to internet-based delivery for software, music, and films as that made life for consumers easier and downloaded or streamed media is often higher quality to that available on disk. This is different. Wireless headphones are not close to replacing their wired equivalents because for the upside of being wire-free, the headphones have a very limited (five hour) battery life, they cannot be hooked up to all the hifis and music systems around the world, and they do not have the audio fidelity. DVD drives were bulky and added significant heft to laptops, but the headphone jack is tiny and makes little difference – they are a number of phones on the market already that are thinner than the iPhone 7 (7.1mm) and include the headphone jack – Vivo X5 Max (4.75mm), Oppo R5s (4.85mm), Samsung Galaxy A8 (5.9mm), Huawei P8 (6.4mm), and many more.

This move is grab for control and more money from Apple that makes the iPhone 7 a poor choice of smartphone, and for a company that prides itself on offering a premium product that could be a costly mistake.

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