You run the risk of exposing yourself to failure, criticism and ridicule each time you introduce a bold new feature or dare to go against the tide. Apple, of all companies, is aware of that. Apple is no stranger to courting incredulity among critics and customers alike. Some of its moves seem to defy logic at the time. It happened with the removal of the floppy disk drive, the CD drive and the DVD drive. With Macbook it removed all ports but one.

These changes were greeted warily, but eventually accepted enthusiastically, to the extent that entire companies later followed suit. Apple has always pushed the envelope and can be credited with introducing the category of smartphones and the present-day ultrabooks (which seek to emulate the Macbook Air).

When seen in this perspective, the removal of the headphone jack seems to be in good company as far as bold, innovative moves are concerned. Only, it’s slightly less original since Motorola has beaten Apple to it.

Except that for all of us who love our headphones, it’s a travesty. Has this move come at the right time?

Let’s play the devil’s advocate.

Headphone jacks are useful and have sentimental value

Wired headphones have been with us for so long that the thought of them being made redundant makes us bristle with anger. We have grown up with them, we live with them. If you purchased an expensive pair of quality wired headphones, you know that the sound quality is not an issue with them. Beats headphones, anyone?

The thought that they are on their way out is not an easy one to digest and will understandably raise people’s hackles.

Apple isn’t the first company to remove the headphone jack

Apple credited the decision to bid adieu to this ubiquitous feature on phones to “courage.” We wonder what kind of courage, considering that it is not even the first company to do so.

Motorola leads this revolution, if it may be called that. It removed the headphone jack in its new line of Moto Z flagship phones, introduced way back in June this year to not nearly the same amount of fuss. But when Apple does something, it grabs attention. It may be a courageous move for Apple. Companies are already following suit. There are rumors that Samsung’s Galaxy S8, to be launched early next year, might do so, too.

Spare a thought for user convenience

Phones are supposed to make our lives easier. And they are, but only to an extent. How many devices are we supposed to charge? As if phones and laptops (some of which are also forcing us to carry extra cables/adapters because of a lack of adequate number of ports) were not enough, we now have watches and headphones joining that queue.

It’s laughable that AirPods will only last for five hours on a single charge. That doesn’t sound great for mobility. One needs their headphones the most when traveling, and the last thing you want to do then is wait around as your head/earphones get charged. It’s sad that when using the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, one cannot use their headphones (even the wired ones) and charge their device at the same time.

This seems entirely unnecessary and certain to cause users great and repeated inconvenience.
I own a fantastic pair of Jabra Bluetooth headphones and yet find myself repeatedly opting for the wired headphones that came with my smartphone only because they are so easy to use. Just plug them in and you’re good to go. You don’t have to think about when/where you might need to charge your headphones.

I love my music and am safe in the knowledge that if I put my phone in the flight mode the battery will last me a long time. I would be able to listen to music as much as I would want on a long-haul flight without having to worry about charging my, umm headphones, and waiting aimlessly for the entire process to be done with. The iPhone 7 is clearly not the device for me.

The future is wireless, but the present struggles with wireless charging

Ah, the fabled future we keep hearing about. In order for it to come to pass, technology needs to put user convenience at heart and make available high-quality affordable options to work around the inconveniences caused by these jumps in technology. Are wired headphones really that problematic to carry? How many seconds does it take you to untangle them? Would it be more convenient to carry wireless headphones that look like they can be easily misplaced and would require you to also have another charging cable/arrangement on top of all others?

Companies that are pushing this technology need to ensure the phones can be charged wirelessly, otherwise it is too much of an inconvenience. As it is, the wireless charging technology is in nascent stages. It takes a few hours for a smartphone to be fully charged wirelessly. Next to the fast charging cable adaptors, this looks ridiculous and too much of a demand on a person’s time.

Apple spoke about the post-PC era way back in 2010 and it still hasn’t arrived. Will it some day? Sure, it’s a possibility. But we are not holding our breath and neither should you.

The removal of the headphone jack has been presented as a similar move, a nod towards a future – a future that may be thrust upon us at the cost of user convenience.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Does a missing headphone jack sound like a deal-breaker to you in a smartphone? Would you be comfortable charging your wireless earbuds every few hours? Where do you think are we headed with this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Pete Peranzo

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