Here’s the thing about Apple “killing the headphone jack” by phasing it out of their smartphone line: They didn’t actually kill anything.
Just because the port is gone from the company’s most profitable device, and though other major companies may follow suit in some fashion, doesn’t mean we can expect Apple to do away with the 3.5-millimeter hole on its other devices.
On iPhone 7, the Lightning port holds new responsibilities. With that said, Apple’s move to have headphones work via the Lightning connector that’s been there since iPhone 5 doesn’t set the precedent that audio will go through Lightning moving forward. Not on Apple’s other products and certainly not on those of other brands.
Though they’ve been cracking down on counterfeit cables being sold online, Apple makes money off Lightning by licensing the use of it to other companies who manufacture their own accessories. This is a key factor in why Lightning wasn’t replaced by USB-C on iPhone 7: It makes Apple money. Apple making money will always be more literally valuable to Apple than Apple making our lives as easy and “enriched” as they say they do.
The phasing out of the headphone jack on the new iPhone allowed Apple to make some sweet design changes to the 10th edition of the device. They weren’t trying to change how we listen to audio on our phones, tablets or computers; they were simply making the best forward-thinking decision for that particular device.
With no such removal necessary for Apple to change physical elements of the forthcoming MacBook Pro laptops and because the headphone jack’s disappearance on iPhone was an evolutionary move rather than an attempt to truly kill off the 3.5 mm hole, the headphone jack is here to stay.
The situation is unique to each of Apple’s product lines, which piggyback off each other better than ever nowadays. Apple Watch doesn’t have a headphone jack and never will, so nothing to say there. In the case of iPad, maybe the 3.5 mm headphone jack disappears with the next round of hardware updates, whenever that will be. We can’t expect the new Macs to get the iPhone 7 treatment, though.
Revenue > Innovation
Why can’t Apple just replace the headphone jack with a Lightning port in the new computers? It wouldn’t be too big a deal, really — just like it isn’t for the new iPhone.
Customers would be forced to purchase compatible headphones (or the new AirPods) as well as adapters for other equipment that utilizes the 3.5 mm jack and that just means bonus dollars for Apple. We’ve seen this a lot recently, notably when they opted to include only one USB-C port on the “new MacBook.”
My pal Ben Hinc brought up a few fair points when we discussed this yesterday. One thing he mentioned was the divide in what ports Apple believes belong where. He said Apple seems to have decided that USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 is best for computers while Lightning gets the job done on mobile devices.
I think USB-C should be everywhere but, for the time being, I can live with the current evolving situation. Hopefully it continues to evolve and USB-C ends up everywhere.
What holds Apple back from jumping off its own Lightning train into the world of USB-C? Well, because it’s their own train. Being that they own it, they can do whatever the heck they want with it.
I don’t have an example, but anything Apple dreams up for Lightning is possible because it’s completely domestic because it’s completely proprietary. It’s one of many things Apple controls within their borders, so it’s something they care a lot about. They control the port, they control the chips that make it work, they control the software that gets powered by the port and they control the certification for the port to be used outside those borders.
Ben and others would tell me that Apple will never comprehensively shift to USB-C because it’s a bad business idea. When you think deeper about situations like this, you realize Apple isn’t truly innovating and creating the best products for us. Instead, it’s arguably them and their bank accounts that luck out.
Four USB-C ports and a headphone jack are what the rumors tell us we’ll be seeing when Apple unveils the refreshed MacBook Pro on Thursday. Clearly Apple recognizes the value of USB-C. It’ll just take a little getting over themselves for Apple to have an ecosystem that lives off one port.
Oh how simple things could be.