[ Fast Company ] Mark Sullivan:
Apple’s next big phone — presumably called the iPhone 7 — will come without a 3.5mm headphone jack, will be noticeably thinner, will very likely support wireless charging and be waterproof, a source with knowledge of the company’s plans tells Fast Company.
As has been rumored, our source confirms that the new phone will rely on its Lightning cable port for sound output to wired headphones. That port has been used for power and data transfer in recent iPhones. Users can also use wireless headphones.
Getting rid of the 5.25-inch floppy in favor of the 3.5-inch version makes sense, because the entire industry was going that direction. Apple went faster than the industry, but it was going in the same direction. The same thing happened with the 3.35-inch floppy drive in favor of CD-ROM drives. Apple is doing it again by getting rid of optical drives on its machines one by one. This makes sense because the whole world is moving away from optical media to digital. But the 3.5-mm audio jack?
Are there any indications audio connections are shifting from 3.5-mm wired to Lightning? No. Wireless audio will continue to develop and I think the two will co-exist for a while, but Lightning-connected headphones?
If Apple does end up with an iPhone without a 3.5-mm audio jack, I think Apple will have resurrected one of its Achilles’ heel: not moving ahead, but moving away, from industry standards. For example, Apple started with Motorola CPUs and then to IBM CPUs. Both niche, compared to Intel. The rewritable optical drive on the NeXT Cube is another example. Not ahead, but way out there. Apple would be doing the same thing with the iPhone if it thinks Lightning will be a better audio connector than what the rest of the world uses, and will continue to use for a long while.
If Apple wanted to bet on a single connectivity standard may I recommend USB-C. USB-C for data, for power, for audio, and for video. That makes sense to me. On the other hand, getting rid of the 3.5-mm audio connection makes little sense if any.