Will Apple Kill the 3.5mm Plug?

An intermittent 3.5mm headphone jack has certainly got to be the world's most common audio hardware failure. I've personally had a dozen or more fail. Can you imagine how many iPod headphone jack failures Apple has had to deal with? So many, that they actually patented a flexible 3.5mm TRS plug to reduce stress on the jack when folks yank it out inadvertently.

It comes as no surprise then, that rumors continue to mount and gain credibility that the upcoming iPhone7 will be delivered sans the pesky, but ubiquitous connection. (Link, link, link, link.) Apple is known for bold moves, but the myriad consequences, both intended and unintended, of ridding the iPhone of a connector with roots that go all the way back to 1964 as a 3.5mm plug, and further back to 1878 as the original telephone exchange operator plug, may echo far more deeply than one might first imagine.

The world's installed base of inexpensive and mobile headphones will become obsolete for use on the new phone. Headphone manufacturers, other than Apple, will be scrambling to adopt the Lightning connector or will have to redouble efforts in Bluetooth wireless cans. The event horizon sucking people into the Apple ecosystem of hardware will become steeper yet.

On the other hand, those who do adopt the Lightning connector will be able to build higher resolution digital headphones, and will be able to incorporate biometric sensing more readily.

To me, it seems like Apple may be pulling a fast one on the industry. Most certainly Beats will be switching over to the Lightning connector, or at least making the connection a readily available option, when the iPhone is introduced to market this September. But this is not a terribly complicated change to the headphones. I think the tumult caused by the missing 3.5mm jack may be cover for the more complex work of developing immersive audio and biometric sensing headphones that Beats is bound to develop in coming years. The "move to remove" may actually be a move to position themselves as leaders in the headphone category as the rest of the industry struggles to deal with the changes.

I'd put up a poll, but I don't want to limit InnerFidelity reader's thoughts to just a few options. I'm very interested and what folks here think of the move. Would you please tell me your thoughts on the potential downfall of this long-lived but troublesome connector, and what Apple's motives might be in the comments below? I'm very curious to hear your thoughts.

JohnnyCanuck's picture

Could it be as simple as Apple moving to a proprietary connector? I believe they have something similar in plan for their charging network, too.

AllanMarcus's picture

you mean like the lightning connector?

JohnnyCanuck's picture

No. Like inductive coupling where no connector is used.

Impulse's picture

Except Apple couldn't possibly adopt someone else's standard if there's still a chance to go proprietary and milk it. I'd be surprised if they eschew the physical connector altogether tho, still need it for audio and debugging purposes... Well, not need, there's always BT and the choice of going down an even more closed modus operandi but y'know.

Mr.TAD91's picture

This new connector is an excellent idea for Apple, but probably won't fly with most headphone manufacturers. I don’t like how Apple has never been about high quality music. Sporting mp3s on your store for a dollar each; when a consumer can pay 5 dollars more or less for an album and rip it in Redbook doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve always purchased CDs or borrowed a few dozen at a time from my public library. Now they want to make a new connector for the headphone…yikes.

It’s all because Apple needs to be proprietary in order to stay relevant. After all, they thrive because of their unique implementations in software, hardware, and the overall exciting Apple ecosystem. These days, the safe choice for someone who doesn't know much about computers (Windows or Linux) is usually the Apple Macbook. College students and even business professionals are drawn to Apple because they simply want technology to "work" for them. They don't want any fuss. The more tech savvy a person, the more likely it is that they’re curious and want to make technology work for them in the best possible way.

In my honest opinion, the connector is just fine and I don't think it needs to be changed. I've only ever experienced intermittent connections with the 3.5 mm connector on very cheap dollar store headphones, airplane headphones ($1 CDN), and headphones that I've owned for over 5+ years. If you treat the connector with care and wipe it with a microfiber cloth every now and then, I highly doubt you will get an intermittent connection any time in the foreseeable future.

All in all, the only time hardware should change is when there is a genuine need for something better. For example: IPV6 (when we run out of IPV4 addresses), Computer peripherals and computer hardware (because the demands of enterprise grade networks/severs/databases/user requirements/gaming requirements is constantly changing) and higher definition televisions and screens on our gadgets (because a higher pixel density and more resolution improves accuracy and detail), and so on.

Speaking of which, my cousin just bought a $400 CDN pair of wireless beats studio headphones. They actually sound pretty decent; but not for the price paid. I dare say they have a Cerwin Vega-like thump in the bass, which makes them kind of enjoyable for EDM songs. The midrange is nothing special, and the treble is fairly grainy. However…They don’t have this ‘special’ connector!

It simply doesn’t make sense unless you’re passing more data through it or the transmission is faster (think CAT 5e cables vs CAT 6-7 cables for computer networking). I know nothing about the lightning connector; so [anyone] please enlighten me if it is better in these ways!


Impulse's picture

It wouldn't really be about making it better per se, just a different implementation of mobile audio altogether, Tyll already described the path they *could* be heading down to.

In a way it could be brilliant really, just like most audiophiles would gladly choose to move DAC/amp duties outside a PC (or other playback components), a Lighting/audio implementation would do the same for mobile devices...

The real issue would be Apple's closed/proprietary implementation. I think it'd be far wiser for everyone, including Apple/Beats, if they simply offered the OPTION but didn't eliminate the 3.5mm jack immediately.

That way you don't force everyone into new headphones or dongles right off the bat, you give it time to see if it gains acceptance, etc. That's just not how Apple operates tho, thru history they love ripping the band aid and removing ports they deem obsolete.

You could easily argue they killed floppies too early on their iMac, jumped on Firewire too hastily while ignoring USB, should've gone USB instead of Lighting (or instead of the old 20 pin), and probably jumped on USB Type C all in too early with the new MB (tho I kinda applaud that if only because it'll push Type C faster).

Mr.TAD91's picture

You made a few great points that I agree with. As I said in a previous comment, the ones to jump on the bandwagon first will be the Apple fans. The force is so strong in fact, that even knowledge of inferior base specs and the inability to play certain games/run special programs can cause the Apple fan to make an impulsive decision-purchasing the device anyway. I've got to hand it to Apple's marketing team though; they truly are brilliant.

Either way, I hope what does come out of this new implementation will carry some benefits for Apple fans at the least. Time will tell.

drblank's picture

is hand out a 3.5mm adapter to retrofit existing earbuds/headphones. I don't think it's THAT big of a deal.

I do wish they would ditch the Lightning connector in favor of USB-C, I mean they were the brains behind the USB-C connector, they just came up with the Lightning connector before USB-C was approved, that's why they are sticking with the Lightning, at least for the short term.

drblank's picture

removed it, YET. They just announced new iPhones and iPads and they still have the 3.5mm connector. Whether they are going to remove it from the iPhone 7 and future products? I don't know and if they do, they'll just give a small adapter with the iPhone 7 when it gets released.

They have a design patent that I believe just got approved or is still in the approval process that allows the area on both sides of their trackpad on laptops to also act as a wireless charging pad. http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2016/03/a-new-apple-inventio...

Anyway, right now, everything is speculation. I'm sure Apple is going to release their Beats version of the Audeze EL8 Titanium that has a built in DAC/amp with a Lightning connector, but that wouldn't change the need for 3.5mm headphone jack for non power headphones. I don't know, it's all speculation, but if they do, they'll just give away a connector adapter to solve everyone's problem.

Seth195208's picture

Way cool!

zobel's picture

Do I detect a hint of sarcasm, or are you actually wetting yourself here? If this is cynicism directed toward Apple, I'm with you.
If you actually peed your pants, I'm not with you.

Seth195208's picture

Most definitely cynicism.

Audio_newb's picture

Whether this year or next, it seems pretty clear that the 3.5mm jack is in danger, most obviously because of the space constraints placed on the iPhone as they continue to make it ever slimmer.

That said, the lightning port can likely be configured to deliver analog audio, and a simple (if annoying) dongle will mean that anyone can still use their more ubiquitous 3.5mm headphones. This does open up the possibility for manufacturers to get creative with an all digital audio port, perhaps with analog conversion happening at the driver, but if any of the previous "made for iPhone" licensing pushes are any indication, it will likely be rough for all but the largest companies.

Plus, any fancy designs that aren't easily backwards compatible with an adapter for existing 3.5mm jacks will be facing a lonely world.

gevorg's picture

I think that ditching the 3.5mm plug for a digital connection will open a new door for the next generation of headphones. The possibilities are endless since you get more physical space in the body of the headphone to use for biometric sensors, noise canceling or crossfeed DSPs that use your head position and movements, headphone amplification and D-to-A conversion that’s a bit better than what can be done inside a phone. Obviously all of these would not fit in an IEM, but could be possible with a compact shaped headphone like Oppo PM-3. If well implemented, these features would be more valuable to me when I’m on the go/travel/exercise, rather than just maximizing the traditional specs like low THD, high SNR, jitter, etc. I’ll leave that for my HD800 rig at home.

OldRoadToad's picture

Ummm...Hey Apple? If you suddenly make the world around you "obsolete" then you may find the world makes you both unnecessary and unwanted. The current setup works just fine and allows people (you know, the carbon based bipedal creatures that buy your stuff?) to use their headphones across a variety of devices from a bunch of manufacturers.

Think about it. Remember "Firewire"? Yeah....thought so.

Mr.TAD91's picture

It won't matter for Apple fans. They'll spend the money. However, your average consumer and audiophiles will probably think twice.

The focus on headphones at this time should be, in my estimation, better driver technologies; so that new headphones can sound like or maybe even better than costly high fidelity speakers in a room. Comfort and proper damping are also considerations.

I hope this new connector doesn't go mainstream...but I can't be sure.

Impulse's picture

Even if every iPhone user buys a new phone and Lighting headphones overnight, that's still only 1/3rds of the market... And that's assuming zero backlash etc. It won't ever be more than a third of the market unless Apple really alters their mobile strategy.

I guess if you count tablet figures it probably skews a bit more heavily in their favor (market-share wise), but if you count laptops atop that market share dives back down again.

The rest of the non Apple world (that is, a good majority of mobile devices in use) will either need to develop a competing solution (or an extension of the existing USB implementation) or simply shrug and move in with 3.5mm as is.

I think Apple's influence and the true value of the Beats acquisition might be put to the test if this really goes down... I wouldn't be surprised if it's simply an option alongside the standard 3.5mm jack, but Apple does love killing off ports so I wouldn't be surprised either way.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Widespread use among many unique consumers; each with their own preferences and requirements. This is just how I am defining it in this context. These consumers can be Apple fans, converted [from Android] Apple fans, elderly and middle aged adults who want to keep up with new tech, College students, young children, so on and so forth. What I don’t mean to say is EVERYONE as in every member of a domain in an Active Directory forest. Widespread…meaning that a trend can be observed.

iPads are excellent for browsing the web, watching movies, and sometimes gaming. Apple has always made a wise choice (unlike Android) to move fairly slowly with better specifications. They can come out with a new iPad that has few beneficial changes and still achieve respectable sales. Also, the quality factor applies to Apple products: what most average consumers see as “high quality” is nothing special compared to the other offerings on the market. Again with the marketing….But many other tech manufacturers (think of a few reputable ones) also sell quality products.

I don’t believe it’s necessary for the rest of the non-Apple world to develop a competing solution until the time is right. For example, USB 3.1 on new laptops is currently not widely used. But as our data requirements begin to exceed our current storage solutions, we’ll yearn for something better. The benefit to the end user matters so much more than keeping up with a competitor.

Beats is a cash cow. Apple is very good at making money. People believe what they hear in advertisements more often than not; especially when “beats” are the seen as the hottest thing and spoken about widely amongst friends and worn by celebrities…

“It must be good.” “Those must be really top notch headphones.” “They look so cool. I want a pair.” ---generally uniformed consumer speak.

It’s too bad that more people don’t know about innerfidelity.com

As I see it, every headphone user in the world should know about this amazing reference site.

And finally… Apple will be Apple!

zobel's picture

Then Firewire was dumped in favor of Thunderbolt, and adapters were sold for $30 that weren't good. they are reviewed here:


zobel's picture

Maybe not indicative of headphone users in general, but you can vote here even if you don't use Apple stuff;


veggieboy2001's picture

My gut reaction is that it's not a smart move, but the more I think about it, the more shrewd it seems.

There are still many (such as myself) who are not really in the Apple-verse. I don't have, nor do I plan on getting an i-whatever. It doesn't much effect people in my category.

For the people who are Apple entrenched, it seems thy are always looking for the latest & greatest...here's a new i-thingy to buy.

For headphone manufacturers who want to stay relevant, if they already have a headphone with a detachable cable, it seems it wouldn't be too hard to get a new apple friendly cable (the early reviews I've read about the Audeze Sine are quite positive) either as an after market purchase (win-win) or as a value added accessory (probable win).

If they don't have a detachable cable (I always wonder why more headphones don't come with them... especially if Mee Audio can do it for a $50 earphone & have it as a $15 accessory) might more manufacturers start having that as an option? (Big win, I think for the audio community at large).

Once there are more detachable cables, if they already have the technology being used to but a DAC/amp on the cord, wouldn't it seem logical to make the same available for usb connections? (another probable win.)

It seems, in the long run a push for (arguably) better audio. If the "move to remove" (I love that Tyll) winds up being a mistake, I'd be willing to bet there is a set of plans somewhere with the same I-phone (pad-pod etc) with a headphone out easily inserted in the "7a" or whatever.

It's a bold move, I'll give them that.

tony's picture

Vinyl died in 1985, yet it's still fading.

Tubes died, geez, around 1970, wasn't it?, still fading!

Wired died with Bluetooth's introduction, some time ago ( I think ).

USB killed off all older Computer Connectivity systems, didn't it?

Those horrible RCAs should've died as much better and more reliable connectors arrived around 1960, they should be fading but they're not.

The 3.5 might be the worst but there are Trillions of them out there, every junk drawer has bunches of 3.5 stuff, it's probably 100 times more popular than the 1/4" version. To the regular Tax-paying civilian the 3.5 is a "Standard".

To us aspiring Music Lovers the 3.5 is a silly thing, to the folks paying $600 for a wonderful Technological device the 3.5 is probably "Out of Place".

We'll be seeing outfits making Adaptors aplenty, Audioquest will probably offer a Carbon $100 version of the Adaptor, the Apple Stores will have little envelopes packages of 3.5 Adaptors hanging on their Wall ( $19.95 ).

If I was still in the Audio business I'd probably trying to order Adaptors right now!, they're gonna be hot sellers.

Apple, god bless em, are gonna have their hands full with Trump and the FBI (CIA), I won't be worried about their Connectivity decisions.

And I'm not tossing my 3.5 box of junk in the Recycle Bin just yet.

Tony in Michigan

AllanMarcus's picture

There are plenty of rumors that the Android vendors will standardize on USB and drop the 3.5mm jack too.

jcheadphone's picture

When exercising at the gym my portable setup is iPhone 6s>Tidal lossless tracks or KaiserTone App>Dita Audio The Answer Universal IEM. How practical is it for Univeral IEM or Custom IEM manufacturers to make a lightning cable similar to the Cipher cable Audeze makes with the built in DAC/headphone amp? Seems like that would take away some of the portability of an IEM.

Impulse's picture

I'm pretty skeptical any tangible long term good will come from a move like this, does Beats even have the R&D chops for advanced biometrics, DACs, and all that jazz? Or were they absorbed into Apple's corporate world a lot quicker and deeper than I would expect?

Even if Apple IS doing this in order to build something better, it'll still be thru a highly proprietary jack within a very closed garden... Even in the US, only one out of three phones is an iPhone, Android gained majority market share years ago.

I'm sure some competing standard would eventually materialize around USB Type C and/or OTG (which is already more capable than the Lighting port in some ways), but who wants to support two jacks indefinitely? The whole third party accessory world is already sick of it, and never mind Apple's licensing fees...

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"I'm pretty skeptical any tangible long term good will come from a move like this, does Beats even have the R&D chops for advanced biometrics, DACs, and all that jazz?"

Now that they're Apple, they sure as heck do have "the chops"---and the money---to do pretty much anything they put their mind to.

Impulse's picture

Just because they bought Beats doesn't mean they cared about the whole business or planned to integrate it wholly. So far I haven't seen any signs of Beats being deeply integrated into the Apple culture, not saying there aren't any, nor have I been madly looking for said signs mind you.. I don't see anything very overt tho, yet.

Right after the acquisition they actually seemed more interested in the online service than actual physical products. I get that Apple themselves DO have the technical expertise, hell they're redesigning ARM SoCs which is probably beyond any of this in technical complexity... Whether they're developing headphones and custom DACs is another story.

Beats itself didn't really bring much INTO Apple beyond the brand and online subs (and I get that for a company like Apple that alone is huge), I mean, Beats themselves relied on other OEM. Guess we'll see sooner or later how committed they are to this market.

Even stuff like Apple TV has long remained more of a pet project for Apple than something they're wholly committed to like mobile devices and laptops. There's been offshoot rumors for years (actual TVs, etc) that didn't pan out.

Impulse's picture

" Once there are more detachable cables, if they already have the technology being used to but a DAC/amp on the cord, wouldn't it seem logical to make the same available for usb connections? (another probable win.) "

For one thing, you can't ever build a proper amp/DAC into a cord per se, it'll always be a dongle... You might get it down to a pretty slim dongle, but it's still a dongle, the alternative is building it into the headphone cup which (along with batteries) will always add cost/complexity/weight.

Second, one aspect that Tyll is seemingly ignoring (or intentionally not touching with a ten foot pole), is how Apple's walled garden operates. For starters there'll be an approval process AND licensing fees for anyone that wants to make Lighting cans that play with their devices...

You wouldn't have any guarantees the the same design ends up working with whatever USB TypC/OTG standard emerges either, stocking two variants (or two much more expensive cable dongles) of any given headphone isn't a welcome proposition...

There's several other reasons why this is a deeper rabbit hole than what you're picturing IMO.

Impulse's picture

Dunno what happened...

Removable cables should definitely be standard, and they aren't too rare if you're a savvy shopper. All my favorite cans from Senn, Philips, NAD, OPPO, and V-Moda feature removable cables...

All but Sennheiser use standard jacks too, and some Senns do too (just not my HD 600 buy they've been around so long they get away with it and it's a non issue).

I think out of a dozen headphones I've bought over three years only two had non removable cables (IEM aside, and some of those feature it too).

davide256's picture

I get more enjoyment streaming iPhone to $200 Bose bluetooth headphones than with any of the wired combos I've used, including external USB headphone amps/ headphones combinations running 2~4X the cost.

mtymous1's picture

...which wired combos of amps and cans running 2~4X the cost of Bose Bluetooth headphones gave you less enjoyment.


Journeyman's picture

Apple will always want to shave thickness to their devices as a marketing tool. Sadly it sells even if you can bend the new iPhones and to be fair other stuff from different brands. The TRS is on the way of the thin future so the engineers at Apple just shove it to the side.
I'll admit that the 3.5mm system is pretty awful when it comes to intermittent connections but even Sony with their love for proprietary standards didn't remove the 3.5mm from their Walkman line.
Anyway this move will affect those in the Apple "ecosystem" and most of them won't really mind the change, after all most Apple users are all about "change" and I'm not saying this to offend but as a thing I observe daily with such users.
Anyway new dongles and cables will arrive and money will change hands as it should in a consumer oriented world.
As for me I enjoy a cable I can fix without the need for a dedicated authentication chip inside...

elfary's picture

As humans are habit creatures the change will be nasty at first but i think that removing the 3.5 out opens the door for some interesting developments.

Can you imagine Shure rolling out a Lightning cable for the SE846 with the dac/amp in the cable itself (ala volume control). That could pack a zero impedance/hiss amp tailored just for the SE846 needs (a low noise & zout amp).

In the short term though i think that Apple will enable analog out off (the currently all digital) Lighting connection and will sell a 29$ adapter.

But the idea of putting the amp/dac in the headphone cable looks really interesting. To me anyway :) I will be scared if i was in iBasso or Fiio shoes.

DisCHORD's picture

I think FiiO is large enough to get through this. And they compete in a somewhat different market than apple, being marketed to audiophiles who use DAP's rather than their phones for portable audio.

Impulse's picture

If Apple really does this Fiio and others like them would simply join in and/or support whatever competing standard develops around USB. It's quite possible that despite Apple's best intentions some people would prefer a discrete Lighting/USB DAC/amp into which they can plug their 3.5mm headphones...

I don't see how they sell this to the mass market that doesn't care about amps/DACs anyway, they're already sold in Bluetooth/wireless.

I know Apple's marketing could sell ice to an Eskimo but still, esoteric biometric functionality aside (and that can be done wirelessly, easily, it'd already been done) the only selling point is SQ and the mass market isn't focused on SQ.

mtymous1's picture

crApple products have no place in the audiophile community to begin with, so let the earbud and Beats zombies change their plugs all they want.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Mega-corps like Apple are concerned with making money like everyone else. If people want something, they'll deliver. For example, they'll cut out something unpopular if it is decided that more people like the last implementation; based on statistics/sales/data/sources.

Even though I would never purchase a MacBook, I must say that your comment is unnecessary. And although it's true that Apple products currently have no place in the audiophile community, we are not in a position to say if they will be in the foreseeable future. Tech is always changing and I'd rather stay curious than hungry.

The matter is simply that these consumers are not interested in experiencing higher fidelity sound to begin with.

"I can hear my music. I'm happy with that." - Numerous friends and family members.

Genuine interest will eventually unfold and the average consumer with heightened awareness will become an audiophile. Else, he or she will stick with their stock earbuds. Forever.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Comment meant for...mtymous

mtymous1's picture

...about what? How Apple recovers from its overvalued Beats acquisition!??

If you are willing to accept the assumption that this site appeals to the audiophile, then I don't see the relevance of this posting, much less the rhetoric and the majority of comments associated with it.

For the audiophile -- which I believe to be the target demographic of this site -- what's the TECHNOLOGICAL advantage of doing away with the 3.5mm? As an audiophile, what can I specifically look forward to GAINING if I start seeing Apple-licensed plugs in my future hi-fi purchases? Sure I'd like to see jitter-correction tech that fits in a lightning plug, but that doesn't compensate for all of the other shortcomings of Apple's proprietary delivery stream before it even gets to the plug.

Until someone -- ANYONE -- can start demonstrating proof of TECHNICAL SUPERIORITY of Apple products, my position is firm -- whether you fancy them unnecessary or otherwise.

Happy hi-fi listening!

Mr.TAD91's picture

Just null.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
If Apple and Beats are working on immersive and virtualized audio, and succeed in delivering a convincing listening experience, that will mean they have substantial control of the 2-8kHz region of driver performance. That's the area where a lot of the HRTF cues live, and it's also the area where driver modal break up occurs. They will likely use DSP techniques to achieve an out-of-your-head experience.

If they can pull that off successfully, that means that they have excellent control in the treble. So there will be a by-product of virtual audio success, which will be excellent audio performance. At that point, all they need is a setting called "fidelity" for neutral, accurate reproduction. Should all this come to pass, we might find that these "smart" headphones outperform passive, audiophile grade cans.

To me, the big question is whether smart, consumer-grade headphones ten years from now end up sounding better than "dumb" headphones at any price.

mtymous1's picture

Since Apple is a HARDWARE-first company, your proffer of DSP and virtualization would align with an incremental injection of a (mostly) hardware approach / tweak to the delivery stream.

But alas, it's yet another incremental add to back-end processing of the sourcefile, as opposed to assuring provenance throughout the entire delivery stream. And I'm no fan of back-end processing, ESPECIALLY when in the form of proprietary hardware. (That's the IT-Pro in me talking...)

I think I've already heard this tune, but am sure we'll see (rather, hear) soon enough. Until then, I'll keep enjoying lossless and hi-rez on my HE400S via low-overhead-Linux, or ASIO solutions.

(BTW, thanks for the detailed, plus-review on the HE400S. Hope you get a little kickback from HiFiMan!)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"(BTW, thanks for the detailed, plus-review on the HE400S. Hope you get a little kickback from HiFiMan!)"

What are they going to do? Give me headphones? Ha! Not much of a temptation for me. And I'd rather keep my job and the trust of readers by a long shot.

mtymous1's picture

"Frankly, Apple doesn't have many fans in the audio community. The company, for all its clout, hasn't ever done much of anything to significantly improve audio quality or the field of audio engineering in general. It could be argued that its bundled earbuds have done much to degrade expectations of audio quality. Omitting the headphone jack would burn everyone with a pair of good headphones or at least foist a dongle tax on their use. But Apple has never been an audio company, so what difference at this point does it make?"

Read more at http://www.soundandvision.com/content/apple-doesnt-know-jack-part-1#uv4b...

Johan B's picture

Seen it fail so many times. A flimsy vulnerable design. This will move the DAC into the headphone which means loss of sound quality.

zobel's picture

Some examples of quality / reliability issues of the Lightening connector:


















I could keep going here, but you get the picture.

Apparently the 3.5 mm is still the best small connector for headphones for overall durability, reliability, ease of use and maintenance, and securely fitting connection. I personally have never had a 3.5 mm jack fail, and I have used them and abused them for many many years.

Impulse's picture

Was a bad idea from the start as far as reliability. Then again, USB Type C is off to a rocky start as well due to the sheer versatility (of power delivery particularly) and bad third party cables.

Developing new connectors is harder than some tend to think, Lighting has some core flaws for sure tho. On the upside, at least the port is faring far better than that cables, which would you rather replace? :p

bogdanb's picture

They seem to be able to come up with a lot of good solutions for a lot of small problems we all came across.
As long as all of our (the customers, the music listeners) eggs are not in one basket we won't be swept into an ecosystem, or at least we'll get there on out terms.

Now without any metaphors my answer is Apple Go for It! at some point we have to upgrade to new tech. After a while the new tech will become standard.

I don't care about cables I care about music.

we won't have to connect much stuff any more but we will definitely have to charge a of of things.
No matter how good our devices autonomy is/will be at one point me might forget to charge them...
sometimes that could transform into a nice experience: We will go wild and leve our phone home and walk across the street.

zobel's picture

Note, these questions are about the connector itself, not the cable.

1) Have you had problems with 3.5 mm plugs or jacks?

2) How often have these problems occurred?

3) How much time in hours/day on average do you use a 3.5 mm plug?

4) How many years have you been using 3.5 mm plugs?

4) Have you had experience with the lightning connector?

5) If yes, how much time?

6) Any problems yet with this connector?

Thanks for doing this survey. May your next apple purchase be a Braeburn, or a Red Delicious from your favorite grocery store.

zobel's picture

Wish there was an edit feature here.

ar's picture

Let's step back and examine this more logically.

There are only 2 ways for them to go here:
3 1/2 Connector or no 3 1/2 connector.

They keep the connector - we are status quo. Nothing to discuss.

They remove the connector - what then?
Lightning connector vs usb-c?
Converter dongle from connector-of-the-day to a 3 1/2?

Lightning vs USB-C:
Anyone who says lighting port is "proprietary" d/n know what they are talking about. It's a competing tech from Intel. Against USB. Anyone can buy in and use it. Apple just happened to be one of few that did. USB is crappier standard, but they charge less!

Tim C. has proven he's willing to play USB-C when he switched laptops to it. It would make sense he would go with USB-C everywhere. Though that would piss off fanboys who JUST got all the latest Lightning gear. THIS is where his bold move may come.

iPhone/pad/whatever HAS to allow people to listen to music.
But they CAN say "Go BT! It's time! It no longer sucks!"

This means you cheap out on internal DAC/AMP to just suit phone conversations.

But they are all about the image of "artists", so they HAVE to allow the one guy in the corner with cable and oversized HD800s.
...which SHOULD be driven by a dual channel one-of-everything anyway.

One thing not to forget: Apple always goes with 5yo technology so that it's more reliable.
And cheap BT headphones, that didn't immediately break and had ok sound, finally started showing up few years ago.

Based on that, I would expect the PROPER move to be:
Dump 3 1/2, pack a $30 stereo BT headset with the phone.
Switch to USB-C connector to let ppl connect DACS directly to it (already supported!).

What Apple is more likely to do though is to keep lightning cause they are too weak to dump it and suggest we keep buying a $20 lightning-to-usb connector... cause why not - we already need a whole huge box to listen to huge headphones. Then go USB-C in a few years.

Then have Beats come out with a $200 red portable amp shaped as a suppository. (Make them white and it would be too close to the actual hemorrhoid suppository, hence my bet on RED.)

Impulse's picture

Lighting has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Intel, you're getting it mixed up with the Thunderbolt conector on Apple laptops and desktops (and some PC) which was indeed developed by Intel. Lighting = FULLY PROPRIETARY and laden with licensing fees and approval processes if you want anything to do with it.

Impulse's picture

They're never switching to Type C, the chance to adopt a wide spread standard already came and went when they eschewed the 20 pin and they chose to develop Lighting instead. Keeping a walled accessory market works for them in many ways, the day Lighting becomes inadequate they'll just develop a third propietary standard.

Put it this way, if they ever adopt USB ANYTHING on mobile it's likely a sign that they're in serious trouble and can no longer shove a proprietary connector down everyone's throats (laptops are another story entirely, they have far less control over the internals of x86/x64 platforms, basically beholden to Intel).

Rabbit's picture

In a galaxy way back in time .... Betamax. That worked!! ;)

Get ready for yet more 'premium' headphones featuring a new plug!!

One useful thing if it does happen in a big way would be the delivery of a digital signal to the headphone direct with a built in dac. Might mean a new breed of headphone appears.

Just a pity that the might not be offering a choice of jack plug or lightening connector. At least then we're not forced to buy another headphone just for the ipods.

GNagus's picture

I think a connector such as a Lightning connector could open up some interesting possibilities for headphones and other applications.

For headphone companies with a different focus but which make headphones that can be used with Iphones (Grado, for example) this may force them to step up their game and focus on their niche.

For example, while i don't see Grado selling a Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphone, perhaps they will create a new top-end headphone with balanced connections for use on a Pono, maybe.

Stephen Owades's picture

The old iPod and iPhone 30-pin connector included analog audio as well as digital data and power, while the Lightning connector drops the analog signals. Apple has made, since the introduction of Lightning, two dongles that convert Lightning to 30-pin—one a square block ($29) and one with a short cable between the block and the Lightning plug ($39). They don't have headphone jacks or volume controls, but there's already a DAC (powered from Lightning) inside. It wouldn't be hard to make the same sort of device with headphone outputs.

Apple does want to keep making the iPhone thinner, so removing the 3.5mm audio jack makes sense. Switching from Lightning to USB-C probably doesn't, since the latter would require a thicker connector. But a headphone (and analog-out) dongle would be pretty close to what they already offer in the 30-pin adapters, and does make sense. This adapter would have the volume controlled by software in the iPhone as well as a passthru Lightning jack.

koolpep's picture

As long as I can't charge my iPhone and listen to headphones at the same time (as both use the same port) it's a silly thing. But to be honest. The general public will move on to Bluetooth or a simple adapter and eventually lightning cable equipped headphones. The audiophiles will have plenty of choices for adapters. I just want to mention CEntrances Hifi Skÿn and all the dacs/amps that already work directly out of the Lightning port. Like the JDSLabs C5D, ifi iDSD micro and nano, Chord Mojo, etc. etc. and most people forget. The iPhone comes with a headset. So the general public doesn't care - there is one in the box, it uses a different connector - so what, it's free and included.

Impulse's picture

They'd effectively be taking away an option, and even if they throw in a (more expensive) pair of Lighting buds it'll quickly turn into "a thing"...

The average consumer either doesn't care about the relative merits of SQ (and/or went wireless already, heck I did too when I'm mobile), or they're cheap and they don't want a digital out port complicating things.

Hell, I think they'd have an easier time selling the masses in improved wireless (be it something like apt-X, maybe that rare lossless apt-X variant, or a Wi-Fi direct implementation etc).

koolpep's picture

....there will be a bit of turmoil, people move on.

I use a DAP most of the time, otherwise I am wireless (in the gym or in the car) - I think most people just don't care, they have the headphones that come with the phone, if they break, they buy new ones (same) and that's it. Audiophiles and forum tigers - different story ;-)

MacedonianHero's picture

A few concerns...I have some great portable headphones and IEMs I'm worried about pairing with the new iPhone 7 when I pick one up. Plus there is Apple's history of changing connectors from time to time (30 pin to Lightning) and then we could all end up with obsolete headphones.

Hifihedgehog's picture

Prediction: Apple will make the iPhone 7's Lightning connector the headphone output, and bundle an adapter for plugging in standard headphones. Said adapter, despite painstaking engineer efforts, due to constant wiggling, jostling and twisting from the rigors of jogging, exercising, household chores, and other everyday abuse, will wear out in large scales, resulting in frequent, large-scale trips to the Apple Store for replacements. Average iPhone 7 users will not be the ones to spend the extra money $200 to get Bluetooth headphones or Lightning-enabled headphones. These users will be largely dissatisfied and demand they get a refund for a flawed product whose accessory fails again and again. After thousands of complaints, the iPhone 7S will return with the classic headphone plug in the same vein that the Samsung S7 redebutted the microSD slot.

Yes, the lightning connector as an audio jack is a good option but it should never become a full replacement for the very widespread 3.5mm standard. Unless, of course, Apple wants to see double digit percentage year-over-year drops in iPhone sales as they have been for the iPad. Let's use some common sense and realize most people do not have a big pocketbook or are a technophile gadget collector. I can see the 3.5mm plug's removal as a huge commercial mistake that will take a huge bite out of the iPhone's sales. Not that I do not welcome it because I think Apple has become too gigantic of a monopoly and the Apple zealot fanboyism in professional journalism has gotten a bit out of hand. The smartphone market needs a good push on the reset button. This might do the trick.

halcyon's picture

Apple doesn't have the leverage to pull this off worldwide.

It will fail.

The market has become too stagnant and Apple is fleecing insane profits based on a closed ecosystem and non-compatibility.

In every single previous instance of this kind of technological-lock-in monopoly it has eventually failed.

This will fail too.

cspirou's picture

The same way that crappy apple earphones were great for headphone manufacturers, getting rid of the 3.5mm jack will be great for DAC manufacturers. I think you'll see a lot more dongle type dac/amps, think Centrance DACPort, that will allow people to use their standard headphones. A similar thing is that it would encourage headphone manufacturers to keep their headphone cables detachable to switch to lightening type cables. And I'd argue that more headphones with detachable cables is what we all want.

halcyon's picture

Lightning is a proprietary encrypted USB variant. Everybody has to pay tax to Cupertino. Apple controls the access to Lightning chips on OS level - they can kill device compatibility (even cables) at software level via iOS updates.

Like Steve Jobs stated: Apple wants a _closed ecosystem_ with full iron-clad control and no competition.

It'd be good for Apple, if it succeeded, but it's so greedy, incompatible and stupid that it will fail flat.

Stefraki's picture

It essentially means headphones will all have to incorporate small DACs and amps - the price will go up and the quality will ultimately suffer as well. I trust Audeze to do a decent job of making a micro-inline dac amp, but I don't trust every headphone manufacturer. And no matter how competent, it will be constrained in its quality by the need to miniaturise. It will send headphones backwards in quality, and at time when they are approaching audiophile heights.

halcyon's picture

Apple is Not Mobile phone market space, it is at 13% worldwide and shrinking.

Android manufacturers is c. 83% and growing.

Lightning is a proprietary, USB-with-encryption bastardized connection.

It does not provide analog audio connections.

Forcing ALL Headphone (regardless of size/price/use) to use internal DACs? insanity.

Even if Apple was so f*cking stupid that they tried to pull it off, it would fail.

Beats or not. The world is not USA and the rest of the market does not bow to Apple.

Really people. Travel sometimes to Europe, South America or Asia.

See what most of the people in the world use.

mtymous1's picture

From a way-back review, you said of Beats "To My Ears They Sound Wretched!" (In bold font, no less...)

Has your demeanor changed because it's now an AAPL-owned? I mean, I believe in second chances (or more, if reasonable), but c'mon now - yours is an entirely different tune!

charlesp210's picture

I'm not thrilled about this change, though I'm well aware that the 3.5mm plug has lots of issues. But I can't possibly change out all my equipment to match the lightning.

For one thing, most of the time I use the jack it is in order to plug it into my car, which features a 3.5 socket. I'm not going to get a new car for this reason, and most likely my next car will not have a lightning connector either (though it might).

I was thinking I'd get a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter, but actually what would work is a 3 foot adapter cable, with lightning on one side and 3.5mm plug on the other side.

This accomplishes little, but at least it's not a step backwards as with a simple adapter which would retain the use of two 3.5mm plugs PLUS the lightning. The adapter scenario can't possibly be better than not requiring one.