Why Removing The Headphone Jack Will Create Better Audio Products

In 1998 Apple removed the floppy drive and it made a lot of people angry.  In 2012 Apple removed the CD drive and it made a lot of people angry. In 2014 Apple released lighting and USB port-only Macs and it made a lot of people Angry. And yesterday Apple removed the headphone jack and it made a lot of people angry. Is there anyone out there still missing the floppy disk?

Apple is best at making products. They are the pulse in which our electronics evolve. And for over twenty years the market has proved this.  Never has an electronics company besides Apple REPEATEDLY introduced a groundbreaking technology and have the rest of the World follow suit. That’s not just luck, that’s human connection. And it comes from owning a huge share of the market which doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Hate them or love them, Apple has made the best products over the past twenty years, their profits can prove it.

Yesterday Apple did it again with having the courage to remove the headphone jack. However, this one seemed to cut a bit deeper. When Apple removed the Floppy drive in 1998, CDs had been well circulated in the market for over 15 years. When Apple removed the CD drive in 2012, sites like Napster had been dominating digital music consumption for over 10 years. People were angry, but younger generations were totally understanding. Last time I bought a CD was in 2007. When the CD drive was eliminated in 2012 I was ecstatic, the drive on my macbook had been broken for years!

However, yesterday Apple introduced a jack-less iPhone to a market that still loved wired headphones. Only this year did wireless headphones surpass wired for the first time. And for the first time younger generations said “hold up”.

The fact of the matter is, whether Apple did this 2 or 10 years from now, it still would be the right move. With every technology Apple has weened out in the past, they have offered a simpler, easier and more reliable solution that always seems to catch on. This is no exception. Bluetooth and Lightning may make consumers cringe now. But I assure you, it will be a quick transition. Just like the Floppy Drive, Ethernet port, CD Drive and firewire port.

Removing the headphone jack is not nearly as bad as you think

People will argue that the quality of wired headphones surpasses that of wireless. but I disagree. Yes, nothing will ever sound as good as your $800 Sennheiser over the ear cans, but wireless headphones have GREATLY improved in both quality and affordability over the past two years. High end audio companies like Harman Kardon, Bowers and Wilkins and Sennheiser have been making wireless headphones for the past few years and they sound incredible.

Soon your $800 Sennheiser cans will have a lightning connector for the same price, with the same quality and the audio ecosystem will be a better place for it.

Not to mention, you can still use your wired headphones! Apple includes an in box dongle, it will hold over anyone still tied to their wired headphones until the market is flooded with lightning and bluetooth products two years from now. But if you think your favorite audiophile company will be making headphones with 3.5mm attachments on them 10 years from now, you’re crazy.

Removing the headphone jack creates stereo speakers! That’s a huge move for audiophiles!

I’ve been saying this for years. The fact that we are still using the mono audio format as frequently as we are is mind blowing. This is the visual equivalent of us recording a video with one eye open and then watching the video with only one eye. We have two ears! Why would we ever create or listen to audio with one? Now instagram, facebook, twitter will all be forced to support stereo audio. These sites support 360 video but only mono audio?! Come on, this is going to be a great move.

The headphone jack is more vulnerable to deterioration, it’s wide open and is limiting Apple from making a truly waterproof iPhone.

If Apple said removing the headphone jack would make the iPhone waterproof, no one would have an issue. Even though that’s not the case here, it does help Apple greatly in a pursuit towards a truly waterproof phone. They have more control now because the iPhone contains their parts.

Apple is looking for ways to make the iPhone case more watertight in order to compete with Android vendors that have been touting their own phones’ water resistance:

Fewer holes in the case means fewer ways for water to seep in. The iPhone 7 also comes with a pressure-sensitive home button, rather than the mechanical one in the iPhone 6, eliminating yet another hole in the iPhone 7 case. The result, Apple says, is that the iPhone 7 is the most water-resistant iPhone yet.

Headphones plugged into a Lightning connector can also produce better sound than ones that are plugged into a headphone jack. -Timothy B. Lee VOX

I understand the danger, this move gives Apple an incredible amount of leverage in the headphone market.

But it will make headphones better. I know this better than anyone, Hooke Audio has been navigating the waters of MFi certification for the last year. When we were developing the Hooke Verse, no one thought about an MFi certification because no one thought it was necessary. MFi certification is not normally a demanded feature. It’s a feature that companies CHOOSE to incorporate so as to improve the integrity of their product amongst the Apple brand.

We were surprised to find an MFi certification was necessary, but now it makes sense. We are introducing a ground breaking bluetooth codec that utilizes an Apple authentication chip to send a type of audio no iPhone has ever seen before. If I was Apple, I’d be like “Hold up, what?! Let us look at that” too! We should be thankful for brands like Apple who continuously work to hold up the quality and integrity of our electronics. This MFi process has made the Hooke Verse a more robust and reliable product.

We were forced down the MFi road (again, now I’m glad we were) because we were wireless and potentially harmful. When it comes to wired products, Apple has no way of protecting themselves. Any old wired product can be purchased off Ali Baba and cause potential harm to iPhones. With this shift, Apple will have better control over the products interacting with the iPhone and in turn make audio products better all around.

The MFi process is a great thing for any company to utilize, but most companies will avoid it due to the rigorous and time consuming demands from Apple. Apple has a very clear idea of how technology should work and so far they haven’t been wrong. It might be long and hard, but making a product up to Apple’s standards will be a big win in the end.

Regardless, people are scared of the leverage it might give Apple.

Devin Coldeway from Tech Crunch says:

The 3.5mm jack is robust, familiar, secure, well-documented, and so on — we’ve seen the argument play out over the last year. You know why it’s good: because it works reliably, worldwide, and with millions of devices. Without Apple’s permission.

See, it’s that last part that must bother them. The idea that someone, somewhere, is doing something with an iPhone that they haven’t anticipated, like making a thermometer or payment system or 3D scanner. Someone who hasn’t paid for a license to attach that thing to their phone.

Apple is taking the first step to make sure that never happens. They’re able to do this because no one can do anything about it. They’re in a position of immense power and they’re using that power to eliminate something good and replace it with something that makes them money. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a business plan.

The fact remains, any electronics manufacturer needs Apple to succeed. Their successes with the mac and iPhone have given them the ability to dictate the evolution of our consumer electronics and they’ve done a pretty good job. Apple is establishing an electronics standard that truthfully all companies should respect. It makes all of our products better in the end.

Right now we live in a world where people seek quality in their video products over convenience. Yet people seek convenience in their audio products over quality. This move will help uphold audio quality.

It’s infuriating and confusing for a lot of consumers right now, but it’s a very smart and necessary move.

We’re just happy about the stereo speakers!

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder and CEO

  • It looks like at least a part of the Airline industry accepts bluetooth ear/headphones during the flight, that’s major for at least me. Some flights would be very dull without the music, and now without wire tangles…

  • I think you are right it will force more companies to make either MFI certified wireless devices, but to suggest that will create better audio quality is somewhat myopic. This move will undoubtedly mandate more outboard DACs to be made, but your leap in saying the 3.5mm jack is outmoded doesn’t make sense if you want to be in the analog domain to use a more robust DAC, which isn’t possible to achieve in a non outboard device. I think you are naive if you think that TRRS connections with higher end cable devices wouldn’t being fed by an outboard DAC isn’t actually higher quality. What will probably happen is the masses will use wireless and audiophiles will use analog connections like we always have since those devices are modular and can be swapped to upgrade, and all in one wireless devices are not and made at a price point that will always have compromises.

  • I am a little surprised to read you’re now kind of singing the high praise for the MFI process. Unfortunately I am not a backer of your kickstarter campaign (saw it when it was already closed), but only a pre-orderer of your Hooke Verse product. So I can’t read the updates you post for the backers. But from some comments (and don’t get me wrong, I am not in the cue for "your product is outdated" or "give us back our money", that’s plain bullshit) on kickstarter and from your initial MFI related blog post, I got the impression that you’re really struggling here and that it is still not clear if you will get the certification at all.
    So does the way you write about MFI in this post here mean that you are confident or even completely sure that the certification will pass (and that there is some kind of schedule for that)?!
    Looking forward to receiving any kind of feedback from you 😉


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