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The annual announcement of a brand-new iPhone used to make news for the cool new features Apple’s wizards and designers managed to cram into their popular smartphone. Last week’s announcement of the new iPhone 7 was most notable for an old reliable feature that’s going away: the headphone jack.
Oh, sure, Apple execs touted the usual roundup of iPhone upgrades and enhancements — the glossy new jet-black color! More storage! A better camera! (there’s always a better camera) — but it was that missing headphone jack that had most people buzzing in the afterglow of the announcement. What caused all the murmuring and social media trending was the reason Apple marketing exec Phil Schiller cited while explaining the decision: Courage.
Yes, that’s what he said.
“The courage to move on and do something new that betters all of us” were Schiller’s exact words.
Well, yes, it does take a certain amount of, ahem, valor to risk angering and alienating a healthy portion of your consumer base by forcing people to not only buy your new phone, but also pony up for a new pair of wireless headphones or earbuds while they’re at it.
Apple offers a way around, of sorts. They plan to ship adapter cables so that existing (read: wired) earphones can be plugged into the phone’s lightning connector charging port, which now stands alone as the only portal between the iPhone 7 and the outside world. The catch there, of course, is that you now won’t be able to charge your phone and listen to your wired headphones at the same time.
So you’ll probably end up going wireless, which works out just fine for Apple — which bought Beats headphones a few years back in a megadeal that hasn’t quite worked out for them yet. Now there’ll be an expansive new market for Bluetooth wireless Beats headphones. And in October, Apple will also introduce completely wireless earbuds (dubbed AirPods, naturally) that connect to the iPhone 7, not through Bluetooth but via a new syncing technology that Apple claims is instantaneous and — brace yourselves — can sense exactly when you’ve placed them in your ears or taken them out. Those will cost another $159.
Apple is taking some heat for the headphone jack removal, but they’re not the first ones to do it. In June, Motorola’s Moto Z was released sans headphone jack and didn't cause much of a stir. Now that Apple has followed suit, wired headphones are likely going the way of the turntable and the cassette player — not completely extinct, but rare enough that people look at you funny if you pull one out.
Let’s enjoy a moment of anticipatory nostalgia, then, for wired headphones, which have been our umbilical cord to music going back to the days of those uncomfortable metal sets with the gigantic jack in our grandparents’ basements, to our Sony Walkmen, and then to our MP3 players, iPods and iPhones.
But only a moment, of course. We may be mad about Apple’s latest maneuver, but we still need to go online to preorder our jet-black iPhone 7 with more storage and a better camera! The various models of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus — which range in price from $649 to $949 — went on sale last Friday and will be available this Friday. They’re already back-ordered through November, for those with the courage to wait that long.