Apple’s iPhone 7 unveiling this year will likely adhere to a familiar pattern. No doubt, we’ll hear tales and see charts detailing how Apple’s new A10 processor blows the competition out of the water. You want thin? We’ll see a video narrated by Jony Ive explaining how Apple managed to shave a whopping .2 millimeters off of the iPhone 7’s design. But what about the camera? Not too worry, Phil Schiller will likely get up on stage and explain the myriad of ways in which the iPhone 7’s camera easily outclasses every other device on the market.
All that said, the impending release of the iPhone 7 will be decidedly different than in years past. Specifically, the upcoming iPhone 7 may very well be the riskiest device Apple has ever released.
According to a number of sources, Apple’s iPhone 7 will ship without a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, Apple will rely upon the device’s Lightning port for audio. And while digital audio comes with a number of benefits, abandoning a port as ubiquitous and familiar as the tried and true 3.5mm headphone jack is exceptionally risky given the current state of iPhone sales.
There’s no question that the iPhone 7 will sell exceedingly well. But with Apple this year experiencing its first year over year decline in iPhone sales, all eyes will be laser-focused on Apple to see if the company can release a device that will bring growth back to the company’s product line.
This past quarter, Apple reported its first year over year drop in iPhone sales. During the company’s March quarter, Apple sold 51.1 million iPhones, a discernible drop from the 61.2 million iPhones it sold during the March 2015 quarter. What’s more, some analysts are already anticipating Apple to report yet another decline in iPhone sales for the June quarter.
Meanwhile, shares of Apple last month hit a 52-week low as investors begin to worry that perhaps we have in fact reached ‘peak iPhone.’
With that as a backdrop, the pressure is on the iPhone 7 to deliver in a big way. In fact, one could reasonably argue that the pressure for Apple to deliver a home run with the iPhone 7 is greater than it’s ever been before. As we saw with the iPhone 6s, strong sales are not sufficient to placate investors. Which is to say that the iPhone 7 needs to be a huge success, which makes removing the device’s headphone jack an extremely risky move.
Even now, months before Tim Cook and co. will take the stage and introduce Apple’s next-gen device, there is already a fierce debate being waged over the design decision. Earlier this week, Nilay Patel of The Verge penned a somewhat controversial post arguing that removing the headphone jack is “user-hostile and stupid.” In turn, John Gruber of Daring Fireball countered with a post explaining why headphone jacks are the modern-day equivalent of the floppy drives of yore. And while the debate today may be nothing more than nerd fodder, it will undoubtedly become a mainstream discussion come September.
Even though most people may not care that much, the idea of a proprietary headphone jack may very well dissuade a good number of users from upgrading. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Apple’s white earbuds and have always opted for better options from Sony. The idea of being forced to use, or perhaps buy, a potentially clunky adapter isn’t appealing in the slightest. One can only hope that Apple, in an effort to alleviate some of the backlash against its design change, will include a free adapter with each new iPhone — especially since it appears that this year’s iPhone model may not feature any game-changing technology that could offset the frustrating removal of the headphone jack.