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Steve Jobs’ thoughts on ‘courage’ help explain why Apple removed the iPhone 7’s headphone jack

Published Sep 10th, 2016 2:39PM EDT
iPhone 7 Headphone Jack
Image: Apple

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During Apple’s iPhone 7 introduction, Apple executive Phil Schiller said that Apple’s decision to remove the tried and true 3.5mm headphone jack could be summed up in one word: courage.

“Now some people have asked why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone,” Schiller said.  “I mean, it’s been with us a really long time… Well the reason to move on, I’m going to give you three of them, but it really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on, do something new, that betters all of us. And our team has tremendous courage.”

Of course, Schiller’s remarks quickly became prime comedic fodder for folks on Twitter and Facebook who couldn’t help but laugh at what they viewed as a complete misuse of the word.

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Indeed, if you do a Twitter search for #courage, you come across no shortage of tweets like these.

Interestingly, Ben Lovejoy of 9to5Mac points out that Schiller’s use of the word “courage” was likely purposeful and could perhaps be a subtle shout out to Steve Jobs’ own views on “courage” which were made within the context of Apple’s decision not to support Flash on the iPhone.

Jobs’ remarks on the topic, taken from his appearance at the D8 conference in 2010, read as follows:

We’re trying to make great products for people, and we have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that, they’re going to call us names […] but we’re going to take the heat because we want to make the best product in the world for customers. And we’re instead going to focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think are going to be the right technologies for customers. And you know what? They’re paying us to make those choices. That’s what a lot of customers pay us to do, is to try and make the best products we can. And if we succeed, they’ll buy them, and if we don’t, they won’t, and it’ll all work itself out.

So while it’s easy to scoff at Schiller’s use of the word “courage”, the word choice does seem more appropriate when viewed through the prism of Jobs’ aforementioned remarks. As Jobs lays out, if Apple’s decision with respect to the iPhone 7 headphone jack proves to be a disaster, people simply won’t buy the device. And if customers don’t care or are just as happy with Lightning headphones, then they will.

Chiming in on the matter, John Gruber of Daring Fireball provides some interesting insight to the discussion.

But Jobs and Schiller meant “courage” in the same way: having the courage to make a sure-to-be controversial decision when there is a non-controversial option, simply because they believe it to be the right thing to do in the long run.

We, as a species, are hooked up to focus on the short run, and we’re hooked up to seek popularity and avoid criticism. Choosing to do what you know will be unpopular in the short run but you believe will prove correct in the long run takes courage. Courage of one’s convictions, not courage running into a burning building to save a life, but courage nonetheless.

Fair enough, but Apple had some clearly delineated reasons for steadfastly refusing to support mobile Flash. With respect to the iPhone 7 and it’s lack of a headphone jack, it’s not entirely clear that Apple laid out such a strong case.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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