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Confirmed: Apple is making only one, very dumb change to the iPhone this year

June 21st, 2016 at 1:05 PM
iPhone 7 Headphone Jack

Rumors about the iPhone 7 and headphone jacks have been circulating for months, but as we get closer to September, we’re getting a much better idea of what the next iPhone will look like. The latest report comes from CNBC, and it’s not promising any world-changing upgrades — quite the opposite, in fact.

According to simultaneous reports from CNBC, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, Apple will only be making “subtle changes” to the iPhone this fall, but the big change that everyone will notice is the removal of the headphone jack.

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The reports are more or less in line with other things we’ve heard about the iPhone 7, and the fact that three major outlets published them simultaneously reeks of a pre-planted Apple PR story. In other words, this is Apple working months in advance to limit expectations for the next iPhone, as well as prepare our souls for the loss of the headphone jack.

The headphone rumor has been around for months now, and is equal parts believable and contentious. Apple is famous for killing off standards and ports before the general population thinks they’re ready (see: Macbook Air and the DVD drive), but this would be a bold move even for the free-thinking designers in Cupertino.

On the plus side, killing the 3.5mm jack saves space, cost, and could potentially lead to better audio quality. A large part of audio quality is the amplifier, and moving the amp into the headphones themselves — what would happen with Lightning-powered headphones — would give headphone manufacturers far more options.

On the down side, there are more pairs of headphones with 3.5mm jacks than there are cockroaches on this planet, and forcing everyone to carry around an adapter for headphones — which, I guarantee, you will lose with 30 seconds — will probably cause rioting on the streets.

But aside from the headphone news, there’s more important details from this report. Apple has been churning out serious updates to its phone, every 24 months, for the last nine years. That’s a breakneck pace of innovation that had to end sometime, and this year might be it. Signs are pointing to the 2017 iPhone being a much more major upgrade: all-glass design, OLED screen, maybe no physical touch button.

That’s a lot to accomplish. There’s a good chance that Apple tried to make all those upgrades for this year’s phone, but ran into technological and manufacturing hurdles. (It’s not easy to spew out millions of extra OLED screens overnight.) Looking at it that way, the iPhone 7 is really more of a stop-gap, a temporary upgrade before the big, 10-year-anniversary iPhone lands next year.

Plus, it gives us all an extra 12 months to come to terms with the loss of our headphone jacks.

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