From bendgate to bugs Apple is no stranger to criticism and controversy, but the iPhone 7 could be one of its most controversial handsets yet, all thanks to one small feature, or, as is looking likely, the absence of it.
We’re talking of course about the 3.5mm headphone jack, which it’s rumored Apple is ditching, possibly to thin the phone down even more.
But while it’s a potential source of controversy it’s also one of the biggest questions surrounding the iPhone 7, as not all sources agree that it’s gone. Here then, in words and pictures, is the story so far.
The death of the headphone jack was first rumored back in September 2015, with a patent showing a new way to connect headphones. More evidence appeared in November 2015, with a report stating that Apple would remove the port to make the iPhone 7 “more than 1mm thinner,” though rather than a new port it was said to be relying on the Lightning port and Bluetooth earbuds.
With the iPhone 6S being just 7.1mm thick anyway that doesn’t seem very necessary, but there are potential advantages, from better audio quality to even, ultimately, greater convenience. Not convinced?
Check out our opinion piece on why Apple removing the headphone jack is a good thing and you might change your mind.
Whether good or bad the initial rumors didn’t seem entirely convincing, but evidence for its removal has grown. In January reports from China backed up the rumors, claiming Apple expected people to primarily rely on wireless headphones going forward.
Then later that month source code found in the iOS 9.3 beta reading “Headphones.have.%sinput.NO” further hinted at their removal.
But the first really compelling evidence came in March, with a leaked image of a set of Apple earpods. They look a lot like the ones you’d get in the box with an iPhone 6S, except rather than a 3.5mm connector they have a Lightning one.
Of course the image could be fake and even if it’s real it’s possible Apple will start pushing Lightning headphones but not yet remove the 3.5mm jack. Still, it doesn’t bode well for the port’s future.
Following that a patent for a type of headphones that could work both wirelessly and via the Lightning port emerged in April.
A new hope
At this point evidence was really mounting against the 3.5mm port, but just when everyone seemed to be agreeing an image of some circuitry supposedly taken from the iPhone 7 was revealed and it included the headphone jack.
We wanted to believe the leak, but in May a set of blueprints leaked and these again lacked the connector.
By this point we were also starting to see photos that were supposedly of the iPhone 7 itself, or at least the chassis and dummy units. Most of these didn’t give us a good look at the ports, but one leaked by Nowhereelse.fr in late June did and unsurprisingly there was no 3.5mm headphone port.
Yet around the same time another image supposedly showing internal iPhone 7 parts popped up, showing among other things a headphone port.
They don’t all share an identical design, but they do all share a common connector and it’s not a 3.5mm one.
There’s also strong evidence that Apple is going to launch wireless ‘AirPod’ headphones with the iPhone 7, as something fitting that exact description has been certified in Russia. Wireless headphones would serve a purpose even if the 3.5mm port was intact, but as they don’t require the port they’re further evidence that it won’t be.
On the way out
Which brings us to now. Taking a close chronological look at the evidence it’s clear that it’s overwhelmingly in favor of no headphone port in the iPhone 7.
The only evidence for one comes from circuitry, while the evidence against comes from patents, diagrams, certification bodies, pictures of Lightning headphones and even a shot of the chassis.
It seems like a rushed change from Apple if the company really is removing them. Easing the transition this year with optional Lightning buds before ditching the headphone port in 2017 would seem more sensible and it’s still possible that’s happening, but it’s looking unlikely, especially with the Moto Z already making the move.
We’ll keep you updated with all the latest headphone happenings (and everything else iPhone 7 related) in the run up to its likely September launch and if you’re holding out for a headphone port there’s still a chance Apple will surprise us, but in the meantime you might want to check out our guide to using your existing headphones with the Lightning port.
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