So Apple has gotten mixed press for the decision to ditch the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. What’s most interesting is that this development was revealed early on in the run up to rumors about the upgraded products. Sometimes I wonder if Apple deliberately leaked the news to the media to gauge public reaction, or just to build up expectations.
In any case, the die is cast. I expect most people are getting used to the change, particularly since Apple supplied a free headphone to Lightning adaptor, and sells extras for $9 each. If you want to listen and charge at the same time, there’s an adapter for that too, so the inconvenience for most will be relatively minor. I wonder how many people are so concerned that they are putting off buying the new gear, but I suspect it won’t be a terribly high number.
That said, Apple has long had a penchant for removing older ports. It’s very much about embracing new technologies., and ditching components that no longer make any sense. Or at least as far as Apple is concerned.
So the original 30-pin docking connector used on such gear as iPods, iPhones and iPads was replaced with the Lightning connector in 2012. To customers, the main advantage was being reversible. But it’s also smaller, and thus gives Apple more space to add stuff in iPhones and iPads. While there was a period during which you probably bought adapter cables for older accessories, that’s long ago and far away now. As with other ports or parts that Apple ditched over the years, including floppy drives and optical drives, we’ve all learned to live with it. And how many long-term Mac users miss the end of SCSI?
I’m not sure about the wisdom of losing optical drives, but I have an Apple USB SuperDrive that gets the job done, although I wish the cable were longer.
In any case, you should expect the headphone jack to also be removed from future iPads. But what else is on the chopping block? Well, the next generation Macs are expected to receive USB-C, since it’s easy to adapt from USB 3.0. Again, it’s also reversible, which is the biggest advantage of all, as anyone who has to twist a USB plug to connect it will admit.
But what about Lightning? Four years old, is it also on the chopping block? Has it somehow already outlived its usefulness and is destined for a quick replacement with something else? Well, I suppose eventually, but there’s a published report citing an Apple patent filing that indicates the Lightning port is not long for this world.
Now before I go on, don’t forget that, because Apple is experimenting with different technologies, that doesn’t necessarily mean a wholesale change is due soon. It may well be that the new technology will add features rather than remove them. This is why the source of this story is not receiving a link. The intent for such speculation is strictly fear-mongering.
So this patent, number 9,453,976, granted Wednesday, refers to a scheme that allows data transfer between two devices via an optical interface. Supposedly the connection is accomplished via openings on the unit’s external surface. I suspect that this might be something useful for a wireless charging setup, rather than to replace an existing port. Until or if Apple says something, it’s hard to know Apple’s priorities, but it doesn’t strike me as something into which you’d plug a headphone.
But after pushing Lighting as the ultimate replacement for headphone jacks, it would hardly make sense to force another connector migration a year or two later. That isn’t Apple’s way. Remember, that this new technology was probably invented last year. It usually takes that long for a patent to be granted.
To be realistic, I have little doubt Apple is already considering future connection schemes, and no doubt for products we know nothing about yet. It’s also true that Apple is granted patents for all sorts of technologies, but it’s not always certain how or when they will be used. So just to assume the Lightning port is on life support doesn’t reflect reality. I also wonder if Apple seeks patents sometimes just to have a lock on the technology even if it’s not going to find its way into a product for quite a while.
Why would Apple push people to an intermediate change, and then pull the rug out from under them so soon thereafter? No, it won’t happen with the next iPhone, which some continue to maintain is going to be the “real” upgrade compared to the iPhone 7.
If you look at Apple’s history about such things, you’ll find that you can comfortably switch to the new port without fretting it’ll be obsolete next year. Indeed, one of my backup drives is FireWire 800, and I continue to use it on my iMac via a FireWire to Thunderbolt adaptor. Nobody forced me to buy a new drive, so long as the current one continues to function. Besides, I don’t have the money for luxuries anymore, so I have to consider each and every purchase or just live without.
Long and short is that, if you already own an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, or one is on your shopping list, you shouldn’t worry that the Lightning port is going away anytime soon, despite what an online blogger claims.
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