In 2014, I for the third time returned my wired Beats by Dre Tour headphones to Best Buy. Yet again they had stopped working in the one ear due to the cord bending down at the plug. Over the years I had tried Beats, Skull Candy, and many other brands of headphones. As they all suffered the same fate I needed to make a bolder change than just trying another brand. So to change it up this time I exchanged my beaten up tour headphones with wires for some Beats By Dre Powerbeats2 Wireless headphones. I made the switch to bluetooth headphones and said goodbye to the headphone jack, for the most part.
The next day I went into the office, grabbed my shiny new headphones, and went to plug them into the headphone jack before a conference call; which I obviously couldn't. I had to take a moment, turn on my laptops bluetooth, and connect them wirelessly. Which then disconnected them from my phone as it also had it's bluetooth on. Also new for me was the concept that I now had to keep my headphones charged. Something I have never had to worry about before. I found myself from time to time gravitating toward my wired Apple headphones when using my laptop just to avoid having to reconnect back to my iPhone later. Needless to say, as a man whose headphones are so important they are always within arms reach, there were some behavior changes I had to make.
Surprisingly though, I made those changes and I did not return my bluetooth wireless headphones. Two years later I still use my bluetooth headphones everyday. The sound is great! I am more handsfree with my devices when using them and my iPhone alway keeps me notified of the headphones battery level. As you can see the headphone jack is dying and rightfully so. The technology behind the modern headphone jack was actually invented in 1878.
Earlier this month it leaked that the Apple iPhone 7 might not have the normal 3.5mm headphone port at all. Headphones will now have to connect to your iPhone either through bluetooth or by plugging into the existing lightning port where you charge your phone. A similar move to the one made by Apple last year when it removed all the ports on its Macbook and switched everything to a single USB-C port. I am confident that in 2016 we will witness the beginning of the end for the headphone jack as we know it for a few reasons.
First off, Apple now owns a headphone company. Apple is one of the few companies that could force the headphone standard to switch from 3.5mm to lighting ports across the industry using it's Beats by Dre brand.
From the phone perspective this move immediately frees up more room inside the new device for other hardware, hopefully more battery. It also potentially removes the last hole on the iPhone that couldn't be properly waterproofed. Perhaps most importantly, switching audio from the current hundred year old headphone jack to using the digital Apple lightning port would enable higher definition audio. After all, every box of Beats by Dre headphones includes a quote from Dr. Dre in the studio telling you that you need these high quality headphones to be able to hear all the sound as it was intended to be heard by the artists. Lastly, a lighting connector enable's a whole new suite of digital software possibilities between your headphones and your iPhone 7. The rise of the smart headphones will likely be a result.
Apple's growth has slowed and they will need to start finding new ways to keep increasing revenue. As shown by the new iPhone smart case, accessories seem to be one of their moves in addressing that gap. A lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter would could be a major sell for the company if there is no other option to listen to certain devices without it.
So just as in 2012 when TechCrunch declared Winter Was Coming due to Apple declaring the end of the 30 pin chargers that were in the iPhone 4, Spring will follow winter very quickly. We will all adapt. In the process we will finally update a 100 year old technology, have better sounding music, enjoy a smarter pair of headphones, and once again Apple will continue to lead innovation in the mobile space.