What’s wrong the 3.5mm jack?

Music is what we do at Quite Great PR and music is what we feel strongly about. So when there is new innovation in the industry, no matter what form it might come in, it’s something we like to debate amongst our team.

It’s one of those things most of us probably use every day, either on the daily commute, whilst we’re working or when we’re relaxing at home: the humble 3.5mm jack. Where would the modern world, obsessed with on-the-go social media and portable music be without this vital piece of timeless technology? It’s something we take for granted and the majority of people probably couldn’t say that they know how it works. But what happens when it is taken away?

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Everyone waited with baited breath for the iPhone 7

This year witnessed the release of the highly awaited Iphone 7 and whilst it may be the pioneer at the forefront of the mobile phone market, why did Apple choose to leave behind the standard headphone jack when it is a piece of technology that has stood the test of time?

Since the mid-20th Century, this mainstay of musical technology has been used, in its many guises and sizes, for everything from electric guitars to loudspeakers and of course, headphones. However, the original jack dates back to as early as 1878, proving that even in the ever-advancing digital age, we are yet to come up with something better. But the question is: do we need something better? Apple seems to think so.

You’ve probably had your head in the sand for the past ten years if you don’t know that Apple are continuously striving to create the best in phone technology and they are often the first to develop a new piece of kit or game changing feature (think facetime). According to DMR Stats and Gadgets, 395 Iphones are sold every minute (January 2016) and the total number of Iphone users in the US is around 101 million (November 2015);  that’s nearly a third of the country’s population.

In lieu of Apple’s constant technological endeavour, their controversial omission of the classic headphone jack has put many off purchasing their latest phone. Whilst the company has supported their jump into the relatively unknown with their technological ‘courage’, evidence suggests that this time, they may have gone too far in seeking to be unique and ‘different’.

First and foremost, whilst an adapter is provided in the box to connect your standard 3.5mm jack headphones into the ‘lightning’ port, this may be a problem for some who want to listen to music and charge their phone at the same time. Apple’s other alternative, the pricy ‘airpod’ wireless Bluetooth headphones will not strike a chord with the scatty characters amongst us who will probably lose them by the end of the first day using them. It has also been reported that the airpods only last around five hours on one full charge. So whilst innovation is the target, is practicality the price we pay?

It is easy to question innovation, that’s for sure, but we also need to ask what can it do for us? Many audiophiles have doubted the quality of Apple’s new headphone style (possibly out of being Apple haters), but others seem to disagree. The new ‘lightning’ connection will mean that third party headphone manufacturers will be able to use better quality signal processors and digital-to-analog (DAC) converters to create a higher fidelity sound, which is purer and richer. Whereas standard headphone jacks must rely on the sound quality capabilities of the phone’s analog circuitry, the lightning port has no such worries.

In addition, one might assume that taking out the regular jack port and replacing it with the flatter lightning port style would mean slimmer devices but this isn’t necessarily true. The Iphone 7 is in fact no slimmer than the previous version. However, Apple’s justification of this is that although the phone may not be any slimmer, the removal of the 3.5mm port has freed up space for arguably more important components, such as faster processors and improved battery cells. An Iphone with a lasting battery?? Surely Not!

With such evidence, it is becoming more and more obvious that this may just be a ploy from the technology giants. The best thing about the 3.5mm jack is the simple fact that it is universal; all you need is your own set of headphones, no matter how cheap or expensive. It feels like Apple are being overly-exclusive, just for the sake of making more money by forcing people to buy their ‘updated’ product.

It will certainly be interesting to see in the coming years if other manufacturers follow suit and ditch the jack, but as far as I’m concerned, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If you’re a real tech-whizz and want to know the ins-and-outs of the new jackless Iphone and its converter, then you might want to check out this video which explains the quality issues in greater detail: