At 7.1 mm today’s iPhone 6S is almost as thin as your average pencil.
But can it get any thinner?
Among the many engineering challenges smartphone manufacturers face, reducing smartphone component size has always been a work in progress. For Apple, the last 8 years of innovation have shaved off more than 4.5 mm from the original iPhone.
But there is at least one component, even the best engineer can’t shrink — the headphone jack. And so, in an effort to make the next iPhone thinner than ever, Apple is reportedly planning on ditching it altogether.
Sure, in doing so, Apple risks upsetting millions of iPhone users that have invested in a pair of wired headphones, but this isn’t the first time Apple’s tested its vaunted brand loyalty.
Back in 2012, the company phased out its 30-pin cable in lieu of the more technologically advanced and space efficient Lightning port. In one sweeping motion, Apple effectively crippled the iPhone’s ability to work with hundreds of accessories that relied on the 9-year-old connector.
It was a painful transition process, but not one without merit. The new Lightning port brought with it faster charging times and data transfer speeds, and the ability to dock new iPhones and iPads to external monitors.
In 2016, another painful technological shift is upon us, and this time around, it’s all about space.
Universally, the standard size for any headphone port is 3.5mm. Barring some engineering miracle, if you add that to the millimeter or two taken up by the phone’s display and frame, you’ll hit the physical limits of a phone’s thinness. By removing the headphone jack altogether, Apple is removing this limitation, and freeing up a considerable amount of space in the process.
More space means more room for other features that previously weren’t possible. Maybe dual front facing speakers, an additional (or better) camera module, or perhaps, and more likely, a larger, longer lasting battery.
But how then will users listen to music?
According to the Internet rumor mill, Apple is working on cordless earbuds that resemble ear plugs. These wireless buds will let you listen to music while untethered from your phone, and will come with built-in microphones so you can speak commands to Siri.
While wireless earbuds are cool and all, don’t count wired headphones out just yet. Among its many talents, Apple’s superstar Lightning port is also capable of carrying audio signals, meaning it can also function as a headphone jack. In fact, you can already buy Lightning port headphones for $300 on Amazon (see the Philips M2L/27). To appease critics, it also isn’t far fetched that Apple may also offer, for a fee, a Lightning port to headphone jack adapter or its own lightning port headphones. Whatever the case, we wouldn’t bother breaking a sweat.
Just like the time Apple removed the Ethernet port and CD-ROM drive from its MacBook line of laptops, just like the time it phased out FireWire from the iPod and the 30-pin port from the iPhone, we expect users to grumble under their breath and live with it until the day they realized Apple was right all along, just ahead of its time.
With reporting from Nico Baguio