iPhone 7 is rumored to be ditching the the 3.5mm headphone jack. If the rumors are true, it'll by no means be the first phone without one, but it will be the first incredibly popular phone without one. Instead, to listen to audio, you'll need to connect headphones over Bluetooth or to the Lightning port. That means anyone and everyone with a favorite pair of 3.5mm headphones will be looking for an adapter that'll let them connect to Lightning.
Why is Apple doing this?
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If they're doing it — and they probably are — only Apple knows why. The current 3.5mm jack is based on century-old technology and Apple has never been one to keep old technology around any longer than it has to. It's also possible Apple has a much bigger redesign coming next year, and they want to get the headphone jack transition — and the complaints about it — out of the way now.
Whatever the reason, Apple has changed the way we connect to our iPhones before. Back in 2012, the old 30-pin Dock connector had reached the end of its natural life. Hacked again and again to support a variety of new data types over the years, Apple decided to burn it down and start again. And so we got Lightning, a clean, symmetrical, digital, adaptable connector that's now used throughout Apple product lines.
It hurt at first — many of us had boxes full of the old Dock connectors! — but over time, thanks to adapters and new accessories, the old Dock faded away, and now almost no one even thinks about it any more.
Will losing the 3.5mm headphone jack be the same as losing the Dock connector?
Yes and no. Apple's not replacing the headphone jack with a new port, it's consolidating it into Lightning. Otherwise, we'll once again need adapters to use our old accessories, and eventually end up replacing them with new accessories.
How will I use my old 3.5mm headphones with iPhone 7?
You'll need an adapter. Either one that goes from 3.5mm to Lightning, or one that goes from 3.5mm to Bluetooth.
Will Apple have one of those adapters in the box?
Be nice! Unfortunately, Apple doesn't typically include adapters in boxes. When Lightning debuted, the Dock adapters were sold separately.
What Apple will probably do is include Lightning EarPods in the box, so you'll have a set to use with your iPhone 7. They'll also be premium wireless AirPods, likely sold separately. (The way in-ear headphones used to be.)
But those adapters will still be available, right? RIGHT?
The worst part of the Dock to Lightning transition wasn't the change itself but the lack of adapters in store or online day one. Apple should have had them plentifully available, but there was nothing, and for an excruciatingly long time.
Hopefully, Apple's learned their lesson and there'll be both Apple and third-party adapters available at launch.
Will Lightning headphones really be a thing?
They already are! Several manufacturers make them.
When will we see more Lightning headphones and 3.5mm adapters?
Apple is expected to announce the next iPhone on September 7. Expect a ton of headphone and adapter announcements to follow!
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.