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We don't know jack about the next iPhone

There's been a steady stream of rumors concerning Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7 — or whatever the next generation flagship ends up being called. This week the Wall Street Journal, which has a good record of accuracy on leaks, got in on the audio port action.

Perhaps someone got a peek at a prototype, or someone wanted to gauge consumer reaction, but either way, it once again set the internet to arguing. To be clear, few outside of Infinite Loop have any real information about the next iPhone and those that do aren't talking. Those who are talking, well, probably don't have much if any real information.

Rumors and rage

With the rumor mill reaching its usual height of summer silliness, it's the commentary that becomes most interesting to me. People argue over rumors that may or may not be true, often with the same level of passion and prejudice as politics.

Personally, I don't think Apple will remove the headphone jack at the time, but I also didn't think Britain would vote to leave the European Union, so take my opinion for what it's worth.

I could make good arguments for removing the headphone jack, and I could also make good arguments for keeping it. If Apple, does decide to remove a headphone jack from the next iPhone, it might make sense to wait, and perhaps see what Apple's logic is.

It's highly unlikely Apple would make any move like this without some good reason. So, taking a deep breath, stepping back, and waiting to see what Apple has to say when they announce the next iPhone might be wise before pontificating about the latest rumors.

Smiles and sighs

Since I worked at Apple, I'm often asked what employees think behind closed doors when they see these rumors and read the debates. The answer is, not much. Maybe a smile, maybe a sigh if the conversations are particularly off base, or if they miss the point entirely about what might finally be announced.

I have no doubt there are all sorts of prototype iPhones floating around the labs, some with headphone jacks and some without. Some with LCD displays and some with AMOLED. Some with... well, I could go on and on.

And that's the real point. We could go around and around on any rumor, but for now, all of them, and all the debate around them, are like that tale told by that idiot:

Full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

25 Comments
  • I feel like if Apple just removes the headphone jack without adding something to make use of the space it is a waste. Now if they do it and add a larger battery (yeah right) then that would be ok. But to just add some more speaker holes (speakers on the bottom will still be terrible) is kind of a waste.
  • Audio quality through those analog ⅛" headphone jacks has always been terrible. In addition, it's too easy to get static and crosstalk with the analog jack. Digital (Lightning) audio is cleaner, and offers a much wider data stream than the analog audio jack, so you get full spectrum sound with wider dynamic range. And Lightning headphones usually have excellent DAC and amplifier built-in, giving you much higher quality audio than you could get using those built into any smartphone. In other words there is no great loss if the ⅛" jack disappears, and a lot to gain by moving to digital audio output. In the same way that Apple gave up the floppy disk before any else to move to optical disk, and then gave up the optical disk to go to flash drives and SSDs. Personally, I don't miss floppy disks or optical disks. And I doubt many other people do. The same will happen once the obsolete and problematic analog headphone jacks are replaced with digitally connected headphones.
  • I understand the point you're making about the benefits (though I'd bet in a blind test 99% of people won't be able to tell the difference between analog and digital output), but do you have a favourite floppy disk drive or optical drive that you enjoy using and will miss? Probably not. :-) Headphones are a different beast - I have a set of high-end Ultimate Ears that sound amazing and I plan on continuing to use them for years to come. The thought of having to use a dongle sends shudders down my spine. Equally, getting a new set of Lightning headphones that only work with Apple products and not other devices is irksome. The real problem with Apple's approach - if it turns out to be real - is that what's replacing an open, royalty-free global standard is a closed, licensed technology controlled by one company. That rarely ends well for consumers. If Apple was going to make the switch to USB-C for power + audio, I'd have far less reservations.
  • I've switched to using Bluetooth headphones, even when using my desktop. I bought a pair of Bluetooth headphones and a USB Bluetooth adapter for my desktop to use them. Why? Life is so much simpler without wires; with no wires there's nothing to trip on, no jack to potentially destroy because you forgot you had the cable plugged in, etc. Granted you do have to charge them but who really cares? I charge these headphones about one a week (twice a week with heavy usage) and I'm good. Same will go with my iPhone 7 if it doesn't have a headphone jack. If you ask me, we should have dropped the headphone jack and gone completely Bluetooth years ago. Wires just get in the way of things especially if you go running or any kind of exercise.
  • So... Who and what are we talking about here? Are we talking about tech bloggers? Those whose chosen profession is literally to pontificate about tech rumors? That would be a rather ironic article to write at a tech site. Or is it that the rest of us should shut up and let you guys tell us what you think about rumors?
  • God, no kidding. This is another in the series of articles here that could be replaced by the single sentence "No one has any idea what Apple's going to do about [x]" with no loss of meaning. What is the point of this?
  • "What is the point of this?" I think the point is to give some balance (and rationality) regarding all of those ridiculous articles about the iPhone 7, based on unsubstantiated (and conflicting) rumours and fuzzy photos (most of which are fakes or photos of clones).
  • but the essence of his point mandates that you treat all rumors as equally substantiated or not. if we "don't know jack about the next iPhone" then all rumors are to be disregarded.
  • To be fair the rumour mill has pretty much called most major Apple releases for at least the last 2-3 years. We knew what the iPhone 6 design was before it launched. We knew it would be in two sizes, and what they were. We knew there would be a rose gold. We knew the 30 pin connector was going before it was announced. We knew they were launched a big iPad. We knew the iPad Air 3 would in fact be iPad Pro 9.7. iPad Mini was not even a secret, neither was the 4th gen Apple TV. We knew the iPhone SE was coming although the rumours said it would 5se. We knew it would look almost identical the the 5s. We knew Apple Music was coming before it arrived. Same for Siri. Siri for Mac was announced before it was announced. Apple Watch was known about well in advance of its announcement, although little was known about its design. I could go on and on. You're correct that rumours are not fact until Apple makes them so. To suggest these days that rumours are meaningless just isn't true. It may have the case when Apple weren't the juggernaut they are now, but most things they do are known about if not officially well before Apple shows them off. Sent from the iMore App
  • Agreed. This article seems to be telling us to pay no mind to the rumor mill. Which I understand. But at the same time, the rumor mill has been fairly reliable this close to an Apple release. So I'd argue it's something to pay attention to since we've known about many of Apple's releases prior to their announcements anyway.
  • Certain websites (not this one) change their tune every other day about the next iPhone's headphone jack. One minute, Apple is doing away with it, the next, it's keeping it and then the reverse again the day after that. It's beyond old. Anyway, at this point, I doubt Apple will get rid of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7/7 Plus/Pro.
  • I know the rumor mill hits a lot of "summer silliness" but I think there is some truth to this specific rumor. It's been out there since the day after Thanksgiving last year.
  • I respect you Michael, but I think this article is a bit disingenuous. For years there have been leaked pieces of information which were completely spot on in regards to the new iPhone and every one of those years bloggers (from this site in particular incidentally) bang on the "it's just a rumor people... relax" drum. All the while those "rumors" end up being true. It's not as if there is no past evidence to support rumors from the supply chain being true. That combined with the fact that there are definitely "controlled leaks" which even your initial comments acknowledge ("or someone wanted to gauge consumer reaction"). There are some controlled leaks that are leaked by Apple or on Apples behalf to gauge the market. We know this - most companies of this size and consumer product market impact use this is a gauge for consumer interest and/or consumer reaction to plans.
    That being said, being leaked with intent to gauge the market does not work effectively or provide the desired output if the market doesn't.... React. This would have an adverse affect in which Apple did not get the proper data to make an appropriate decision for it's consumer base. All this being the case, promoting the notion that despite past accuracy of such rumors from specific sources and the fact that voicing your opinions to said rumors in favor or against could help (at least in some small fashion) shape or sway a decision for a future product you intend to buy is much more analogous to the tale told by the fool than the inverse. It would be like telling developers not to file radars for features they'd like to see or features they'd like changed or not changed because they don't know for sure what the companies plans are until next years WWDC. Again, a bit disingenuous.
  • Thank you for admitting nobody (other than Apple) really knows jack about the iPhone 7; not even the actual NAME!
  • Eh the past few years the leaks have been spot on...
  • This article should be titled, "I don't know jack". Once again we're subjected to Mike collecting a paycheck for an article that is useless. Why does iMore still publish this clown? I guess it's because, as Mike likes to point out, he worked at Apple. So did a lot of janitors and I bet they have better analysis of Apple than this fool. Sent from the iMore App
  • While I agree that the rumor mill is just that, rumors, I have to agree with above posts stating that they've been pretty accurate over the last several releases. Maybe the iPhone 7 really will have a new design but with more leaks showing up its hard not to believe this is what the next linueup will look like. If anything I'm pretty sure the features are pretty accurate: we probably won't have a headphone jack but Apple will include new headphones to ease everyone into the change (hopefully included in the box). I think the dual camera exists but may just be a matter of model (7 vs. 7+). Basically I think we can take these rumors with more than a grain of salt and coming from the 6+ I'm sure I'll be upgrading ;) Sent from the iMore App
  • I think Gartenberg makes a fair point here, and I think there's some confirmation bias happening in the comments. "But past rumors were right!" is true enough, except that you're forgetting how many conflicting rumors were also swirling at the time. The new device finally comes out, all the false rumors fall away and the one that panned out gets recalled next year during the rumor season. The iPhone 7 has a headphone jack. Now it doesn't. Now it has two cameras. Now it has an OLED display. Now it's thicker, or thinner. Now it has two SIM trays. Now it's actually called the 6SS. 6GS? Whatever. We can consider all the pro/con and question the timing, and I enjoy playing that game too. But meanwhile I just look at the photo leaks and add the word "prototype" in my head.
  • "We don't know for sure what Apple will do next" is a technically fair point, but it's also pretty disingenuous. He and the rest of the tech bloggers literally make a living opining on what Apple will do next. Sure there are lots of conflicting rumors out there, but consider how many of them iMore chooses NOT to report on. The editors of this site wouldn't okay a rumor if they didn't believe that there was some truth to it. After all that, throwing cold water on rumors under the guise of the intellectual high ground only serves to make the author look stupid.
  • i heard hardcore apple fans talking already that nobody needs that anyways. since motorola already removed it. so pretty sure its gone. apple saves a lot money removing it.
  • Let's face it. No one really knows anything about the iPhone 7, but some people are going nuts based on unsubstantiated rumours (most of which are conflicting anyways)... Rumours that the iPhone 7: does/doesn't have a headphone jack; does/doesn't have stereo speakers; does/doesn't have a dual lens camera (with no idea of the new features); etc. Even if the iPhone 7 looks a lot like the iPhone 6/6S, it doesn't mean anything. ALL smartphones now have the same basic design as the original 2007 iPhone (oblong body with rounded corners, and screen on the front with a "forehead" and "chin". That hasn't changed in the past 9 years. Companies like Samsung change some minor external looks of their phones each year to sell more phones, but the minor design tweaks have absolutely nothing to do with quality or functionality (You know, the things that you buy a smartphone for). Last year Apple added an "S" to the iPhone 6. It looked superficially like the previous model, but it was really a greatly improved phone with new features. The "S" version brought: up to 70% faster processing and up to 90% faster graphics performance; a greatly upgraded iSight camera (8MP to 12MP); a greatly improved FaceTime camera (1.2MP to 5MP); MIMO added to Wi-Fi; 3D Touch; improved rigidity in the body using Series 7000 aluminum alloy; 4K video recording at 60fps; Retina Flash; Live Photos; support for LTE Advanced; a better, more color accurate display; double the RAM (1GB to 2GB); a better motion coprocessor; better Touch ID; and many other improvements. THESE are the types of things that SHOULD be important to intelligent consumers! Minor design changes to the outside case SHOULD NOT make any difference to sensible people! At this point, due to Apple's excellent security, no one outside of Apple knows yet what the major improvements and changes will be in the iPhone 7. But some people are going off the deep end because they have seen some fuzzy photos of what is claimed to be the back side of the iPhone 7, and deciding based on that and unconfirmed rumours that the iPhone 7 will be a dud!?! If those people believe that the iPhone 7 will be the same as the previous iPhone, they need to get some reality and rationality.
  • Actually what samsung does is increase the quality and functionality. Adding larger battery, water proof, among other things play a large role in functionality. Can't do much with a dead phone unless you want to carry around a battery pack all the time. Apple should focus more on battery over thinness.
  • So your point is? As a former Apple employee you know full well that Apple will do whatever it wants, regardless of opinions swirling out here among the unwashed, so why get so defensive about the sound and fury? And they will rationalize (you can call it explain if you like) the change however they chose to do so. What is really fascinating will be the market reaction to a second incremental update of the iPhone 6 design.
  • What will be really, really interesting, is the market reaction to the same design, but in new colors.
  • The same design with just a different colour for the iPhone 7 will only result in another decline in sales, and removing the headphone jack is will be interesting to say the least. Sent from the iMore App