It’s been mooted for months. But now leaked images and videos have all but confirmed that Apple will get rid of the standard headphone port in its forthcoming iPhone 7.
The official reason isn’t clear, but it appears it is doing so to make room for a larger battery and second speaker as part of a subtly rejigged handset.
But while that’s probably some sort of small recompense for a group of would-be buyers, Apple's gamble still seems like a huge mistake to us. And here's five reasons why.
1 Millions of users will be alienated
300,000 consumers have already signed a petition asking Apple to retain the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. But their protest is a forlorn one.
The fact is that the device is in production and the switch to using the iPhone’s Lightning power slot to connect headphones has already been made.
If a third of a million tech fans are annoyed, imagine how average users who’ve spent heavily on headphones with a universal connector are going to feel.
Apple has pulled this trick before with floppy disks, CD drives and USB ports. But a headphone connector has been the same since the early Walkman days and doesn’t need phasing out of existence yet. Beware the backlash.
2 Sales will be hit
If you alienate your loyal fans, chances are you’ll see sales take a hit.
Apple has already started briefing major news outlets that it expects sales to be steady but unspectacular this year, as it looks towards 2017 and the ‘revolutionary’ new iPhone it’ll bring with it.
But if the tech giant makes this move with the headphone port, you can expect the worst opening weekend iPhone sales since the first model was released in 2007.
90% of iPhone owners surveyed by Quarta said they wouldn’t buy the iPhone 7.
3 It’s a clunky approach
Stripping out ports is something Apple has tried before with its MacBook range, where it pared things back to a single USB–C slot.
That machine requires an adapter to connect standard USB–connected kit, much as the iPhone 7 is said to need a special accessory/dongle to attach to headphones with a 3.5mm port and allow them to be used with the new phone.
Leaks suggest this will be a clunky and awkward solution, though.
Not only does it look ugly, it’s another accessory users can easily forget to bring with them.
So while this may make Apple some money in the short term, the potential to further annoy customers is limitless.
4 No discernible benefits
Stripping out the headphone slot should mean Apple can offer a bigger battery with the iPhone 7 that it did with the iPhone 6s.
But even if that is the case the battery will only be as big as the one found in 2014’s iPhone 6, after Apple inexplicably opted to shrink the battery for last year’s iPhone 6s.
We’re talking incremental changes here and ones that only really hardcore tech fans will notice.
It’d be better if Apple bulked the iPhone up by a couple of millimetres and offered a power unit that lasted two days rather than one.
Likewise, the inclusion of a second speaker in place of the headphone slot is hardly likely to set pulses racing.
Most users want to plug in headphones, not blast out podcasts and tunes to all and sundry while they’re on the move.
5 Apple could stop you using Spotify and Tidal
Some experts have voiced concerns that making the change to Lightning–only headphones could lead to the return of music featuring Digital Rights Management (DRM).
DRM is now largely obsolete encryption technology that attempted to clamp down on piracy. It did this by preventing you from playing tracks downloaded from iTunes on rival MP3 players.
Thankfully it was killed off, largely at Steve Jobs’ behest. But with the rise of streaming services, it’s feared that Lightning–only headphones may only be able to play Apple Music or iTunes tracks, forcing people into using Apple’s music services.
Some say that could mean no Spotify or Tidal on the iPhone. Surely Apple wouldn’t be so foolish as to make such a move?