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8 January 2016updated 12 Jan 2016 10:45am

The death of the headphone jack

In a move worthy of Steve Jobs himself, it's rumoured that Apple will remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. 

By Barbara Speed

Tech lore has it that Steve Jobs’ mission was neatly encapsulated in his desire to have as few ports in his computers as possible. In the somewhat fictionalised 2015 biopic Steve Jobs, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) berates his co-creator, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) for his desire to install a higher number of “slots”, where you could insert circuit boards to increase computers’ capabilities, in early Apple computers. Jobs won the argument, and the decision is used to symbolise a move away from an “open system”, beloved of geeks and hackers, towards the “closed system” favoured by Apple today.

In a broader sense, this company philosophy is behind the fact that you can’t open your phone or Macbook up very easily, or fiddle much with the way it works. Ports and customisation, Jobs exclaims, are for “hobbyists”. “End to end control” of his company’s devices is what he wanted – and what Apple has today. 

In a nod to its co-founder, then, rumours abound that the next iPhone – the iPhone 7 – will feature only one point of entry from the outside world. Instead of a charger port and headphone jack, the phone will only have a single lightning port, used for charging and headphones. Rumours first circulated as a result of leaked images of the new phone, and Fast Company has today confirmed the move with a second source. 

The single port will allow the phone to be even thinner, and reduces the chances of dirt and dust getting into the phone. However, it means users will need specially wired headphones to fit the new jack, or else invest in a pricey wireless pair. As ever, the move is prescient: it seems likely that soon, both headphones and charging will be totally wireless.

Annoyingly, though, this means Apple will be introducing an intermediary stage of specially wired headphones, which presumably will only be usable for a couple of generations of iPhones before they, too, are discarded. As with the huge range of phone chargers used by different providers, this isn’t great news for the environment – or our bank balances. 

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