Apple’s iPhone 7 ditches traditional headphone socket

BBC News : The iPhone 7 will not have a traditional headphone socket.Apple said its lightning connector could be used instead, which would make room for other components. It will also promote the use of wireless earphones, and has released a set of its own called earpods.

"Apple's iPhone 7 Breaks Tradition: No More Headphone Jack in Sight"
Image by Anna from Pixabay

The firm said it had taken “courage” to take the step.

However, it risks annoying users who will now require an adapter for existing headphones.

The US company unveiled its latest handset at an event in San Francisco.

The device also lets the home button detect how firmly it is being pressed and provide vibration-based feedback, and adds a two-lens camera to the Plus model’s rear.

The 3.5mm headphone jack was made popular by Sony’s Walkman cassette players, but was first introduced in one of the Japanese company’s transistor radios in 1964.

Apple has repeatedly been willing to ditch connectors and other ageing tech from its products earlier than its rivals.

But one expert questioned the benefit of the latest move.

“If you’ve been interested purely in the audio quality then a wired connection has always been best,” said Simon Lucas, editor of What Hi-fi magazine.

“You have greater stability – there’s no possibility of drop-outs. Wireless headphones also need to be charged, and the louder you listen to them the quicker they will run out of power.

“With regards to headphones with a lightning connector, there’s only about eight pairs currently available and they will all have had to pay Apple a licence to use its proprietary connector.”

One company watcher agreed that the move was likely to cause a backlash, but suggested it would be short-lived.

“Apple changed the charger port a few years ago and people got upset,” said Francisco Jeronimo from the research firm IDC.

“But it didn’t stop people from buying the iPhone.

“Removing the headphone jack won’t either.

“What’s more important is whether a consumer likes Apple’s ecosystem or Android’s, because at this point Windows and Blackberry phones have an extremely low market share.”

Manufacturer Handset shipments Year-on-yearchange Market share at end of June 2016
July 2015 – June 2016
Samsung 323.3 million +4.3% 23%
Apple 214.4 million -3.6% 12%
Huawei 120.3 million +38.2% 9%
Oppo 68.2 million +91.3% 7%
Vivo 53.7 million +68.4% 5%
Lenovo 61.0 million -28.5% 3%
Xiaomi 60.5 million -10.6% 4%
LG 57.6 million -6.9% 4%
Source: IDC

The launch comes a week after the European Commission demanded Apple pay up to €13bn (£11bn) in back taxes to Ireland – a ruling the firm is appealing.

“The current difficulties with the EU will have little bearing towards the iPhone 7 at this juncture,” predicted Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“But the dispute will drag on for years, and if sentiment turns against Apple that could have major implications for the brand.”

Two cameras

The iPhone 7 Plus has both a wide angle and telephoto lens on its back, both using the same 12 megapixel sensor.

This allows the owner to quickly switch to a tighter shot without sacrificing image quality, and also allows the device to offer 10x zoom – double the amount than before – by digitally cropping the photo in the camera app.

The tech is also used by Apple to simulate an effect associated with larger DSLR cameras.

Software picks people’s faces out from the background, keeping the humans in focus while blurring the rest of the shot. The feature will not, however, be available at launch but will rather be provided as an update later on.

New Watch

Apple also unveiled a new version of its smartwatch, which it described as the “ultimate fitness device”.

The firm said the Apple Watch Series Two is water resistant to 50m (164ft), meaning it can be used while swimming or surfing.

It also introduces:

  • a built-in GPS location tracker, letting running routes be tracked without carrying a paired phone
  • a more powerful processor, letting it show more detailed graphics in apps than its predecessor
  • a brighter screen

The original Watch is the bestselling smartwatch on the market, but shipments of the device dropped more than 50% between the April-to-June quarter of 2016 and the same period the previous year, according to IDC.

“It seems people don’t want all their smartphone features on a smartwatch – what they want is basic notifications and basic alerts, and that’s why some other brands are now making traditional-looking watches with additional digital features instead,” said Mr Jeronimo.

“That’s a challenge for Apple as well as for Samsung and other tech firms selling feature-rich smartwatches.”

Apple said it thought the device would have particular appeal to runners, and may be able to stoke interest through a partnership with Nike.

The fitness brand has created an app that lets its owner share details of their runs with others, and has also launched its own bands for the timepiece.

Super Mario

Although many of the details of the new devices had leaked in advance, there was one major surprise at the start of the event.

Video game character Mario’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto appeared on stage to announce that Nintendo’s plumber would appear in his first iPhone video game before the end of the year.

Mr Miyamoto confirmed that the running-themed adventure would be an iOS exclusive at launch.

It follows the success of another Nintendo franchise, Pokemon, on the platform.

It was also revealed that the Apple Watch would soon gain the ability to tell owners how close they are to nearby monsters in Pokemon Go and to see which characters have hatched from the eggs in the augmented reality title.

Gone but not forgotten

Apple has a habit of being an early abandoner of tech it thinks has become outdated.

1998: Floppy disk drive

When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iMac, there was surprise that it was missing a floppy disk drive. Apple said 1.44 megabyte disks had become too small to hold the files owners would want to create. But the decision left the computer without a built-in way to get files on to removable storage as its CD-ROM drive could read but not write data.

2005: Dial-up modem

An iMac refresh dropped built-in support for dialling up the internet via a telephone line. Most people in the US still did not have access to a broadband connection at the time, and some of those affected criticised Apple for making them buy a $50 add-on peripheral.

2008: CD/DVD drive

Apple boasted that the MacBook Air was the world’s thinnest computer and ran TV ads showing it fitting into an envelope. But the achievement was only made possible by building a laptop without the ability to play CDs or DVDs. Many reviewers believed that the trade-off made it an impractical choice as a user’s primary computer.

2012: 30-pin connector

Apple had used its proprietary 30-pin connector ever since 2003’s iPod. It ditched the data-and-power plug in the iPhone 5 to help slim down the handset. But it left many users with old chargers, docking stations and other peripherals that did not fit the new devices.

2015: USB 3 ports

Last year’s Macbook launched with a single USB-C port for data connections and charging. The firm describes it as the “future of the notebook”, but for now users need to buy an additional hub if they want to use it with older plug-in hardware.

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