Taking Risks, Moving Forward: Apple Eliminates iPhone 7 Headphone Jack


Technology is constantly evolving. Whenever new technology or devices come along, the first to market with new products takes a risk on whether consumers will like, use and want to adopt this new technology.

The latest company to take a risk on new technology is Apple. Apple has long been at the forefront of driving change for mobile device users. The latest evolution from Apple comes with the release of the iPhone 7, the first device of its kind to use solely wireless headphone technology rather than a 3.5 mm headphone jack.

A Risky Move?

Given the ubiquity of the headphone jack across a host of devices, some feel that eliminating the headphone jack and moving to purely wireless audio technology was a risky move for Apple.

Certainly, the move has met with some criticism from users. Given the proliferation of devices that use the jack to transmit sound, from the ubiquitous earphone buds, to mini-speakers that can turn your mobile device into a miniature stereo, many Apple users have invested significantly in devices that use the headphone jack and would prefer not to have to replace those items.

Yet, Apple’s move to eliminate the jack and move to transmitting sound wirelessly makes sense in the context of the general direction that mobile devices seem to be moving. As mobile devices get smaller, and are asked to do more, there simply isn’t enough space to devote 3.5mm to delivering sound, when there are options available that can do the same job in less space.

Apple has also moved to fill the gap in wireless sound delivery with AirPods, wireless ear buds that are compatible with the iPhone 7. At $160 a pop, they are fairly expensive but it’s likely that as the market for wireless sound expands, prices will eventually come down.

Why Apple Eliminated the iPhone 7 Headphone Jack

3.5mm doesn’t sound like much, but in fact it is not much smaller than the total thickness of recent releases of the iPhone. As devices get thinner and lighter, it is becoming more difficult for companies like Apple to design around the 3.5mm headphone port’s nearly 50 year old technology.

Other issues cited by Apple for eliminating the headphone port on the iPhone 7 include power requirements. The 3.5mm headphone jack’s only purpose is to transmit audio, and it requires power in order to be able to do so. This is a problem for devices that already have limited power storage capacity, high power usage requirements, and limited space.

This is not the first time Apple has eliminated outdated technology in order to reduce the size of its devices. Beginning in 2008, Apple began eliminating the CD/DVD optical drive from its laptops and desktop Mac devices. Users can, however, still access CDs and DVDs using external USB optical drives.

An Important Business Lesson

The world of technology is constantly evolving, just like the rest of the business world. The way we use technology in our business and personal lives is also constantly evolving. By eliminating the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, Apple once again demonstrates that sometimes you have to take risks in order to keep moving forward.

Some might ask why Apple made this change with the iPhone 7. After all, it’s not like consumers were clamoring to get rid of their headsets. But there are a few reasons why this change made sense for Apple.

  • Apple is a trusted technology leader. Apple has been behind many of the major technology advancements that have happened in mobile devices, from the iPod, to the iPad, to the iPhone and iWatch. They have a reputation as a company that successfully takes risks on new products. In short, customers trust them to take the lead with these kinds of changes.
  • Apple has been losing market share. In spite of consumer trust for the Apple name, Apple has been losing market share to Android and other device makers, particularly in global markets. Once upon a time, Apple dominated the mobile device market. In recent years, however, they’ve dropped to 44% of the device market in the US, and approximately 25% of the global market.
  • Apple needed to shake things up. Faced with competitors that makes products that can do many of the same things that Apple does, often for a much lower price point, Apple needed a differentiator to regain market share. It is taking a gamble that being the first device maker to eliminate the headphone jack and move to a true wireless experience will help it recapture those lost customers.

Will Apple’s gamble pay off? Only time will tell, but if we had to guess, we’d say yes, it probably will. It’s very likely that in a few years, most mobile devices will be using a wireless audio jack.

The business challenges facing your business may not be exactly like Apple’s but one thing that is true for all businesses is that organizations that want to become and stay successful can’t sit on the laurels of their past success. They must continue to take risks and adapt if they don’t want to be left behind by more agile competitors.

Change is never easy, but it’s necessary to keep moving forward. At Tolar Systems, we help organizations leverage technology to transform their business. Let us show you to take the lead in your industry with tools and processes that will help you stay current and competitive no matter what the future brings.

Are you considering adopting wireless headphones with the iPhone 7? Are you excited about this new technology? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.