This week Apple unveiled its latest & greatest flagship device, the iPhone 7 & 7 Plus. This is the first Apple conference which I haven’t attended or streamed live from home. For me, the magic of Apple is starting to fade. Don’t get me wrong, their hardware is exquisite, but their decision-making & rush of new hardware & software to market is getting a little tedious. Especially on the software side, nothing is quite as polished & flawless. Everything feels buggy & clunky.
It also feels like Apple are innovating for the sake of it. I was majorly put off the new MacBooks for their lack of built-in ports. I don’t want to use a dongle, it’s something else to carry & totally impractical. Not to mention aesthetically void. My plan is to buy a used Macbook with the ports still built into the unibody because I like a USB port & an audio jack, not to mention an ethernet port (WiFi might be fine for most users, but try troubleshooting a network or transferring huge amounts of data without ethernet, it’s painful & totally useless).
Back to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. They have gone down the same route, by losing the audio jack and replacing it with lightning headphones. The lightning port was a pain in the arse to start with. None of my accessories worked with the port. I still have an iPhone 4 in one audio dock & a 3S in another. I now have an iPad mini 2 and an iPhone 6 with lightning so I’m getting used to it. But replacing the 3.5mm jack, for me, is a no go.
For one we have a usability issue. At the moment I can plug my 3.5mm jack into any device setup and pass audio from any app on the iPhone to any amp or device. I can use the aux cable in rental cars that don’t have bluetooth or when riding in a friend’s car. I can use my official headphones, earphones, X-mini speaker or any cheapo headphones I need to use. No restrictions. With the Lightning setup you are limited to Lightning only accessories. If you friend has an Android phone in their car and uses an AUX cable, you are screwed. If you break your headphones, you can’t just grab any generic pair from almost any shop, worldwide, you don’t need a specific proprietary cable.
Imagine, for example, you are travelling in some far-flung place. You break or lose your headphones. The 3.5mm jack has existed since the 60’s. You can guaranteed, anywhere in the world, you will find a pair of earphones or headphones. That simply won’t be the case with a proprietary connector.
Furthermore, imagine all of those people with a specific need for a 3.5mm jack. Musicians, DJ’s, hackers, makers, hobbyists, journalists, teachers with presentations. The list is endless.
Another issue with the lightning & bluetooth (ear pods) approach is DRM. More so over bluetooth with the wireless Ear Pods, but also with lightning I can see a time where DRM is used to stop you outputting audio to certain devices. Lightning & bluetooth are digital, 3.5mm is analogue, meaning over lightning or bluetooth the iPhone can communicate with the device it’s connected to. This could, for instance, stop you outputting Spotify to an amplifier. It could stop you streaming audio and then outputting that audio to recording equipment or a third-party stereo setup. Anyone who has used airplay will understand the frustrations of DRM. Try outputting video over Airplay for certain apps. it just won’t allow it (specifically the Sky TV apps for example).
The 3.5mm jack has been a bastion of audio for years. I won’t buy an iPhone 7 for this very reason, unless they produce an analogue converter, but still it would mean carrying an external adaptor or dongle. Rubbish.
I’m no Luddite. I enjoy new technology. I’ve been into tech for as long as I can remember, but sometimes I feel that innovation isn’t progress. The rest of the iPhone 7 & 7 plus is a bit meh! The price tags have gone skywards and the features are actually putting me off. Don’t get me started on the fact that the camera is still protruding. I can’t imagine that camera ever coming into existence under Steve Jobs, never mind persisting model after model. I’ve hated it since I got my iPhone 6, the flush camera of previous models was perfect.
Oh, and why do we still not have Micro SD support & dual sims. We have to pay a fortune for built in, fixed storage while the android boys can infinitely upgrade their storage capacity with cheap micro SD.
While I’m discussing gripes, don’t get me started on the bluetooth Ear Pods. I would lose them without a doubt, not to mention the requirement to charge yet another device. At the moment & for years, I rout my earbud cables from my trouser pocket, underneath my T-shirt and out at the neck. This means if I pop them out, to chat to someone or to do some work, they hang from my T-shirt neck, where I can find them & pop them back in my ears when ready. Also, when riding my bike or being generally active, if an earbud falls out, it simply swings from my t-shirt neck on the wire & I grab it and put it back in. With bluetooth, it would drop to the floor and probably end up ridden over or smashed. Plus the fact I would always be running out of battery in the bluetooth earbuds, it’s just a non starter for me.
Some things are meant to have wires. Networks are supposed to be hard-wired for reliability, security & speed. Earphones are no different for me.