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Is Apple dumping the 3.5 mm headphone jack?

- June 5th, 2014

Apple has introduced a new hardware spec for its headphone manufacturers, according to a report by 9to5Mac.

Instead of making headphones or earphones that connect through the standard 3.5 mm stereo/mono (TRS) connector, its partners, through the Made-For-iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) Program, can create headphones that connect to iOS devices via the Lightning connector instead (which is Apple’s proprietary alternative to USB).

Apple's iPhone 5s

Apple’s iPhone 5s. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

So does this mean that future versions of the iPhone will dispense with the 3.5 mm headphone jack altogether? If so, then Apple customers won’t be able to just buy any only old pair or earphones or headphones. They will be forced to buy headphones licensed through Apple’s MFi program, which will likely be more expensive.

As Forbes points out, the move puts Apple’s recent US$3 billion deal for Beats into perspective.

Not only would Apple receive payment for every pair of Lightning connector headphones sold through its licensing program, but it could gobble up a fair portion of the market with its own Beats headphones, which could be cheaper as Apple wouldn’t have to pay a licensing fee to itself.

Apple might offer an adapter if you wanted to stick with a more generic pair of earphones, but it would likely be over-priced and possibly bulky.

The Lightning connector headphones do offer Apple customers some advantages. They can offer 48 kHz lossless stereo output and mono input audio, which, as Forbes writer Gordon Kelly notes, is a quality difference you might notice if you own a pair of headphones upwards of $1,000.

These headphones would also work with the Apple Headphone Remote. With it you could control not just volume and playback controls, but operate specific apps as well, such as iTunes Radio.

The Lightning connector also can take a charge so with a pass-through connector, you can charge the device while listening to music, the 9to5mac.com article states.

In addition, these headphones can store power in an internal battery so you could theoretically charge the phone even if it’s not connected to a computer or plugged into the wall. (Though it does still makes more sense to plug the iPhone in.)

A firmware update will be coming soon to turn this functionality on for iOS devices running on 7.1 or later.

Kelly theorizes in the Forbes article it will be a few years before the 3.5 mm headphone will be considered a legacy port and removed from Apple devices.

But it could come sooner if Apple manages to convince its fans that standard stereo headphones are obsolete – and, you know, not cool…

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1 comment

  1. Andres Gallo | June 6, 2014 at 9:13 am

    The headphone jack has nothing to do with sample rate. Normal headphone jacks can even output lower and higher rates including 192khz. That is the job of the the converters inside, not the headphone jack’s. The best headphones in the world all of which cost over 10 have 1/8 plugs. They may however be allowing higher sample rates so that the signal may be sent to an external pro quality converter like symphony io. If an external component does the conversion, plus external headphone E amplifier, the you will definitely hear a difference. This is the case for even android

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