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Hit the road, jack: Why Apple may say goodbye to the headphone plug

Marco Tabini | June 23, 2014
Replacing the jack with lightning might result in a thinner iPhone that is not quite susceptible to water and dust as the current models.

Caveat emptor
There are a couple more reasons why a switch away from jacks might be in the cards for Apple, although none are of particular benefit to us end users.

The first is that the Lightning connector is completely under Cupertino's control. This allows the company to apply strict quality control over third party products, but also to limit their ability to tap into a vast market of hundreds of millions of customers without paying royalties. In practice, this means that—unless one resorts to grey-market products—Lightning-based earphones are likely to be more expensive than their jack-tipped counterpart, and contribute to locking users into the Apple ecosystem.

The second is that Apple just happens to have sunk three billion dollars into a company whose primary product is earphones. It would be naïve to think that this wouldn't factor into a wholesale switch to Lightning connectors on all iOS devices somehow, presenting the company with the opportunity to leverage its investment in Beats to make a small fortune as the entire mobile market shifts away from jacks.

Ultimately, the switch to Lightning might be a positive change; I certainly wouldn't mind doing away with the jack in exchange for a thinner iPhone that is not quite as susceptible to water and dust as the current models—it's exactly the kind of improvement that I would expect Apple to make, and one that might well be worth the trouble of spending a few extra dollars on an adapter for my pair of expensive noise-cancelling Bose earbuds.


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