An iPhone without a headphone jack

The latest episode of The Talk Show had a lengthy discussion about the possibility of Apple ditching the headphone jack on future iPhones. I’ve used Bluetooth headphones for a couple years now, and having to go back to a cable feels absolutely archaic. I feel like Bluetooth would be the logical default choice in a future without 3.5mm ports. The Lightning cable option can be for crazy audiophiles.

This dorky collar form factor has been okay enough for me, but Apple definitely isn’t going to release something that looks like that. However, I recently tried out this smaller design that is probably only possible with Bluetooth LE, and it’s quite good. It demonstrates that Apple could feasibly make a set of Bluetooth EarPods that look nice and don’t have an ugly and obtrusive battery pack attached.

Ultimately, though, the Bluetooth standard is a pretty fiddly thing to replace a simple plug with. Putting things into pairing mode when you want to switch between using your phone and your iPad is unintuitive and kludgy.

NFC bluetooth pairing exists, and might be a way for Apple to smooth out the shitty process of switching between devices, as well as the initial setup experience. I can’t vouch for it personally because I own zero NFC devices, so it might be just as flaky as regular Bluetooth, and it wouldn’t work for Macs or iPads. Ultimately, I’m skeptical it could ever be as easy as “plug in cable, sound comes out.”

If they can address the usability issues, the larger problem will be perception. The Lightning cable switchover was ultimately a clean win for everyone, but Apple totally lost in the court of public opinion. I personally have many more dumb standards-based USB variants to keep track of, but Only Apple™ gets shit for making a single new connector after 10 years.

Unlike that, this will have downsides in day-to-day use. Releasing an iPhone that removes such a basic feature without sufficient justification could easily be a fiasco, especially if the Lightning to 3.5mm adapters are $30 and there isn’t one in the box. They will have to tread very carefully, and not even including a simple USB to USB-C adapter with the Macbook seems to indicate they won’t.