Did you hear the one about Apple ditching the headphone jack?

SHARE Did you hear the one about Apple ditching the headphone jack?

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Apple intends to do away with the headphone jacks on its iOS products, and force people to buy headphones that use Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector?

Criminy. This was a silly enough suggestion a few weeks ago, when it got the zero public traction it deserved. But now Forbes has published a piece that seriously supports the rumor, which allows fine, upstanding sites like A.V. Club to report on the Forbes comment.

It’s a silly, unfounded rumor. Actually, I won’t even give it that much credibility: it’s straight-up wild-eyed speculation, plucked straight out of the windy regions. But over the past couple of days since Forbes’ rather silly article — which I won’t link to here because I’m not 100 percent certain that it wasn’t written as linkbait — I’ve seen people treating it seriously. So I thought I should address it.

“It’s a silly, unfounded rumor.” Oh, right … I already said that.

The idea of Lightning headphones is intriguing, mind you. A Lightning cable delivers power, audio, and digital signaling. It’s fun to think about the possibilities of headphones that fully exploit it. Like:

  • Noise-canceling headphones that don’t require batteries or recharging. They’d also be smaller and lighter and more comfortable to wear, without the batteries inside ’em.
  • Plain headphones with a much better controller. Like an LCD with a scrubber and a small display, so that you wouldn’t need to unpocket your iPhone (or use Siri in a quiet environment) to select a new track or skip to a precise point in a 12-hour audiobook.
  • Headphones with sensors. Lightning headphones could collect heart rate and temperature while you run. Motion sensors, worn on your head, can tell the iPhone which direction you’re looking, or if you’re looking up or down. Imagine a Maps app that can orient the app (and you) by telling you “Look around until you’re staring right at Grace Cathedral, and then tap the button.” Or a video that pauses when you’re not looking at the screen.

Lightning headphones would indeed be a neat idea. But this notion that Apple intends to do away with the headphone jack can be dismissed out of hand. It just plays into some people’s prejudices of Apple as a company that will happily inconvenience its customers by forbidding them to use a cheap, useful but non-proprietary accessory, and lock them into spending their money on products made by Apple and its licensees.

Er … which, as a broad concept, shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand. By coincidence, Amazon delivered a box of $5 micro-USB cables to my office today. “They’re so cheap,” I thought the other day, “Why don’t I buy a set for every bag I travel with, and another set for my desktop 5-port USB charger?” Whereas even a certified third-party Lightning cable costs between double and triple. And you can’t necessarily find a Lightning cable at a nearby store when you’re in a pinch.

But: The Lightning and 30-pin connectors are much more sophisticated than micro-USB. No, the very worst thing you could say about Apple on this topic is that they aren’t as put off as other makers by the idea of inconveniencing consumers by building devices that use proprietary standards. They’ll do it, if they genuinely believe it leads to a better product.

Sometimes Apple’s wrong, of course. Witness the iPhone 1’s recessed headphone jack: it maintained the unbroken curved edges of the device, but made it impossible to plug any third-party headphones into it.

But this “Apple wants to eliminate the headphone jack” rumor seems like total nonsense. There are funnier ways for Apple to make people not to want to buy iPhones. Like, if they coated the whole thing in something super sticky, or put a General Motors logo on it.

In the hopes that this column will be found, and read, by worried consumers who have heard this rumor and are Googling for information, I will now try to game its page rankings: Kardashian Bieber Miley nipslip sextape lose weight fast Hunger Games. Thank you and good day.

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