How will Apple solve this iPhone 7 problem?

Anthony Caruana
6 September, 2016
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In fewer than 48 hours, Apple will unveil the latest edition to its iPhone family, the iPhone 7.

There has already been plenty of speculation about all the potential new features, but the big change that has captured the most column inches in the mainstream press has been Apple’s decision to ditch the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack and use the Lightning port as a ‘one port to rule them all’ for the iPhone 7.

While my colleague Oscar says it’s Apple innovation at its best I’m not so sure.

One of the products I’ve reviewed for the next print issue of Macworld Australia is 3SIXt’s Lightning Headphones. They’re a good product and worth considering.

But I hit a problem using them – and it’s not a flaw in the product.

My iPhone 6s was down to around 25 percent battery and I wanted to listen to some music. Ordinarily, I’d plug into the mains or connect a battery pack and keep listening, watching a video or clear some email. But with my Lightning headphones plugged in, I can’t do that.

Of course, Apple wants us to embrace wireless everything but, unless airlines change their rules, wireless headphones aren’t meant to be used in flight. And wireless needs power at some point so I’m going to find myself needing to charge more devices, more often.

I’m not sure what Apple will do about this. Perhaps it will use the Lightning port for headphones and legacy charging cables, but include its new Smart Connector as an alternative for charging and syncing to a computer.

The trouble with doing everything through one port is that the port becomes a bottleneck for anyone wanting to do two things at one. Even the new MacBook, which is a very elegant piece of kit, forces you to carry an adapter if you want to do something as ‘out there’ as charging and using a USB stick at the same time!

Apple’s quest for simplification is a good thing. But when oversimplification leads to a poorer user experience, then it’s time to step back and evaluate whether reducing the number of ports is a good thing.

And, despite what headphones Apple chooses to bundle with the new iPhone 7, I doubt they’ll match the sound I get from the two pairs of Bose noise-cancelling headphones I use. So, I guess I’ll be using an adapter if I get a new iPhone.

2 Comments

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  1. Jamie says:

    I’ll say it once again, it’s just another example of the ‘form over function’ that Apple have become.

    Yes they produce very nice and functional pieces of equipment but given that the vast majority of their computers offer zero upgradability (unlike in days gone by) it means I will not be spending my hard earned cash on any more Apple computers when I can get an equivalent Windows based PC for up to 70% less money AND have the ability to upgrade components such as memory, CPU, disk, video cards and screens as I wish. Yes it does’t run OS X but the (roughly) $1200NZ premium in price does not make that a real deal breaker as OS X is simple not worth that $1200.

  2. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    The “upgradability” issue is interesting to me. Back when I was predominantly a Windows user, the ability to swap a drive, add RAM or even upgrade the CPU was a big deal and a critical selling point. But my recollection of data from the time is that the only components people updated were the storage and memory. And, even then, it was only done by a relatively small number of people.

    When I bought the Mac mini is use as my main workhorse, the only component I *knew* I’d upgrade in time was the hard drive. After a year I swapped out the slow, spinning drive for an SSD and it’s new a great system.

    I’ve upgraded the drive in a MacBook Pro to an SSD, before they were standard issue. But with my current MacBook Pro (and, for that matter the iPad Pro I’m using today which is a review unit from Apple) I buy them expecting to get several years of use without having to crack the case and changing anything. I’ve come to see my computers as appliances.

    The price issue has always been so – Apple simply doesn’t sell to the sub $1000 crowd. They aren’t interested in it. I see that there’s a $329 (US I assume) Hackintosh notebook on the market at the moment. Sure, it runs OS X but there’s a bit more to a Mac than software. But I think a well made Windows system running Windows 10 is functionally equivalent to a Mac running OS X/macOS now.

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