Here’s how things work in today’s world. There’s a rumour or some newly announced feature in a piece of technology. That potential new feature or function has the potential to make your existing piece of technology seem dated or, worse still, obsolete.
So, in your hastily generated anger, you create an online petition, share it with a bunch of your friends and hope they share it with their friends. Hopefully, within a day or two, it will reach the inboxes of thousands of people who, in a moment of “me too outrage” sign the petition.
It sounds silly but this is what has happened over the last week or so as rumours that Apple will be dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack on the next iPhone are heating up.
Here’s the situation. As Macworld Australia reported back in November, there’s a rumour doing the rounds that Apple is planning to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack that has been the way we’ve connected our headphones to portable audio devices since the days of the portable transistor radio.
The “plan” – remember, this is all rumour and conjecture at this point – is to replace the 3.5mm socket with Lightning-connected or wireless headphones.
In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. It’s one less port on the device so, in theory, on less thing that can go wrong. It’s also one less port to waterproof if Apple adds some water resistance to the iPhone. Lightning is a digital connection so, in theory, we should be able to get much better audio quality as the 3.5mm port is analogue only.
But the downside – that draw filled with old headphones suddenly gets a little less useful. I have a few sets of cheap headphones in case my kids or their friends forget to bring headphones. If I recall, they were freely given away at a hotel I stayed in so patrons could use them with gym equipment, such as treadmills and exercise bikes, that was equipped with TV screens.
And this is where the “Internet outrage” starts. A petition at Sum of Us submits that “Apple is about to rip off every one of its customers. Again”.
As far as I can tell, there’s nothing in any Apple documentation that states the need to buy a new iPhone every time a new model is released. Sure, it’s nice to have the latest and greatest Cupertino has to offer but it’s not mandatory.
The petitioner says Apple will “singlehandedly create mountains of electronic waste – that likely won’t get recycled” and cites the example of Apple replacing the old 30-pin iPod connector as an example of Apple’s irresponsible behaviour.
That example is a stretch as the old connector was fragile and could only be inserted one way. Anyone arguing the Lightning connector is inferior is probably not looking at all the facts. And the old adaptor was in plat for a decade so it was hardly a rushed change.
Of course, change is rarely easy. And anyone who has followed Apple over the last three decades will know they rarely hold back on what they perceive to be innovation because of legacy technology. Floppy drives, CD/DVD drives ADB, FireWire 400 and 800 (with different connectors) – all have fallen victim to Apple’s march forward.
Even common implementations of USB are for the chopping block if the MacBook, with its single USB-C connector, is a sign of the times.
At no point does Apple put a gun to anyone’s head and force them to upgrade.
Amazingly, the petition has managed to get over 240,000 people to sign on the virtual line – with few than 10,000 more signatures needed before the petitioner reaches his or her target of 250,000. Why that number is important is a mystery but in the world of Internet outrage it’s probably as good a target as any.
It’s easy to get angry about things. And in our world there’s a lot to get emotional about. War, famine, mistreatment… all of these are great causes that need our passion.
But to get this much attention for something that hasn’t happened, may not happen and, ultimately, matters little given there’s no mandatory requirement smacks of petulance and reactive outrage.
Will Apple dropping the 3.5mm jack be an inconvenience to me, if they do it and I buy a new iPhone? Of course it will. I have three sets of headphones I use regularly, two of which are wired. But I’m already carrying an adaptor with me so I can use them on planes where airlines still have those silly two-pronged connectors. So, another small adaptor isn’t really a big deal – and certainly not enough to make me dump my rather expensive noise-cancelling headphones.
What do you think? Have I got it wrong? Is the petitioner right and I’m off with the fairies?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.