Removal of iPhone 7 Headphone Jack Was Essential for Water Resistance, New Camera System

Apple removed the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, a controversial decision that’s upset some iPhone fans. On stage at today’s media event, Apple executives explained that it had been done to save space and to usher in improvements in wireless headphone technology, but in an interview with BuzzFeed, Apple’s Greg Joswiak, Dan Riccio, and Phil Schiller explained in much greater detail why the decision was made to move away from the 3.5mm headphone jack.

The idea for the removal of the headphone jack was raised during the development of the iPhone 7. In a nutshell, the “driver ledge” for the display and backlight, traditionally placed near the camera, was interfering with the new camera systems in the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, leading Apple to explore other placement options. It was moved near the audio jack, but it also caused interference with various components, including the audio jack itself, so Apple engineers toyed with the elimination of the jack altogether.

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When the headphone jack was removed, Apple realized it was easier to install the new Taptic Engine for the pressure-sensitive Home button, implement a bigger battery, and reach an IP7 water resistance rating, so the elimination of the headphone jack became essential for all of the other features in the iPhone 7.

Apple executives also believe the headphone jack is outdated technology that needed to go to make room for new advancements. According to Dan Riccio, it was holding Apple back “from a number of things” the company wanted to add to the iPhone, taking up space that could be used for camera improvements, battery, and processors.

“The audio connector is more than 100 years old,” Joswiak says. “It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn’t been touched since then. It’s a dinosaur. It’s time to move on.” […]

For Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, the iPhone’s 3.5-millimeter audio jack has felt something like the last months of an ill-fated if amicable relationship: familiar and comfortable, but ultimately an impediment to a better life ahead. “We’ve got this 50-year-old connector — just a hole filled with air — and it’s just sitting there taking up space, really valuable space,” he says.

According to Apple’s Phil Schiller, there’s no ulterior motive behind the move away from the 3.5mm headphone jack. “We are removing the audio jack because we have developed a better way to deliver audio. It has nothing to do with content management or DRM — that’s pure, paranoid conspiracy theory,” he said.

To ease the transition away from the 3.5mm headphone jack, Apple is including a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter with every iPhone 7 and it is also offering EarPods with a Lightning connector. Apple’s new AirPods, which are fully wireless and are priced at $159, will also make it easier for customers to adapt to a device without a jack.

On the subject of Apple’s new AirPods, Apple’s Schiller says the earbuds, which are “as advanced a project as Apple Pencil,” have been in development since the Apple Watch was conceived. “We knew we needed a great wireless solution for audio,” he said. “What if you could design what the future of headphones should look like?’ That’s we asked the team to do.”

The full explanation for the removal of the headphone jack, which is well worth reading, is available over at BuzzFeed.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7

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