Apple loses headphones and fans

Joshua Defibaugh

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It’s overwhelmingly difficult to describe the impact technology has had on the progress of human productivity. From the technical, mechanical and automated (for example, the invention of the assembly line, the vacuum cleaner, the stapler or even the recent Roomba) to the approachable and genial (the camera in both analog and digital formats, the personal computer and the smartphone), technology in nearly every
form has helped the shaping of humanity.

Even technological advances in entertainment have far-reaching implementations. The radio, as we know it, invented in the late 19th century, changed the way humanity sent and received and information. With the invention and popularization of television, the spreading of information, and eventually entertainment, continued to advance. The personal computer, in conjunction with the inventor, revolutionized information and the way scientists and journalists could spread their studies and reporting.

Apple, the technology company that in some ways laid the foundation of great technological design, brought their streak of advancement to a grinding halt with the removal of the most universal feature of a smartphone. Last week, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, unveiled the latest iteration of Apple’s flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. In nearly every way, the iPhone 7 marks a major upgrade from its predecessors, the iPhone 6S and its oversized version. The newest iPhone has an upgraded camera, a much faster processor, a new and improved “Home” button and fingerprint scanner, a longer battery life and, arguably most important, an element of water resistance, for those who resist purchasing AppleCare when it’s obviously in their best interest.

While those elements make the iPhone 7 a remarkable phone that devoted customers will undoubtedly purchase, there is one feature — or lack thereof — that has turned many longtime Apple fans, myself included, away. For some reason, Jony Ive, Apple’s chief designer, and dozens of other officials approved the idea to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone to promote Apple’s own proprietary “Lightning” connector. No longer can iPhone users easily plug in nearly any pair of headphones and listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks or watch YouTube videos. From now on, iPhone users must purchase a pair of Lightning headphones.

The lack of a standard headphone jack creates many problems, the most obvious being that customers are now subjected to buying additional connectors, converters and other products. For instance, if I purchased an iPhone 7 and wanted to listen to music and charge my phone at the same time, it would be impossible without an adapter. My noise-cancelling headphones, which cost over $200, are now obsolete unless I purchase an additional Lightning-to-headphone jack convertor. Beyond the annoyance that Apple has created, there’s another aspect to killing the headphone jack that relates to the history and the significance of Apple design.

When Apple designed and released the iPod, it came with pair of bright white ear-buds that became the subject for one of the most iconic advertising campaigns of the 21st century: a dancing silhouetted, energetic person in front of a backdrop of vivid and saturated colors. The silhouette is holding an iPod and from it, a white line leads to ear buds.

Now, without a place to plug in traditional headphones and a signal that Apple wants more of its customers to purchase either their new Bluetooth headphones or a pair of Apple-owned Beats Bluetooth headphones, their silhouette advertisements no
longer apply.

Apple has faced backlash over its products in the past. With each iteration of an iPhone, technology critics were quick to dismiss the release as a shameless money-grab; however, the iPhone always prevailed as Apple’s best selling device. It’s unclear how the iPhone 7 will fair when it’s released on the 16th this month, but given the recent disapproval of the device, it’s difficult to think that Apple will do well against its competitors.

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