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Apple Explains Why It Eliminated the Headphone Jack

Apple seems to get that eliminating the headphone jack will be a tough sell in some quarters. In a packed keynote, Phil Schiller spent a fair amount of time laying out Apple’s case for why switching to the lightning connector for wired headphones and moving to wireless AirPods is the right thing to do. But Apple also spoke to BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski to add context and the detail that couldn’t fit into the keynote.

Apple’s Dan Riccio explained the challenge this way:

”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.

Eliminating the headphone jack helped enable the iPhone 7’s new camera, waterproofing, and better battery life. As Paczkowski explains:

The 3.5-millimeter audio jack has been headed to its inevitable fate for some time now. If it wasn’t the iPhone 7, it might have been the iPhone 8 (or, for that matter, the iPhone 6). In the end, it was simple math that did the audio jack in, a cost-benefit analysis that sorely disfavored a single-purpose Very Old Port against a wireless audio future, some slick new cameras, and the kind of water resistance that anyone who has ever dropped an iPhone in the toilet has long wished for.

Anyone who has used Bluetooth headphones knows that they promise freedom, but at the price of friction – charging, spotty connectivity, and poor audio quality. Apple’s answer to those headaches comes in the form of its new W1 chip that adds a layer of ‘secret sauce’ to its newly announced wireless AirPods that promises to eliminate the pain points.

According to John Ternus, vice president of Mac, iPad, ecosystem, and audio engineering at Apple:

“As you can imagine, by developing our own Bluetooth chip and controlling both ends of the pairing process there’s a lot of magic we can do,”

I was sold on wireless headphones a long time ago despite their limitations. That said, I hope Apple’s secret sauce is every bit as magical as claimed because the issues with Bluetooth are real and fixing them is a challenge that no other headphone manufacturer has fully conquered.

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