Hit the road Jack

So have you heard the one about the smartphone that doesn't have an audio jack? No? Where have you been?

Sunday, 18th September 2016, 9:51 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:50 am
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

The latest iPhones (the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus) have been announced and this time they have no audio jack. Yes, there are improvements here and there, like faster processors, better camera, etc, but no audio jack. Instead, iPhone 7 users are expected to use the single Lightning port.

Which would be great, if every set of headphones out there used the Apple specific Lightning port. Which they don’t. Apple have got some new EarPods which use the Lightning port, although if you are an audiophile, you will likely want to use something else, which may be a problem. Apple also have some new AirPods, which are wireless earbuds that look rather like the head of an electric toothbrush. In fact there were some funny photos floating around at the weekend about that.

Anyway, the AirPods come with their own charging cradle and can apparently run for five hours of playback. The downside? They retail for $159 in the US and £159 in the UK. Yes, that means a price hike for UK customers.

As well as EarPods or AirPods, iPhone users will also be able to use Beats wireless headphones (which happens to be owned by Apple). You see Apple have made their very own proprietary wireless standard for the new iPhones, so existing wireless headphones or earbuds simply won’t work. In short you have to buy Apple’s own products, or wait for third parties to bring out their own versions that use the new standard. The problem there is that third parties may not want to bring out two extra versions of each piece of kit, just to cater for the newest iPhones, which (and let’s be honest) are a tiny fraction of the entire audio market.

Now there is a small concession to people that want to use the old style audio jack, in the form of an adapter. This is good, because if you really are an audiophile, you will want to use wired headphones for the audio quality that you cannot get from wireless technology. The problem is that from the look of it the adapter by it’s nature isn’t likely to stay in for very long if you have your iPhone in your pocket while jogging (for instance). Secondly, if you are using your iPhone to play music, you will wear out the battery in your phone. As there is but a single Lightning port that is used for both charging your phone and for listening to music, you can no longer do both at the same time. Which sounds like a downgrade to me.

As I mentioned, there are improvements in the latest iPhone. Most notable is the fact that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are both water resistant. So if you get rained on or drop your phone into the kitchen sink, it should still be fine to use. Apple don’t recommend charging your iPhone while it is wet though, which is just common sense. Apart from that the rest of the updates are just that. Updates. Little improvements here and there, with nothing truly mind boggling going on. The screen is better, the camera is better and there is more storage capacity, but there is nothing really attention grabbing.

Is it worth upgrading? Probably, if your current iPhone is looking a bit long in the tooth and you are due an upgrade. Unless of course you want to have an audio jack.