"Courage" Is One Word for It: Why I Won't Be Upgrading to iPhone 7

"Courage" Is One Word for It: Why I Won't Be Upgrading to iPhone 7

I am normally the first person to purchase a new iPhone, and I had been leaning towards doing just that, if only because some of my family's older iPhones are due for an upgrade. But I have some serious reservations about the new iPhone 7. Of course, the most obvious concern is that the headphone jack has been eliminated. Apple will tell you that it's no big deal. Just use the included Lightning-based earbuds or the included Lightning to Headphone jack adapter and your favorite headphones. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. You give up some significant functionality. With the current iPhones, you can listen to music using the headphone jack and keep your iPhone charging using a docking station, USB cable, or external battery pack. That option has been eliminated, just like the headphone jack, with the iPhone 7. Apple will tell you to charge your iPhone using Lightning and listen to music using wireless headphones or earbuds, including its own AirPods. But those are just more devices to keep charged, not to mention purchase.

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Imagine listening to music or watching a video for an extended time in a car or on a train or airplane. This is not an uncommon use case. As long as there is a USB port or power adapter, you can listen indefinitely, by charging your iPhone and using headphones with a traditional headphone jack. Now, with the iPhone 7, you would have to either charge your iPhone and use wireless headphones or use Lightning-based headphones for as long as your iPhone's battery lasts. And when you reach your destination, your phone would be dead. Or do the tango, switching between charging your iPhone and listening using Lightning-based headphones.

Perhaps Apple could have added a Lightning to headphone jack adapter that also added a Lightning port, as it does with its HDMI and VGA adapters. Those allow you to connect to a TV or projector and still charge your device using a Lightning cable. Clearly this is possible, and Apple has set the precedent. Maybe it wants people to buy its Lightning-based battery case?

HDMI + Lightning

Perhaps Apple will sell eventually such a device for headphones. Or better yet, a Lightning to dual-Lightning Y-adapter type of splitter cable, so you could simultaneously use modern Lightning headphones and charge your iPhone. But this would still be another thing to buy and remember to bring with you.


Another option would have been to make the iPhone itself charge wirelessly, like the Apple Watch. Then the Lightning jack could be used for music, while the device could be charging just by sitting on a charging pad. Or, if Apple needed to make room for the second speaker on the bottom, it could have just put the headphone jack on the top of the iPhone, where it was for years, from the original iPhone through the iPhone 4s. Wireless charging is probably something Apple wants to keep until the iPhone 8, or later. All the more reason to hold off on this generation.

Apple's Phil Schiller said they were proud of their "courage" in making this switch. I guess that airlines exhibit "courage" when they add more rows to an already crowded airplane but to me, that's more like "chutzpah." I suppose it does take guts to take away such a reliable technology. But it's only laudable if the result is something better without sacrificing functionality. Yes, digital audio is better but it could have coexisted with analog, at least until Apple offered wireless charging.

When Apple abandoned the headphone jack, it also took away a feature... the ability to listen to music and video using wired headphones while charging indefinitely. It did not replace that functionality with new technology.  I'm all in favor of pushing the envelope and leaving behind old technology when something new is better. But it's not clear that Apple has a better solution just yet. Until there is a way to charge an iPhone while listening to music with wired headphones, as there has been for every iPhone until now, I think the iPhone 7 is two steps back and only one step forward. And since the iPhone 6s is $100 cheaper and has 32 GB memory standard, plus a headphone jack, that may be the better upgrade.

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.