Don’t give up your headphone jack

There may come a day when I willfully accept my 3.5 jack is deprecated and it’s time to shift towards a new technology.
“But it is not this day!”
To start: I am not the guy who complains about every new technology and every EOL for every product. I am an avid Windows 10 apologist and I love the cloud. I would even go so far as to say it’s a pet peeve of mine when people (seems to be mostly the aging tech savvy) are super resistant to change or upgrades. I have no fear of innovation. Let the technology come. Give me upgrades. Give me updates.

But god damnit, don’t you take my headphone jack. Hands. Off.

Apple announced, with their normal drool-inducing flair, that the headphone jack is gone in iPhone 7. I would also like to state, for the record, I’m not an iPhone or apple user and I never will be. I follow the company due to interest in technology and their marketing. So, this is just your average Millennial whine post. Reader beware.

This is why we don’t need to deprecate the headphone jack.

 

It’s not even obsolete

My favorite things are things that just work. No hassle, no fuss, no settings, no proprietary technology. You plug it in, it works. Every time. Who are these magical elves living in hidden forests who prefer bluetooth anyways? I’ve never met someone who ferociously defends the technology. It’s finicky, it’s arguably not even ready for prime time yet, and inexplicably seems to have a mind of its own on when it wants to work or not.

 

Headphone jacks have co-existed peacefully for years

66938800There is absolutely no reason why these technologies cannot co-exist. The headphone jack has outlived most plugs. 90% of people with wireless headphones will tell you that they spend most of the time plugged in. Those little earbuds that will pair with lightning, well I can see into the future and you’ve already lost them into the void currently occupied by guitar picks, binkies, and those tiny Amazon Fire remotes. Wireless just -isn’t- there yet. I prefer the current scenario. Wireless when I need it, Wired when I don’t.

 

It’s going to quell innovation

That jack is used for SOOOO much more than just headphones. It’s really technologically unique in that it supplies enough power to run a microprocessor and has a 3 channel communication interface. So to quote TechCrunch “Take a world of hackers, tinkerers and creative technicians and give them a three-channel interface plus low voltage. What do you get? A rich ecosystem of fantastic little accessories.”

It isn't like it is only tiny, no-name companies who've been using the headphone socket to augment app experiencesUsed a credit card at a garage sale or festival lately? Chances are they used Square. Square gives these card readers away for free – and it powers a ton of small businesses ability to accept credit cards. Almost everyone has headphones, speakers, and gadgets that are powered by the headphone jack. And here is where I will make my only actual point in all this: If you have to use proprietary technology to innovate, it’s going to cost a lot of money. The application process for Made For iOS is classically difficult and you have to pay a $4 dollar royalty fee for every single device you sell.

I am sure Square can survive this, but what about the innovators? The bootstrappers? The tinkerers?

 

At the end of the day

Apple is going to brand this move as a brave foray into a bold new frontier. Consumers will still buy, gripe for a few months, then totally forget about it. But what you need to expect is expensive, iPhone only headphones and gadgets. For me, I will stay with my people over here on Andriod and enjoy the innovations of people much smarter than me who survive and thrive by making an awesome product, not by being able to eat the cost of Apple’s royalties.

AUTHOR: Grant Mielke
grant@valamarketing.com
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