Apple executives explain decision to kill off headphone jack

Two key Apple executives behind the iPhone 7 have provided a bit more insight into the company’s logic behind killing off the venerable 3.5mm headphone jack in the new iPhone 7.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s VP of iOS, iPad, and iPhone Product Marketing, and Dan Riccio, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Engineering, expand on Phil Schiller’s comments during Wednesday’s Apple event. Schiller said that it was time to move on from the hundred-year-old analog headphone technology in order to allow Apple to create more space inside the iPhone for new features. Joswiak explained that the only innovation the legacy audio connector has seen in the past 100 years was a simple reduction in size back in the 1960s, with nothing new since then. “It’s a dinosaur. It’s time to move on,” Joswiak said.

“It was holding us back from a number of things we wanted to put into the iPhone,” Riccio says. “It was fighting for space with camera technologies and processors and battery life. And frankly, when there’s a better, modern solution available, it’s crazy to keep it around.”

Riccio is more candid in simply stating that the 50-year-old connector was ultimately “just a hole filled with air” that was taking up “really valuable space” inside the iPhone and holding the company back from bigger and better things they wanted to do. Like most of Apple’s team, Riccio fully believes the future of audio is wireless. He said, “In a world of mobile and cellular connectivity, the one wired vestige out there is this cable hanging from people’s ears to their phones.”

In the world of extremely tight dimensional tolerances and microcircuitry inside the iPhone, every millimeter of space counts, and different components can interfere with each other. Riccio explained, for instance, that the “driver ledge” board that powers the iPhone display and backlight was interfering with the much more sophisticated iPhone 7 camera system, and when they tried to move it lower down in the device to avoid that interference, they encountered interference with the audio jack instead. Once they tried simply removing the audio jack, Riccio explains, they discovered that they suddenly had more flexibility to install features like the “Taptic Engine” for the new pressure-senstitive Home Button, and were able to also increase battery life by using larger batteries — a 14 percent larger battery in the iPhone 7, and a 5 percent larger battery in the iPhone 7 Plus. In the end, as the article explains, it was “simple math that did the audio jack in” — a tradeoff between supporting a legacy analog audio port against wireless audio technology, improved cameras, and other marquee features on the iPhone 7 that Apple obviously deemed were far more valuable to customers than simply preserving a decades-old headphone jack.


Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.