The 3.5mm Audio Jack Debacle

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03 Aug The 3.5mm Audio Jack Debacle

It is too easy an argument as just – the future is wireless. It wasn’t too long ago that the 3.5mm standardised audio jack was introduced to the smartphone, with smartphones themselves being relatively recent luxuries for mankind.

“I think it’s a storm in a teacup.” – Dr. Simon Hall, Head of Music Technology, Birmingham University. He though, acknowledges that the technology has been around since the 19th century, and is merely a miniaturised version of the classic quarter-inch jack.

One notable personality from The Verge has nailed the agenda behind Digital Audio – heralding the age of Digital Rights Management, which is the one thing that prevents you from being able to move media files between devices. In one fell swoop, he has called out the decision makers in their pursuit of plugging the “analog loophole” that the otherwise sturdy headphone jack presents. Apple doesn’t really need its phones to be 1mm thinner, does it?

Universality

Clearly, moving from an open standard to a closed one that has been around for decades and generations will invoke ire amongst consumers.

“Making Android and iPhone headphones incompatible is so incredibly arrogant and stupid” – Nilay Patel, co-founder of The Verge.

Apple has done away with legacy technologies like floppy disks, optical drives, and the 30-pin charger to no disastrous effect one might quip. The one thing that can’t be ignored for sure, is that the entire ecosystem that revolves around audio is built around the standard that is the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Is it Greed?

“It feels painful because you’ve got hundreds of millions of devices out there that are using the old standard”, opined one crestfallen Technology Analyst, Horace Dediu, who acknowledges that big technology companies have always been controlling how we subscribe to our entertainment. Though it does seem like most Apple fans would like a boost in battery life if the change does take place this year.

Some people haven’t forgotten that one time in 2007, when Apple released its first iPhone, and was on the receiving end of a slew of complaints that all lamented the headphone jack being ‘sunk into the casing’.

Some dismissed it as “a great business plan – break an important device function, and sell the solution for fun and profit.” After what seemed like a lifetime, the problem was fixed the next year when Apple introduced its second version of its breakout product.

Why now?

Apple has always been unafraid of being a catalyst when it comes to change. Simon Sinek once described Apple’s strategy as stemming from ‘Why’, and not ‘How’ or ‘What’, in his ‘Golden Circle’ theory. (see video)

In what is known as market penetration, for the scales to tip in favour of mass adoption, at some point, Bluetooth technology (which is getting better and better) will eventually persuade us from having cords snake down from our ears to our phones.

“We have to lose it sometime, so why not now?” questions one notable Apple blogger, John Gruber. “This is how it goes. If it weren’t for Apple we’d probably still be using computers with VGA and serial ports. The essence of Apple is that they make design decisions no one asked for”, which is the key takeaway here.

What with companies like Apple continually pushing the envelope of innovation, the point is, at some point this is going to happen. Apple has a great track record of making postulated transition periods collapse in half the time. We’re going to buy whatever they decide for us anyway right?

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