Shredding the straw man: my theory on removing the headphone jack from the iPhone

Hint: It’s not about thinness

Last week a big rumor started swirling around the Internet about this year’s upcoming iPhone release. It seemed to send chills down spines and sent Apple doomsayers into a fervor. The headlines said it all:

New iPhone 7 Leak Exposes Apple’s Achilles Heel

iPhone Users Are Already Petitioning Against This Rumored Change

…and my personal favorite: Stop It Already, Apple

Image for post

The blasphemous suggestion that Apple abandon a 100 year old port seems to have caused straight-up panic and outrage. Everywhere I look articles are referencing Apple’s obsession with thinnness to be the likely culprit. I can’t blame them really, that would be a very easy first conclusion to jump to. It’s also hard for anyone to look into Apple’s future other than themselves. But I’ll argue something completely different:

Whether in this upcoming iteration or a subsequent one, the reason for Apple getting rid of the headphone jack has nothing to do with thinness at all.

Instead of jumping straight to the most obvious answer as to the jack’s demise, we could look just a little deeper…specifically into Apple’s patent history. For that we can look at Patent Application #US 20150178542 A1 otherwise known as “Finger biometric sensor including drive signal level updating and related methods” and its sibling #US 20150036065 A1Fingerprint Sensor in an Electronic Device.” Here’s an image from the latter:

Image for post
Figures 8–10 in US Patent Application #US 20150036065 A1

Here’s the abstract from the “finger biometric sensor” patent:

A finger biometric sensor may include an array of finger biometric sensing pixels and processing circuitry coupled thereto. The processing circuitry may be capable of acquiring initial data from the array based upon an initial drive signal level and with a finger positioned adjacent the array, and determining an updated drive signal level based upon the initial data. The processing circuitry may also be capable of acquiring finger biometric data from the array of finger biometric sensing pixels based upon the updated drive signal level and with the finger positioned adjacent the array.

The above basically describes a screen that can detect biometrics much in the same way that the Apple’s current home button Touch ID works today.

Ok, fingerprint sensing screen…got it…buuuuuut how does this relate to a headphone jack at all?

It’s all about internal space. Think about it…that jack at the end of your headphones has to go somewhere in the phone. Grab a pair of headphones, then act like you’re going connect them to your iPhone, but instead lay them on top of the phone instead where they’d otherwise go. See how close it comes to the screen? Basically there would be no way to fit the jack itself under the screen. Following me yet?

Apple may get rid of the home button as we know it.

Image for post
Highly detailed rendering of potential iPhone design

Touch ID will move to the screen itself and by eliminating the space necessary to house the headphone jack, the iPhone’s home button might look more like the pill-shaped buttons on the sides of the phone, or perhaps be eliminated altogether. After all, the iPhone 6s gave us 3D Touch multitasking, replacing multitasking’s reliance on the home button. The phones will become shorter, and likely easier to handle. One could even envision a day when the phone has no physical buttons, and it simply a display in a sealed enclosure.

Now, it’s important to note that I doubt this will happen by the next iPhone. Instead Apple may just be setting up their next big magic trick…with the reveal a couple years away.

I don’t have an inside source, nor any concrete reason to provide that would help prove my point, but think that if we read the tea leaves a bit Apple may have something big on the way, all because they’re getting rid of a 100 year old jack.

What do you think? Post a response and I’ll recommend it!

Side note: yesterday I posted a poll to Twitter to get opinions on the removal of the headphone jack. Seems like the opinion is split about 50/50 on rumored this change.

Dad, Midwesterner, product designer, coffee snob, craft beer lover, GIF enthusiast.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store