Why There’s No iPhone Headphone Jack (And What to Do About It)

If you’ve recently upgraded to an iPhone 7 or later, you’ve witnessed one of the most controversial changes ever made to the iPhone: the removal of the headphone jack.

This article can help you understand why Apple removed the iPhone headphone jack and, more importantly, the easiest ways to continue enjoying music on your iPhone without one.

Why Did Apple Remove the Headphone Jack?

When Apple first removed the headphone jack in 2016, it left many iPhone users scratching their heads. Users were frustrated by what felt like a useless change—one that would force them to only utilize Apple-compatible headphones and earbuds. Although it may have seemed like a quick cash crab, was there a true purpose to this major hardware update?

The simple answer: Yes. This was done to make the iPhone better. You see, the 3.5mm headphone jack might have been ubiquitous, but it wasn’t efficient.

The 3.5mm port is an analog output on the phone. Whereas the lightning port is a digital output. Needless to say, all the circuitry in the phone is digital. So accommodating analog technology isn’t ideal.

iPhone models with headphone jacks must convert audio from a string of digital binary digits into analog signals. For this, it uses something called a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC). The quality of the DAC goes a long way in determining sound quality.

Once the DAC converts the signal, an amplifier takes over. This amplifier’s job is to take the signal and boost it so that it can sound clear and loud over any connected cable. Again, the quality of the amplifier affects overall sound quality.

By removing the 3.5mm jack, Apple removed the need for these two components. The lightning port and lightning input are both digital, so new models no longer require a DAC. Models without headphone jacks are more battery efficient and have room for other components (like a bigger battery) in their slim case.

The DAC and amp will now sit in the actual headphones. Yes, the headphones still require analog output, since they use physically moving parts. There are already headphone amps for audiophiles, but most don’t come with a DAC, and you probably don’t want to use any with your iPhone.

Apple Doesn’t Give You Headphones Anymore

Apple used to ship new iPhones with power cords and earbuds included. However, in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions, these were removed from recent iPhone boxes. If you purchase a new iPhone from Apple today, you’ll need to separately purchase a pair of earbuds or Lightning cord headphones.

You can also try out third-party options that offer different price points and audio quality options.

We already said that sound quality depends upon the DAC and amp. Different Lightning headphones can use different DACs. For argument’s sake, a $20 DAC won’t be as good as a $100 DAC, and that’s why the $100 headphones will sound better.

Potentially Better Audio

Shifting the DAC to the headphones put the onus on headphone manufacturers. Companies like Bose or JBL were forced to differentiate their products based on built-in DACs. Putting the DAC in the headphones also made it easier to incorporate features like active noise cancellation.

Active noise cancellation requires a power source. The 3.5mm analog input can’t draw power, so noise-canceling headphones have a large battery. But Lightning headphones can draw power from the iPhone, and thus achieve active noise cancellation in a smaller package.

Can I Only Use Apple’s Lightning EarPods Now?

If you own outdated headphones that you still adore, you can still use them with your iPhone. However, you will need to use an adapter.

Before you moan, remember the adapter is a small extension, about an inch or less. It’ll be strange initially, but you’ll get used to it in no time.

The Apple version of this adapter houses the DAC and amp. So again, a better quality adapter will mean better sound quality. Look out for reviews of these. But remember, Apple’s EarPods do a lot more than play audio. You’ll probably miss out on those features.

The Best Way Is to Go Wireless

With the release of Apple AirPods, the best solution to the removal of the audio jack was to transition to wireless listening devices. This way you could stop worrying about 3.5mm or Lightning cables and just buy the best Bluetooth headphones for any budget.

Bluetooth audio technology has come a long way. Yes, it still doesn’t match the quality of wired headphones. However, the difference is minimal to the untrained ear. For any regular user, Bluetooth sounds good enough—especially if you’re streaming compressed audio in the first place.

Apple AirPods don’t simply use Bluetooth, like many other wireless earbuds. Apple utilizes the W1 or H1 chip depending on the generation of AirPods. Both of these offer a longer battery life and claim to transfer audio data more efficiently.

Bluetooth technology really only matters for audiophiles. If your ears can distinguish such audio quality, you know that the iPhone doesn’t have great sound output anyway. You’re better off putting your music on a dedicated music player such as the Sony NW-A105 Walkman, to go with your high-end headphones.

The One Problem: Charging While Listening

Shifting the audio to the Lightning port means that you can’t charge your phone and connect headphones at the same time. You don’t have two separate input ports. That’s a big problem for some users.

If you have an iPhone 8 or any newer generation, you should be able to use a wireless charging device. One great option to solve this problem is to charge the iPhone on a wireless charger while using Lightning Headphones. There are also adapters available that allow for simultaneous charging and headphone use.

In reality, one of the best options is to invest in a pair of Airpods or decent Bluetooth headphones to quickly eliminate the problem of the single lightning port.

The Perfect Wireless Earbuds

Although the removal of the audio jack left many people feeling sad and nostalgic, in truth it led the way to some extremely impressive developments in audio technology. While headphones are still typically considered to be the peak of audio listening quality, earbuds are becoming more and more impressive with each passing generation.

Although Apple’s AirPods were a great advancement in the industry, they led the way for some major improvements. If you’re considering investing in a new pair of in-ear headphones, make sure you check out the best must-have features before you make your final purchase.

Source: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/no-stereo-jack-no-problem-iphone-7-sounds-great/

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