You can make thinner and thinner smartphones, sure, but at some point, you’re going to run up against one big issue: the size of the physical connections on the device itself. While that’s not likely going to be that big an issue for some connections—especially if a manufacturer can replace a familiar standard (like, say, mini-USB) with either a smaller version (micro-USB) or a different connection type entirely (Lightning)—it’s certainly going to pose a problem for others.
We’re not sure how one might shrink down something like the 3.5mm audio jack, which is used by pretty every normal pair of earbuds or headphones one can currently buy right now—minus, of course, the few headphones and earbuds that have already switched over to a thinner Lightning connection. And it appears Apple can’t really figure it out, either, as new rumors from Mac Otakara suggest that Apple is looking to abandon the 3.5mm jack entirely in its to-be-announced iPhone 7.
In doing so, Apple would be able to shrink the size of its flagship smartphone even more. And assuming that doing so doesn’t make the device any more malleable—hello, “BendGate” once again—it would require Apple to throw a pair of Lightning-friendly earbuds into each iPhone 7 box. Apple would likely offer up some kind of 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter as well, but it’s unclear whether this would ship with the iPhone 7 by default (we doubt) or whether it would cost a little bit extra as an add-on accessory (more likely).
The big question is just how such a move might affect all the other headphones one can buy, as well as the other devices Apple makes. While we can envision some manufacturers making iPhone-exclusive variants of their headphones, we doubt that Apple’s potential decision to chop out the headphone jack is going to suddenly make for a market full of Lightning-only headphones and earbuds. There are, after all, plenty of non-iPhone devices that still use the 3.5mm connection. And, of course, you could just pair any ol’ pair of Bluetooth headphones or earbuds with the iPhone 7.
We’re more curious to know whether Apple’s move is the first step toward the elimination of the headphone port in all of its devices: tablets, phones, and iPods. While it’s a bit early to call the death of the headphone jack just yet, we sense that Apple’s interest in thinner, sleeker designs means that the 3.5mm connection is likely living on borrowed time at this point.