Are “old-fashioned” wired headphones about to go the way of the dodo?
It sure looks like it after Apple unveiled its latest iPhone 7 models last week, and the first thing almost everybody noticed wasn’t anything about any of the smartphone’s new or upgraded bells and whistles but that it lacked the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.
As Joni Mitchell once said, you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.
Who ever thought that 3.5mm would cause such a stir in the worlds of tech and retail? But that’s exactly what Apple’s bold move to remove the headphone jack from its newest phone seems to have done (Apple claims to have removed the jack to make room for other things in the phone, like a larger battery for longer life).
Needless to say, a lot of people are not happy about the change.
“So, let’s talk about the other reason you might actually consider skipping the iPhone 7 — the death of the headphone jack. Apple really blew it when it explained this,” Geoffrey Fowler wrote for The Wall Street Journal this week in an early review of Apple’s new smartphone. “The iPhone 7 still comes with corded earbuds, but they plug into the Lightning port now instead of the old, round plug, and the box comes with an adapter so you can use your old headphones. There’s one big downside: You can’t plug in headphones and the charger at the same time unless you buy another strange adapter — for $40!”
Sales of headphones have been moving toward wireless and Bluetooth-enabled over the past several years, but not all consumers have embraced the push. It remains to be seen whether or not the removal of the headphone jack will hurt the iPhone 7’s overall sales.
Sales of wireless headphone units accounted for 45 percent of all headphone revenue and 13 percent of all units sold in July of this year, up from 31 percent of revenue and 9 percent of units sold 12 months ago, according to The NPD Group.
With about one-third of all available Bluetooth-enabled headphones now available for $50 or under, Bluetooth sales even surpassed wireless headphone sales for the months of June and July, making up 52 percent of total sales during those months, according to The NPD Group.
“Despite the makeup of the stereo headphone market naturally trending towards more Bluetooth, the iPhone 7 launch is likely to drive increased demand for Bluetooth headphones,” according to Ben Arnold, a consumer electronics analyst for The NPD Group. “A recent NPD study, fielded in the days leading up to the iPhone 7 announcement, found 60 percent of likely iPhone 7 purchasers (who expect to buy the phone within the next six months) already intend to buy a pair of Bluetooth headphones within that timeframe. When these iPhone 7 buyers were then presented with a visual concept and explanation that the headphone jack on the phone would be removed (replaced with a pair of Lightning connector headphones and an adapter at purchase), their purchase intent for Bluetooth headphones rose to 78 percent — more than three times the purchase intent exhibited by smartphone owners (irrespective of their smartphone-buying intentions or favored brand). According to these findings, most who expect to purchase the iPhone 7 consider buying Bluetooth headphones a near certainty.”
Traditional wired-headphone enthusiasts might soon have no choice but to ditch their wires eventually anyway, as numerous reports are beginning to surface that Samsung — Apple’s largest competitor in the smartphone market — is also exploring the option of ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on its next phone or developing its own proprietary headphone jack that it can integrate into future devices.
So, those married to the wires on their headphones soon might not even have anywhere left to plug them into in the near future.