Why Did Apple Remove The Headphone Jack

In September 2016, Apple launched the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack that had been a standard feature on previous iPhone models. This controversial decision was met with mixed reactions from consumers and tech critics worldwide.

Recent Released:Benefits of Apple H1 and H2 chips

Pushing Towards Wireless Audio

One of the driving factors behind removing the headphone jack was to push the market towards adopting wireless audio technology as the future standard.

Apple’s development of the AirPods and improvements in Bluetooth technology gave them confidence that wireless was advanced enough to replace wired headphones for most use cases.

The AirPods specifically were designed to provide a simplified user experience by instantly pairing with Apple devices. By removing the wired option completely, Apple forced users that wanted to stick with iPhones to embrace wireless headphones.

While extremely convenient, the high $159 price point of AirPods put them out of reach for many budget-conscious consumers. Critics argued this approach was an attempt to boost Bluetooth headphone sales and accessory revenue, while making wired options increasingly scarce and expensive through adapter dongles.

Key Wireless Audio Advantages

Here are some of the benefits that Apple touted regarding wireless audio over retaining the legacy headphone jack:

  • Convenience: No cords to untangle or get caught while moving. Easy pairing with Apple devices.
  • Portability: Small wireless earbuds are lightweight and easy to carry.
  • Stylish: Eliminating cords enables sleek, minimalist industrial designs.
  • Future-proof: Lack of cords future-proofs devices as wireless technology continues advancing.

Apple’s gamble to spur wireless audio adoption paid off in the long run, with AirPods becoming an extremely popular accessory and wireless headphones making up over half the total headphone market just a few years later.

Making Space for Other Components

Another motivation was to free up internal space inside the iPhone for other critical components. By ditching the analog headphone jack and its associated circuits and connectors, Apple gained valuable real estate within the tight confines of the iPhone body.

The iPhone mainboard faces extreme space constraints.

Specifically, Apple claimed that removing the 3.5mm jack allowed for a bigger battery and taptic engine for haptic feedback. Leaked iPhone 7 teardowns later confirmed a 14% larger battery compared to the iPhone 6S.

While the battery life improvements were minor for most users, analysts saw the move as part of Apple’s steady push towards maximizing battery capacity in limited space. This ultimately set the stage for leaps seen in the iPhone 11 and beyond.

Improving Water Resistance

Since the early days, iPhones have had basic water resistance but lacked official IP ratings for submersion until the iPhone 7. By eliminating headphone jack holes that could allow liquid ingress, Apple finally achieved an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance up to 1 meter depth.

To achieve this, Apple needed to seal the iPhone tighter than ever before. This involved gluing and soldering components together rather than using connectors vulnerable to water exposure. Water resistance gave consumers more confidence using iPhones outdoors and peace of mind against accidental spills or splashes.

While niche, there are absolutely situations where the IP rating saves iPhone 7’s from water damage where previous models would have been toast. So for some users this proved a literally life-saving change.

Phasing Out Outdated Tech

Finally, Apple wanted to take wireless technology into the future and leave outdated tech behind. They claimed the legacy 3.5mm jack was based on analog tech that had been unchanged for decades and limited digital advancement in the headphone space.

By embracing the fully digital Lightning connector and later USB-C, Apple has spurred accessory makers to innovate with new features like noise cancellation, custom EQ settings, and hands-free access to Siri.

However, the transition came at a cost, rendering legacy wired headphones incompatible without an adapter dongle. For the eco-conscious, this move triggered a tidal wave of electronic waste as consumers discarded still functioning 3.5mm headphones or bought new wireless models.

Overall this disrupted established norms for questionable tangible benefit, irritating many customers staunchly opposed to change.

Spurring the Wireless Future

Regardless of consumer opinions at the time, removing the headphone jack proved tremendously influential on the future mobile landscape. Apple’s tendency to aggressively abandon legacy tech pushes the industry towards adopting new technology standards faster than market forces alone.

In this case, Apple undeniably catalyzed the wireless headphone revolution and pioneered styling cues for virtually every true wireless earbud that came after AirPods. This cemented their reputation as an innovative force that takes bold risks.

Now just a few years later, wireless headphones and earbuds make up over half the total market. As the technology continues maturing, more consumers are willing to cut the cord and embrace the convenience of Bluetooth audio.

It’s unlikely this sea change happens nearly as fast without Apple disrupting wired headphones. Love it or hate it, the scrapped headphone jack paved the way for the next generation of mobile audio.

YearGlobal Wireless Headphone Sales
2016145 million units
2020395 million units

Wireless headphone sales have skyrocketed in recent years, indicating strong consumer adoption.

So despite frustrations around dongles and spotty connectivity, the numbers don’t lie. By forcing consumers’ hands, Apple successfully pushed the industry towards adopting wireless headphones faster than market forces alone could have.


Removing the antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack allowed Apple to realize its vision of the future for the iPhone product line. This controversial decision improved internal space for batteries, allowed for water resistance ratings, and drove the industry towards fast wireless adoption.

It demonstrated Apple’s characteristic willingness to abandon legacy technology ahead of competitors, even at the risk of consumer critique. However uncomfortable at first, these daring moves pay dividends ensuring Apple maintains its reputation as an innovator pushing the limits.

Some still lament the loss of the trusty headphone jack, but market trends confirm consumers ultimately embraced the wireless future Apple envisioned years ago. As the next generation of mobile technology looms, more bold but divisive changes likely await. But Apple will confidently lead the way regardless, anticipating needs users don’t even know they want yet.

Leave a Comment