I have been waiting all Summer for the introduction of the iPhone 7. Not because I plan on buying an iPhone 7, but because I wanted to hear Apple’s reason for removing the headphone jack from their flagship phone.
Here’s what Phil Schiller had to say about the subject during the September 7th Apple Special Event:
Now some people have asked why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone. […] The reason to move on — I’m going to give you three of them, but it really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on, do something new, that betters all of us. And our team has tremendous courage.
Many of the people I interact with on Twitter found Phil’s explanation of ‘courage’ to be a little obtuse and a tad bit arrogant. Heck even I used Phil’s explanation to poke fun at Apple’s expense. But if there is anything worth waiting for after an Apple event, besides the new products, it is John Gruber’s analysis of the show.
This time around John, with the help of 9To5Mac, reminds us of another time Apple used ‘courage’ to support their decision to leave something out.
We’re trying to make great products for people, and we have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that, they’re going to call us names […] but we’re going to take the heat [and] instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think are going to be the right technologies for customers.
I like John’s comparison of Apple removing Flash, better than I like John’s comparison of Apple removing the floppy drive. But in either case Apple was right “to push the industry toward something much better.” Especially if the next best thing is an open standard like HTML5 video instead of proprietary Flash; but even if the next best thing is a licensed technology like rewritable CDs instead of the outdated floppy.
What concerns me is the real incentive behind Apple’s new found courage. Is it about pushing the status quo to accept open standards like Bluetooth or selling proprietary technologies like Lightning headphones and the W1 wireless chip in Apple Airpods? You might say these things are only half measures until Bluetooth catches up. But I don’t see Apple licensing Lightning ports on other phones or W1 chips on other headphones anytime soon. In fact as Apple has grown larger, I would argue the incentive behind more of their courageous decisions is less about promoting open standards and more about securing technological lock-in.
Don’t believe me? Just look as far as FaceTime, Messages, and iCloud. Who wins, Apple or its customers, when the headphones customers buy and the social networks customers adopt only work on Apple devices?
Apple may “make decisions that they know will provoke outrage just because they think it’s the right thing to do.” And most companies will do anything to avoid controversy. But what company wouldn’t provoke a little outrage or controversy if they thought they could get away with it? Especially if getting away with it meant maintaining a status quo with them in control?
By removing the headphone jack Apple is not only showing us they have the courage to push the human race forward, but that they are brave enough to profit from the proprietary post headphone jack future they are asking the world to create.