Don't throw away your headphone cables just yet, iPhone owners: Apple may have granted a stay of execution to the 3.5 millimeter audio jack, once presumed dead by the iPhone rumor mill. Or at least that's what we can glean from purportedly leaked photos of the upcoming phone's internals that come from Rock Fix, a Chinese smartphone repair shop.
Rock Fix posted the photos to the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo on May 1 and 3, in posts that show a 4.7-inch iPhone 7 with a headphone port design and another with a caption that translates to "It seems iphone7 restored headphone port design Why? I do not know either." Other images shared by Rock Fix show that the devices may introduce two firsts for Apple's phones: 256GB of memory and dual-SIM trays.
Why has the future of the 3.5mm headphone jack become one of the biggest stories in the lead-up to the next iPhone? Not only have we seen a torrential amount of leaks that pointed to a possible switch, but eliminating decades-old ports in the face of consumer disdain is the kind of thing Apple is known for doing. (Ask your parents what a floppy-disk is.)
If Apple does remove the headphone jack, it won't be the first phone-maker to do so, as the recently announced Moto Z eschewed the port, forcing users to listen via wireless headphones or ones that use a USB Type-C connector; Lenovo also plans to include a cable that will let users attach 3.5mm headphones to the Moto Z. As for Apple, if the company's going to keep the port alive on its upcoming iPhone, it's worth thinking about why it may have reversed course.
From audiophiles to everyday users, there are tons of users who searched for the right pair of headphones or earbuds and won't want to switch from their favorite. Even if Apple packs in a pair its own EarPods that support the new phones, many will be wary of using them, as Apple's own earbuds aren't synonymous with a good fit or high quality audio.
If and when Apple rips the headphone jack out of its phones, there are already two alternates available. Apple already sells high-fidelity Lightning port-based headphones, and Bluetooth audio solutions have been on the market for years, but the former option is pretty expensive and the latter doesn't have the best track record for reliable sound.
Many believe Apple could be targeting the 3.5mm jack because it's always looking to make a svelter iPhone, and the audio port is thicker than the Lightning port. But that may not be enough to convince users that losing the port is a good trade-off. Between Bendgate — where past iPhone models have come under fire for bending too easily — and the fact that the iPhone 6s is already a trim 0.28 inches thick, I'm not sure "the thinnest iPhone ever" will be enough to sway users who've grown attached to their earbuds.
If Apple did ship an iPhone without a headphone jack, the company would likely offer a Lightning-to-3.5mm headphone jack adapter, as it often sells dongles to replace the ports it kills (see the 12-inch MacBook). This would be a heck of a nuisance — imagine an adapter attached to your phone hanging out of your pocket.In that case, the company would be smart to include one of these adapters with every new iPhone, but even that move wouldn't save Apple from angry customer complaints.
So, unless Apple has its own secret reasons for why we should celebrate the death of the 3.5mm jack, it seems smart for the company to wait until this switch adds features, rather than detracts from the experience. Why ruffle feathers and give users a reason to not upgrade when you're already in need of big sales? It doesn't sound like a good idea, especially if this next iPhone doesn't offer the redesigned hardware that Apple conditioned users to expect.