How to deal with iPhone 7's lack of headphone jack

With the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple killed off yet another tech legacy under the guise of innovation.

The latest victim: the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack, found in all manner of smartphones, tablets, laptops and even the Walkman and cassette players of yore.

The loss of the headphone jack will affect not just user habits but also how audio manufacturers design their products in future.

It is an added inconvenience as users will have to use the supplied Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter if they want to continue using their headphones with the new iPhone.

If they lose the adapter, they will have to fork out $14 for a replacement.

And because the lightning port is used for charging the phone as well, users will not be able to listen to music at the same time - an issue made worse by the fact that the iPhone 7 lacks wireless charging.

This is unless they cough up more money for a split lightning cable, like Belkin's US$40 (S$55) Charge RockStar, which splits the one lightning port into two.

Another workaround is to use wireless earphones or headphones.

Apple seems to think wireless is the way to go, as it launched its new Apple AirPods wireless earphones along with the iPhone 7.

Consumers will not have too hard a time finding wireless products, as many different brands now offer both wired and wireless varieties of their goods.

"Since the start of 2016, we are seeing more brands start to enter the wireless market, and they are priced competitively," said analyst Seraphina Wee from market research firm GfK Asia.

Bose, for example, launched its first wireless active noise-cancelling headphones, the QuietComfort 35, earlier this year.

However, wireless headphones, while convenient, may not always provide the best audio experience.

Users may experience the occasional hiccup while listening to music as the connection gets cut off. It may only be a millisecond, but it is still noticeable when such connectivity issues crop up.

Audiophiles will also point out that sound quality over wireless will not be as good as that with a wired connection, as music is compressed in order to be streamed through Bluetooth.

This can be mitigated somewhat by the use of compression technology like the aptX codec, which is designed to stream music wirelessly with as little loss of fidelity as possible.

The catch is that both the audio device and the headphones have to be aptX-compatible for this to work. It is unlikely, however, that the iPhone 7 will support this codec, as it went without mention during the iPhone launch's keynote last week.

Local audioheads still prefer to be plugged in, according to market research figures from GfK Asia, which show that sales of wireless headphones here are still far behind those of wired headphones.

Data from GfK Asia, which tracks the consumer audio space in Singapore, shows that buyers here snapped up more than $33.6 million worth of wired headphones last year. Sales of wireless headphones came in at $7.7 million.

Ms Wee said that this is due to wired headphones having more entry models, while wireless products tend to be pricier.

The Straits Times Digital checks out some headphones which will work straight out of the box with the new iPhone 7 - without the need for an extra adapter.

These are new earphones that come with a lightning interface, wireless headphones that connect via Bluetooth, and even "true" wireless earphones that do not even have a wire connecting the earpieces together, much like the AirPods.

This article was first published on September 14, 2016.
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