Apple Kills the Headphone Jack – What are the current options?

Airpods

Today’s iPhone announcement from Apple brought forth a natural evolution of change that still might catch many by surprise. With the release of the new iPhone 7, the company is dropping the use of the standard 3.5mm analog headphone jack from device to free up more physical space inside the tiny housing that has become our home for mobile talking. This was done in order to make room  for battery, screen and all other consumer technology requests that constantly compete for the precious real estate packed into the tiny shell.

The importance of this symbolic leap was not lost on the presenters at Apple’s streamable annual unveiling event for the handheld. Phil Schiller even took a few moments to directly address some of the concerns that have undoubtably been raised since rumors started swirling around the not-so-well-kept feature set of the new phone. So what are the new options for listening now that the analog jack has gone the way of the 8-track?

Apple presented a few options of their own, starting with a ecosystem-friendly wireless version of the earbud called the Airpod.

Given Apple’s emphasis on design and aesthetics, it seemed a bit surprising to see such a large extension protruding from the driver casing. This of course gives them much more leeway to optimize battery life and other more technical wizzbag features with the extra space here as well. Also a bit of an eye-opener, the price. At $159, it might be hard sell to mainstream consumers who only expect that type of payout for over-ear Beats-style brands. What has yet to be seen is weather these new headphones, and the iPhone 7 in general will integrate support the AptX bluetooth codex or stick with (what some feel is lesser quality) Apple’s own AAC standard.

CrxnqFkVYAAk2PG

Not to be left out of all the action, Apple-owned Beats will be issuing 3 corresponding wireless headphones including a new solo3 which should take advantage of some of the more convince-heavy features that the new wireless interface and W1 chip offer.

noble-audio-bluetooth-dongle-tower-2

Should you want to connect any pair of headphones wirelessly to your new phone (or iWatch) Noble Audio has created a small device aimed at making IEMs and full size gear even more portable. Their BTS (short for BlueTooth Solution) connects wirelessly for $99 and provides a clipable amp/DAC solution complete with a 3.5mm jack. Other brand-specific, in-line options have cropped up lately as well from company’s like Westone and Jaybird.

While wireless is obviously the direction the big A is pointing us all in, several wired options are launching (or have already launch) that provide their own flavor in the form of an external DAC chip and direct-to-lighting connection.

Sine-1

Aside from a Phillips early entry, Audeze was one of the first adopters to offer a lighting cable with mic, controls and a DAC/Amp all self-contained within the product. The Cipher cable is currently available for both their EL-8, Sine and now iSine headphones. You can check out more of our thoughts on the interface in our formal review of [the Sine].

CrxfRY7XEAAQ0ie

JBL was also mentioned in the presentation with a new line of in-ears called the Reflect Aware ($200). The sports-oriented IEM offers noise cancelation and the ability to mix in sound from your surroundings into your music for a safer, more aware workout. No batteries are needed to operate as the internal electronics draw power from your phone via the lighting connection.

The purchase of either new 7 or 7 plus iPhone also includes a pair of more traditional earbuds from Apple that now terminate in a lighting jack. If all else fails, you will still be able to connect any pair of old school cans with another free included adapter intended to soften the blow which does easy-peasy conversion from lighting to 3.5mm.

So there you have it. Obviously there is soon to be an onslaught of more products to be quickly whisked our way in the days ahead. But worry not young listener, there are still numerous options available at day of launch.

The Apple iPhone starts taking pre-orders September 9, with shipping beginning on the 16th.