iPhone 7 petition: Apple ′screwing customers and planet′ with headphone jack | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 14.01.2016
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iPhone 7 petition: Apple 'screwing customers and planet' with headphone jack

Rumors. It's all just rumors. But talk about the iPhone 7 headphone jack has got Apple devotees angry. Over a quarter million have signed a petition demanding the company keep the 3.5mm technology.

Rumors about the iPhone headphone jack started soon after the iPhone 6 was released in 2014. People were noticing problems with the sound. Either it would cut out completely or, if the jack moved in its socket, the sound would drop out on one ear or become distorted.

I know this from personal experience. After four years of abstinence, I conceded it was time to upgrade to a phone with a functioning home button - but what I got was a phone with a bung headphone jack. And I wasn't alone.

Online, I began to type in the keywords "iPhone 6 headphone jack" and Google, faithfully as ever, auto-completed my thoughts with the word "problems."

Various people suspected Apple had purposely installed an inferior headphone jack to use its "art of gentle persuasion" to get us all to adopt more wireless technology, such as Bluetooth headphones. (Thanks, Father Christmas.)

But there was little talk at the time of its expanding the Lightning port, which is currently used for power and data transfer, to include audio.

Now it looks as though this is definitely in the works.

The problem is more than quarter of a million Apple "devotees" are dead set against it.

Online petition slams 'planned obsolescence'

The petition, launched using the consumer website sumofus.org, complains that Apple "is about to rip off every one of its customers. Again."

Screenshot iPhone 7 petition

But will Apple listen?

Citing articles published by Forbes and FastCompany earlier this month - articles which appear to confirm rumors about the new iPhone and its headphone jack - sumofus.org says Apple will "singlehandedly create mountains of electronic waste - that likely won't get recycled."

It will also mean, says the site, that customers will have to "dole out additional cash to replace their hi-fi headphones."

There is no doubt Apple has a keen financial interest in advancing music and headphone technology. It bought Beats Music and Beats Electronics in 2014 - the same year those original rumors started - for $3 billion (2.75 billion euros). It will want to see cash returns. And it needs to keep up with competitors, such as Samsung and the Android clan.

So far, Apple has always sold its iPhones and iPods with headphones. The "confirmed leaks" suggest it may continue to do so, while offering a premium-style product, with added features, for sale on the side. It may also provide or sell an adapter to allow customers to keep using their old "cans."

Counting down the wires

These rumors tend to start when deals between Apple and other companies emerge. It may be a deal with technology manufacturer Foxxconn to build the phones, or Apple puts in a large order for a particular component and macrumors.com connects the dots.

Failing that, someone is always bound to "accidentally" lose a mock-up of the new phone in a public bar.

In this case, it appears Apple has been working closely with Cirrus Logic on the audio chipset for its phones, and with Wolfson Microelectronics, which Cirrus Logic owns, to adapt the Lightning port to enable it to work with audio. The port may also include noise-cancelling technology.

This would mean you could power your phone, transfer data, and listen to music all via the one port. And the move wouldn't be a surprise - it would be in line with other developments at Apple.

In 2015, it released a new MacBook featuring just the one USB-C port for power, data and video transfer.

Determined to move forward

A new iPhone Lightning port may be more energy efficient.

It could also mean the iPhone 7 is slimmer (and, I imagine, more prone to bending), waterproof and compatible with wireless charging technology. Though the Apple Watch allows wireless conductive charging, Apple lags behind Samsung on wireless charging for phones - so it would be about time.

Apple has a reputation for moving forward with technology, regardless of what the punters say. It was like that with the 3.5-inch floppy disk, pre-USB connectors, Firewire, CD/DVD drives and the various power plugs we've known, loved and dumped since the first iPod.

So who can say whether the company will listen to anything anyone has to say, including those who have signed the sumofus.org petition?

"Apple only invested in renewable energy, and began phasing out toxic chemicals when public pressure became too strong to ignore," says the site. "People power did it before, and we can do it again."

Possibly. But the company would have considered it just another technological advance to move with the "environmental times."

In its 2015 report, the company writes, "Since 1994, we have diverted more than 508 million pounds of equipment from landfills," writes the company in its. And Apple knows statements like that sound so good.

But its "508 million pounds of equipment" doesn't include all the Apple devices, laptops, and cables I have saved from landfill in the last 20 years (they are in the cellar instead). They include devices which would still work if only they would still… work.

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