What’s the Logic Behind Apple’s New Headphone Jack?

Apple has filed a patent for a new, slimmer headphone jack. It is very similar to the current 3.5 mm jack that we currently use to plug headphones into portable devices, with one exception: one side is shaved off. As reported by Apple Insider, this headphone jack roughly looks like a D.

Apple new headphone jack

On the surface, the reason for this is obvious. It saves a bit of space, allowing Apple to make thinner iOS devices that still accept a standard headphone jack. Unlike the conspiracy theories surrounding Apple’s use of lightning ports to connect headphones, this new jack would not be a radically different form of connecter designed to usurp the standard headphone jack.

Yet it seems foolish. It would allow headphones with this jack to work with devices with standard plugs, but you would not be able to use standard headphones in devices that have the slimmer jack. If you want to use standard headphones, you would need to use an adapter. That adapter could be a simple plug, or it could be cable a few inches long with plugs on either end.

The headphone jack in the current iPod touch is such that when I connect headphones to it, the jack is not flush with the back of the device. But on this device, the camera also sticks out a bit from the back. If Apple is planning to make an iPhone as thin as the iPod touch – 6.1 mm, compared to the iPhone 6s’s 7.1 mm – then current headphone jacks would indeed exceed the width of the device. however, Apple’s patent is designed as much to slim down the inside of the jack as well as the outside, to make devices thinner overall.

Once again, Apple is overly obsessed with thinness. I, and many iPhone users, would prefer more battery life over slimmer devices. The amount of thickness this would save doesn’t seem to make it worth preventing me from using my existing headphones. Then again, Apple may just be filing this patent preemptively, so other manufacturers don’t use this idea.

8 thoughts on “What’s the Logic Behind Apple’s New Headphone Jack?

  1. It’s odd for sure and like you say – kind of back to front in its thinking

    There’s actually a smaller size jack (2.5mm as opposed to 3.5mm) used at the ‘headphone’ end of a lot of cans with removable cables – the very fact it’s on the other end of a ‘normal’ cable it’s clearly a perfectly decent connector for this use, so why doesn’t everyone just adopt that size if they yearn for a smaller form factor on cable ends?

    • I don’t know. The only place I’ve ever seen that size jack is on IP telephones; I’ve never seen it on a portable device. Given how many headphones use the 3.5 mm, jack, it would be hard to switch, but no harder than to switch to a D-shaped jack.

      • My Harman Kardon noise cancellers have that size, and I’ve seen ‘studio’ level Sennheisers with it too.
        Agreed, it wouldn’t solve anything with reverse compatibility, but they are ‘standard’ sizes so adapters are already available and easily sourced (avoiding the now-ubiquitous £25 Apple peripheral cable tax)… though I suppose probably not the 3 collar ones that work with an inline microphone.

        My other thought is why is the ‘patent’ is only flat on one side – if they’re going that way it might as well be flat on both edges and shave off even more micrometers – and still be ‘compatible’ in older female sockets.

  2. About 4 nano-seconds after Apple releases a device with the new headphone jack, someone will release an adapter that allows standard headphones to be used with the device …

  3. One of the complaints with the recently released MacBook is that it only has a single USB Type C port. The space for a second port is taken up by the headphone jack. Making the headphone jack slimmer means it can be moved to a thinner part of the MacBook’s body, and the space it presently occupies freed up for a second USB port. That’s my guess.

  4. Apple has committed to devices which on first glance cause consternation, wonder and a growing appreciation of the engineering efforts which went into cramming all that we expect from these small computers we still label “phones”.
    Thinness has become a badge of craftsmanship and care.
    Its true that one of the tradeoffs for an ever-thinning device is a reduction in internal volume; currently it means smaller batteries even though they are linked to more efficient chipsets.
    In an annual competition to attract users worldwide, noticeable differences matter. The visual language of thinness is an important differentiator and will continue to be pursued, until such time as a full days use(10 hrs), for average customers is unattainable.

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