iPhone: The port that keeps your smartphone fat
Despite all the advanced in miniaturisation of computer data interfaces, there is still one venerable connector that has refused to go away. Its origin lies in the very earliest days of telephony and It is now one of the biggest obstacles to thinner devices. Now, Apple is rumoured to be readying the guillotine for that most familiar of plugs, the humble 3.5mm headphone jack. It's about time, although the passing of the socket will not happen without cries of anguish from those who have invested in expensive headphones and other peripherals.
Fortunately Apple, of all technology companies, is not shy of shedding ports once they have served their time. Those monster parallel printer sockets and serial ports were the first to go. Then followed the floppy-floppy disk and its successor, the plastic-encased 3.5in floppy drive. One by one the interfaces have bitten the dust, including the disc drive that no one thought we could manage without. Apple's latest notebook, the tiny MacBook, manages with just one major interface, the USB-C connector plus, for the moment, the 3.5in earphone jack. And from the off, both the iPhone and iPad have managed with just one port, now reduced to the ambidextrous Lightning socket.
The 3.5in circular jack may look small, but it is a relatively bulky component that places a limit on the thinness of devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch. Efforts have been made to slim it down but the only solution is to think of a better idea.
According to the rumours, Apple is set on using the existing Lightning port as the only interface for speakers or headphones. It makes sense, but it will cast a shadow over the future of the tens of millions of higher-quality devices that are already in use. The biggest problem for Apple is that while the 3.5in jack is universal, a Lightning plug would be anything but. It would be reserved for Apple products and would cause major headaches for third-party manufacturers. In this respect Apple is in pole position to develop its range of Beats headphones as products specifically tailored to its products. Adapters are one solution but, again, Apple holds the whiphand with its licensing arrangements over the proprietary Lightning connector. Such adapters are unlikely to be cheap with the result that many owners decide not to bother, simply opting for a new set of headphones.
One thing is clear: If you are an Apple user and fancy spending a few hundred pounds on a high-end pair of earphones you should be cautious. Perhaps it's a good idea to sit this one out and see what happens in 2016.