After months and months of rumours, Apple finally unveiled the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last night, and as expected the company had removed the 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of both Lightining compatible and wireless headphones. As you may expect, people aren’t happy about the idea. Myself on the other hand, couldn’t be more thrilled.
Removing the headphone jack from the iPhone may seem like a bit of a dumb move considering the sheer amount of people who use headphones with a 3.5mm jack on a daily basis, I myself included in that group. But why, unlike everyone else am I not annoyed that Apple has effectively made my fairly pricey Sennheiser headphones useless? Because forcing people to listen to music through better audio technologies is a great idea.
While Apple seems to be pissing everyone off by throwing the word “courage” around, we’ve got to remember where Apple first came from in terms of portable audio technology: The iPod. This is a company, aside from its range of PCs, started a revolution when it came to portable digital music. While people were still trying to cram as many songs as they can on a CD, Apple was offering, at the time, absolutely bucket loads of storage in one small (ish) compact box.
Hell, Apple still continues its music drive with the acquisition of Beats and the launch of Apple Music – even though they haven’t released a new iPod for some time now. And what better way for you to hear music via Apple Music than through much better audio technologies?
At Apple’s keynote event last night, Phil Schiller focused more on Apple’s wireless audio efforts than what’s capable through the Lightning connector, and there’s good reason for that. AirPods aside, this is where this audio revolution could really shine.
For the most part, when we play music through our phones we can’t hear “digital” music, it’s just a series of ones and zeros. So at some point this digital audio has to be converted into analogue music by passing through the audio codec IC which has a digital to audio converter and vice-versa, and an amplifier, and more. It’s this codec that, for the most part, decides how the music is processed, whether it’s compressed to high heaven and sounds like trash, or whether it outputs lossless music.
Up until this point, the choice of codec has never really been one we’ve been given, our iPhones come with one, some Android phones come with others. It’s Apple’s push to wireless which is really what takes “courage”, as for some, this opens up a world of choice when it comes to how our music is heard.
Playing audio wirelessly, mostly through Bluetooth, has so many positives, first there are no wires; second, the audio quality found in the more decently priced Bluetooth headphones have their own lossless codecs built in, such as aptX and LDAC, which means you’ll completely bypass the codec within your device for one you’ve chosen to listen through.
Even Apple’s AirPods make the most of high-quality sound by playing AAC audio, though it’s not quite Apple’s own Apple Lossless, it’s still better than that one MP3 you’ve been copying to and from various devices for the past ten years.
While this is just a start, it’s definitely the right direction in terms of listening to music how it’s supposed to be heard.