I purchased my last iPhone in the summer of 2016 and I’m still using it. But this blog is not a boast about how I am resisting consumerism and striking a blow against Apple’s dedication to planned obsolescence. I’m not bragging about how I haven’t (yet) dropped my phone in the toilet. The purchase date of my iPhone is significant, though. Just a couple months after I bought my SE, Apple got rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack from its next generation of phones.
I wasn’t alarmed when I first heard the news about the headphone jack. After all, my phone was still new and the battery life was long, especially compared to the 4S I had been using for the previous three-and-a-half years. But over the last six months, I’ve noticed that my battery has almost no charge left despite the fact that I’ve resisted downloading the new, battery-sucking iOS. I switch my phone into low power mode the moment I unplug it. At 99 percent charge, I’m in low power mode. The other night, I had to leave a party earlier than I would’ve liked because I was at 10 percent and needed to summon a Lyft and get into the car before my battery was completely gone. It was like I was Cinderella and my iPhone would, if not quite turn into a pumpkin at midnight, instantly become a useless paperweight. I made it home with 2 percent to spare, plugged it in and had to wait 10 minutes before I had enough juice to take my dog for a walk. (You might be thinking, “Can’t you take your dog for a walk without your phone?” Well, no, internet busybody. I need the flashlight function to find the dog shit in the dark.)
All of this to say that I’ve been starting to think about getting a new phone. But I can’t, at least not the newest mid-tier or high-end models. And that is because I refuse to live without a headphone jack.
Part of this is because I’m resistant to change and am typically a late adopter when it comes to technology. I purchased my first smartphone in November 2012, well after most people I knew had them, and then only because I was headed to Los Angeles for an extended period and I needed driving directions. And part of this, if I’m being honest, is because I don’t like Apple getting its way yet again. When they eliminated the headphone jack, they unilaterally decided to go and reinvent the wheel. Well, this fucking wheel was fine. This type of plug has apparently existed for over a hundred years, and as such deserves a little respect. I don’t care if the new phones are sleeker in design. I’m fine in my chunky, non-minimalist world. All I ask of my overpriced phone is that it work, and also allow me to plug cheap drugstore headphones into it.
But because Apple got rid of the jack, nearly every major competitor started to follow suit. And now 3.5mm headphone jacks are on track to becoming an endangered species, not unlike the giant panda but notably more useful on a crowded subway.
At Fast Company, Mark Wilson gets into what it’s like to live in this headphone jack-free world. He does not paint a pretty picture. It’s a hellscape of dongles, with various workarounds to adapt old headphones to the new lightening connector, a long list of items to keep track of. It’s a world in which you’re forced to choose between charging your phone and listening to podcasts, which is what Sophie’s Choice would be about if it were being made in 2018. More to the point, it’s a world in which if you want to do both at the same time, you have to use bluetooth headphones. And if you forget to charge your bluetooth headphones as I often do? Then you’re stuck listening to your own thoughts. If you can’t stand me after reading my thoughts in the preceding 700 words, imagine how I feel about being stuck with myself and those thoughts with no audio to distract me. It’s dark.
“No human’s life is measurably better since Apple had the ‘courage’ to remove the 3.5 mm jack,” Wilson writes. “But a lot of our lives are just a little worse.”
Life getting worse. Ain’t that the tagline of 2018.