The Next iPhone Can't Do These Two Things At Once

Sep 8, 2016
Originally published on September 8, 2016 4:16 pm

Apple giveth, Apple taketh away.

Every year about this time, the tech giant unveils its latest iPhone. Company executives proclaim it the best iPhone yet. And fans can't wait to get their hands on the shiny new toys.

But when Apple on Wednesday confirmed the rumor that it was doing away with a feature users all take for granted — the tiny, ubiquitous headphone jack (in favor of $159 wireless AirPods and making more room for better cameras and an improved home button) — it immediately raised a practical question:

How do you charge your phone while listening to headphones that will now be connected via the Lightning connector? (Lightning headphones and an adapter for your old-fashioned headphones come in the iPhone box.)

Sure, Apple says the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will have a longer battery life, so you won't have to charge them as often, but many puzzled potential users took to Twitter to complain that the new phones won't be able to do the technological equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

"I regularly charge my iPhone and listen to music during flights, and I'm sure there are a number of times you might need to do this," writes Tom Warren of The Verge.

"Apple doesn't appear to have additional adapters ready for this, and the only option available is the existing $49 lightning dock," Warren says. (That's for the black version; Apple sells a white version for $39.)

Apple's decision to do away with the headphone jack makes people uneasy because it removes a choice that they had, says Jonathan Sterne, author of The Audible Past: Cultural Origins Of Sound Reproduction.

"You're increasingly locked into the decisions of the company whose platform you use," he told NPR's Audie Cornish. "And so the headphone jack, which — let's face it — is just another plug to plug things into, becomes symbolic of Apple's constantly changing products. And I think it's a little disturbing to people because it's a reminder that they're really not in control of their media lives."

At the iPhone 7 unveiling event, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for worldwide marketing, said the company took away the classic headphone jack because the time had come.

"The reason to move on [is] courage," he said. "The courage to move on, do something new that betters all of us."

But Rob Price of Business Insider wasn't buying it. "It just so happens that this courageous move will make Apple a whole lot of money selling awkward accessories," he wrote.

Schiller also suggested the Lightning dock in an email to a user who had written him about the charging-while-listening issue, according to Mashable. "I hope that helps," Schiller wrote.

There are other potential solutions, like third-party adapters that are sure to come and battery cases — but some people don't like the extra bulk and weight for their sleek phones.

And some fans wish Apple had added a wireless charging feature, like some of its competitors.

For now, they can only dream.

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