The iPhone 7 has yet to be officially launched by Apple and we already know so much about the product that it seems like Apple will have a hard time surprising anyone. The one area though where analysts expect Apple to have a few surprises up its sleeve is in the Bluetooth earphones space.
As has been well documented, the iPhone 7 and the 7 plus will not be having a traditional 3.5mm jack. This move is typical of Apple that routinely leads the pack in discarding technology that it thinks has run its course and paves the way for the industry to follow its lead.
In the case of the 3.5mm jack, though, Apple’s move is unlikely to render the 3.5mm jack obsolete. Every device sold with any sort of audio is sold with a 3.5mm jack, not just phones, and so even with Apple deciding to ditch the technology, it is not going to anywhere.
This is why Apple has to provide its customers a set of solid alternatives.
The first thing it is doing to placate the millions of people whose expensive headphones just become useless is to bundle in a 3.5mm jack adaptor. It is going to be a clunky experience but one that can get the job done if the user is extremely inclined to do so.
Apple is also including with the iPhone 7, a pair of lightning EarPods which should help soften the blow somewhat but Ming-Chi Kuo, probably the most respected Apple analyst around, believes that there is something more interesting awaiting us.
Kuo believes that Apple is going to try and carve out a nice big chunk of the premium Bluetooth earphone market by releasing the proprietary AirPods. These are rumored to work on customized chips designed to maximize battery life and efficiency while being paired to the phone over Bluetooth.
A mid-tier range of headphones from Beats could also be made available.
Such a move would help Apple enter a fast growing market and establish a premier brand by placing them above the Beats. Of course, the AirPods would need to back up the price tag with some solid performance as well and hopefully solve some of the problems that have been plaguing this category for so long.
These AirPods could also have some sort of fitness tracking built in and be powered by Siri to help control the smartphone and the array of connected devices in the smart home.
The Internet of Things is blowing up right now and Apple already has a robust third party ecosystem going thanks to releasing the HomeKit to developers almost two years ago. There are also signs that a new ‘Home’ app will debut on iOS 10 to help control all those devices from one place.
The AirPods could theoretically perform this function with robust Siri integration and instantly become irreplaceable for their owners.
The potential for Apple to truly justify the exclusion of the 3.5mm jack is there by demonstrating how much advanced its alternatives are. They could also potentially bundle them in for free with the highest tier iPhones, although, we would not hold our breath for that to happen.