You may think your smartphone is a pretty well-designed device. But, frankly, it's got a few holes in it.
Chances are, you're probably ok with that. After all, the two connectors that are on most smartphones are pretty useful. There's the USB or Lightning port, which provides charging and connectivity for those times you want to transfer data to or from a PC. And the headphone jack that accommodates a near endless variety of headphones and earbuds that allow us to quietly hear videos, music and even the other ends of phone calls.
But those capabilities come with compromises. For one, accommodating a connector means that a phone can be no thinner than that connector. Furthermore, the room the connector needs inside the phone could be used for other features. This is particularly true for the standard headphone jack, which takes up a relatively large amount of interior real estate in a modern smartphone. It also places constraints on component placement since you generally want the headphone jack at the top or bottom of the phone. Headphone jacks also increase the difficulty in waterproofing phones.
It's likely not surprising then that Apple is rumored to be dropping the 3.5" headphone jack with the next iPhone and instead bundling a pair of earbuds that connect directly to the iPhone's Lightning connector. Apple has been on something of a Lightning spree in 2015, making it the preferred charging connector for its new wireless keyboard and mouse, the remote for the new Apple TV, and the Apple Pencil accessory for the iPad Pro. Presumably, an adapter would allow iPhone users to continue to use their favorite headphones.
The iPhone would not be the first smartphone to forego a headphone jack. After HP acquired Palm, it released a tiny smartphone in 2011 called the Veer used a magnetic connector to attach adapters for charging and headphones. If you lost those adapters, you were out of luck. Consumers veered away from that device, although that likely had more to do with its tiny screen, child-sized keyboard, and its operating system's app deficiency.
Apple may have more success. The company has earned a reputation for doing away with connectors such as traditional keyboard and mouse connectors on the first iMac and USB on the iPad. Indeed, it has already vanquished the headphone jack on its 12" MacBook that sports a single connector for power, connectivity and display as well as audio. While a very thin laptop, it offers a huge interior when compared to an iPhone. In addition, Bluetooth headphones and speakers have proliferated widely and become much less expensive since the debut of the Veer.
Removing the headphone jack could be a next step in what seems like an inevitable future of the connector-free sealed phone. While there is still limited adoption, wireless charging standards are consolidating and delivering more power than ever. New standards promise to deliver wireless HD video more effectively. And a company called Keyssa is developing technology for fast data transfers without wires, hoping to make a better run at it than a earlier attempt. As is always the case, there would certainly be some adjustment pains for a while but, after all, shouldn't a wireless phone truly be wireless?