That damned recessed iPhone headphone jack

That damned recessed iPhone headphone jack

Summary: I don't know what Apple was thinking when they released the iPhone with a recessed headphone jack that prevents customers from using almost any set of earphones or earbuds that they already own.Surely someone mentioned this little fact in the beta testing?

TOPICS: Apple, iPhone, Mobility

I don't know what Apple was thinking when they released the iPhone with a recessed headphone jack that prevents customers from using almost any set of earphones or earbuds that they already own.

Surely someone mentioned this little fact in the beta testing? Focus groups? Oh yeah, I forgot, Apple does neither of those because they are deathly afraid of leaks.

Apple has been suspiciously quiet about the topic and I haven't heard a single rational explanation as to why Apple would do this. To protect the port from damage? For acoustical reasons? Without a sound logical explanation, we're left to wonder. Is it so that buyers will be forced to use Apple's iconic white headphones so that they can further promote the brand? I hope not. Is Apple creating an "opportunity for third parties." I doubt it, they're not that charitable.

I think that Apple's white earbuds sound lousy and I always replace them. The last several iPods I've purchased still have the lame-o white buds still in their original packaging.

V-Moda Vibe Duo Earphones for iPhone

When iPhone was released on 29 June there was exactly one third-party headphone/microphone available at launch (and from the Apple online store), the Vibe Duo from V-Moda (US$101, pictured). Since the Vibe Duo was available in Apple stores at launch, they obviously had advanced notice about the iPhone's recessed jack (word is that they only had six weeks). I'm glad that someone did! I'd love to see the NDA that they had to sign.

The Vibe Duos sound great. I put sound quality at just a hair below my current favorite iPod earphones–the Atrio (US$199) from Future Sonics. But they are darned close and I was listening really closely in a quiet room with my custom molded SofterWear sleeves (US$149) on the Future Sonics.

The advantage, of course, is that the Vibe Duo contains a microphone so that you can make and receive phone calls while listening to the iPhone in iPod mode. These may finally kill my need for a dedicated iPod shuffle for the gym. Sure, the iPhone is much larger, but having access to the Web and email kills my need to bring reading material for those long cardio sessions. Could the iPhone spell the death of magazines and newspapers?

The only down-side is that the microphone on the Vibe Duo doesn't have a built-in actuator (like the Apple set) that allows you to click to mic to advance to the next song. Boo hoo. While that would be nice, it's not a deal breaker for me.

Belkin Headphone Adapter for iPhone

There are options like the Belkin Headphone Adapter for iPhone (US$10.95) which allow you to use any standard headphones with a 3.5mm plug with iPhone, but they don't have the aforementioned microphone option. So while iPhone headphone adapters are great for plugging your iPhone into your car's cassette adapter, they're not quite as useful for full-time headphone use.

What headphones do you use with your iPhone?

Topics: Apple, iPhone, Mobility

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  • I have an idea why...

    It may be to prevent the internal headphone jack from being broken away from the Circuit Board during use, this was a big issue on iPods.
    • Many of these types of connectors..

      are soldered directly to the traces on the PCB. Given that with a lever long enough, and a place to stand, one could move the world, you can imagine that it takes very little leverage to separate the connector from the board.

      I'm sure this was a mechanical engineering decision. Ultimately, I think, the right one.
      • Of course you do

        [i]I'm sure this was a mechanical engineering decision. Ultimately, I think, the right one[/i]

        Gee, color me surprised that you think Apple can do no wrong! :)
        • Hardly surprising...

          If the headphone jack was a 17-prong, 900V "special" that only Apple headphones worked with, the zealots would still think it was "ultimately the right decision".


          You think Apple might be pulling a "Commodore" (changing the damn peripherals with every new machine)...

          Stevie J wants to keep them $$$ rollin' in!
      • Soldered directly?

        A connector that is constantly being used to plug and unplug something, is soldered directly? They don't use a flexible connection? And a mechanical engineer decided to do it that way? Oh my. Would make more sense to have the connector on a flexible cable that can be withdrawn a half-inch to connect to the headphone cable.
      • Though even recessed

        the jack could easily still be damaged. I agree it wasn't an oversight, though other options could also be the cause: cost, availiabilty of the desired adapter, or just plain aesthetics.
  • RE: That damned recessed iPhone headphone jack

    The reason for the recessed jack was given. It was supposedly for the design of the phone and if they put it (correctly) up front, it would have made the iphone thicker.
  • That picture is [b]hilarious[/b]!!!!!!!

    Hehe, I'm laughing and laughing and laughing at the picture of the iPhone with the headphone jack adapter!!!!! The thing adds an inch to the length of the iPhone! It also [b]completely[/b] destroys anyone foolish enough to think this might have been an engineering decision to protect the circuit board since with that adapter, you are in essence adding a huge lever to the jack.

    [i]Is Apple creating an ?opportunity for third parties.? I doubt it, they?re not that charitable.[/i]

    Huh? Apple makes millions of dollars from licensing fees on iPod peripherals. How [b]dare[/b] you use your own headphones when it takes a dollar out of Jobs' pocket!

    Anyway, I think it is hilarious how my PocketPC is as thin as the iPhone (if not thinner), and I can use any headphone I choose with it and gee, PocketPCs don't ever have problems with the jacks breaking free of the circuit board! I guess Apple engineers suck!!!! That's okay though, they have a legion of Apple zealots to apologize for them and their "engineering decisions". :)
    • You forget

      "...and I can use any headphone I choose with it..."

      But you forget, choice is actually bad for consumers. Remember, the more choices people have, the more limited they are. By only giving people one choice, Apple is really freeing them.

      At least, that's what Harry would say. :)

      Carl Rapson
    • Apple does okay

      when you do an "all or nothing" approach. Meaning if you have all Apple products (and are willing to pay a premium for the privilege), the final product works nicely. Once you start mixing non-Apple with Apple products things start getting dicey.

      My experience with mixing and matching was when I tried using a Bluetooth MS Keyboard/Mouse combo on OS X on my Mac Mini. At random times, and on maybe half the boot ups, it would lose one or the other and I'd have to re-pair the devices (sometimes both would drop, and I'd have to hook up a USB mouse to have any input control). However on Linux and WinXP on the same Mac Mini I had no problems with the hardware whatsoever.

      The guy at the Mac store suggested that the best way to resolve the problem was if I bought the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. And I don't doubt that, because like I said, an "all or nothing" approach is probably best when going Apple. But I didn't buy them.
      Michael Kelly
      • Peripherals from non-hostile companies work just fine

        Given that many people use Macs just fine with keyboards, mice, trackballs,
        joysticks, & tablets from Logitech, Kensington, MacAlly, Wacom, Keyspan, etc,
        perhaps the fault lies with the Microsoft keyboard itself. A keyboard from an
        anti-Mac company (Microsoft) that doesn't work well with the Mac OS is hardly
        surprising. Have you called Microsoft support to ask them why their keyboard
        isn't compatible with Mac OS?
        • D'oh!!!

          How silly of me. Here I thought that since the hardware worked with every other computer and every other operating system (on the same computer) I've tried including several versions of Linux that it must have been a problem with OS X. I did not take into consideration that MS is anti-Apple and must have done something to make OS X drop the hardware even though I get the same issues whether I have the MS keyboard/mouse software installed or simply use OS X's basic bluetooth discovery and have no MS software installed whatsoever. But of course MS must have built something into the bluetooth devices themselves so that they automatically and randomly disconnect whenever it realizes it's attached to a computer running OS X rather than Windows or Linux. Thank you for your assistance and I shall now give MS a piece of my mind about this situation!
          Michael Kelly
          • drivers come from the tooth fairy?

            ... You do realize that hardware manufacturers make the drivers for their products right? So if the driver for an XYZ product doesn't work on a certain operating system too well... ::blinks:: it's because the driver wasn't written to work with that certain OS as well as it was written to work with the other operating systems...
    • How dare you...

      ... point out that the Emperor has no clothing on!

  • Lots of third party sales ahead

    I have a feeling that it was a design decision
    made by Engineering or Design (called
    Jonathan) and the reasons were sound enough
    to make it to the final design. Now comes the
    fun part - a lot of 3rd party providers in a wide
    assortment of prices.

    Expensive ones for noise cancellation plus good
    quality sound for your iPod use. Some cheaper
    ones for those that feel the standard
    iPod/iPhone set is to easy to spot by thieves.
    Maybe some colorful ones for the younger set.
  • C'mon, it has to be stronger than the normal jack..

    time to stop the conspiracy theory BS... they decided to bite the bullet and improve the product by making the headphone jack more secure by recessing it even though backwards computability might suffer in the very short term..

    please explain to me how this makes Apple money by doing this? they still need to provide a set of headphones with the iPhone (new jack or old one)... third party manufactures are still going to make compatible headphones... there is no gain for Apple that i can see here except that they produce a better more reliable, stronger product.. but it actually costs them in engineering and in production of two different jacks...

    Sorry I just can't see your point.. so you're pissed off that you can't use your old earbuds with the iPhone, say that... but don't say there is no reason for the change when any idiot with two brain cells to rub together can see that the new design will be stronger and more reliable than the old one.. c'mon man get a clue!
    • If the third party manufacturers

      have to pay a licensing fee to Apple, then Apple makes money.

      Now my understanding is that the third party would only need to pay a fee if they mention iPhone/iPod compatibility on their labeling. True, they could legally put a product to market without such labeling, however if they want to actually sell the product the labeling is necessary.
      Michael Kelly
    • re: C'mon, it has to be stronger...


      "time to stop the conspiracy theory BS... they decided to bite the bullet and improve the product by making the headphone jack more secure by recessing it even though backwards computability might suffer in the very short term.."

      'Scuse me? Make the headphone jack [b]more secure[/b] by [b]recessing it[/b]?

      Since I don't own an iPod (or an iPhone), I'd like to ask how many complaints have been made that iPod headphone jacks have broken or have become unusable because the jack assembly wasn't "secure enough". So, I'm askin'.

      There *is* something that you can consider: There simply wasn't enough room inside the iPhone's case (since "thinner is cooler and therefore better") to fit the jack hardware into it in such a way that it *had* to be recessed. In other words, the Styling department (Jobs) excercised its veto over the Engineering department.

      Slightly Off-Topic Department:

      Now that the new iPod Touch has been announced, and is essentially an iPhone without the Phone, will it have the same standard headphone incompatibility issues that the iPhone has?
      M.R. Kennedy
    • The change to the jack is where it is located ....

      ... and not a change to the jack itself. They just recessed it in the housing. Apple makes money on every accessory sold because of the iPod logo program. It is called the "Apple Tax" in the industry and is quite high. Apple makes these changes so that they can have exclusivity in the market place until the 3rd party accessory people catch up. That does make them money. The new sales of Apple logo'd accessories also makes them money from licensing fees. Ever wonder why you never see a TV tuner advertised that is for Apple and PCs both. It is because "the Apple Tax" adds $ 8.00 to the cost. Since these devices only cost about $25.00 to make that is too big a cost to burden the PC market with. Instead the manufacturer makes an Apple only version that the Cult of the Mac cheerfully pay the extra for under the impression that it is somehow better. It is not. It is the same hardware and software, (ported to OSX). It is no conspiracy. It is Apple doing what it does best.
      • OMG

        You mean Apple is a company out to make money. How dare they!