Why it makes sense for Apple to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack for the all-in-one Lightning connector in iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 6s - bottom view, showing ports and profile

Apple has never shied away from waving goodbye to aging standards and technologies, having helped kill off the floppy disk, FireWire, and more recently the optical drive. Next on its hit list is the 3.5mm headphone jack, which will be dropped from the iPhone 7, according to a recent rumor.

Here’s why it makes perfect sense for Apple to take this step.

The major drawback to removing the headphone jack from the iPhone is, of course, that it wouldn’t be compatible with traditional wired headphones. But the move would bring a number of big advantages that would outweigh that.

The first and most obvious advantage is that it would allow Apple to make the iPhone thinner. Just like the old 30-pin connector, the headphone hack is a larger port — the largest on more recent iPhones — that limits just how slim the device’s chassis can be.

The headphone jack also takes up a lot of room inside the iPhone’s housing, which could be used for other components, and leaves a gaping hole in the bottom of the device that allows water and other liquids to quickly enter.

Taking away that hole would make the iPhone less susceptible to water damage — and we know this is something Apple has been working toward, based on recent patents that outline waterproofing systems like retractable flotation devices and somewhat strange port shutters.

It would take some getting used to, then, but removing the headphone jack from the iPhone makes a lot of sense in the long run — and it seems like a very plausible move for Apple to make. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber writes, “The only thing good about it is compatibility with existing headphones, and “compatibility with old stuff” is never high on Apple’s list of priorities.”

It probably wouldn’t take us too long to get over the change, either. After all, the all-in-one Lightning port can already accept compatible headphones, and Apple and accessory makers would likely offer Lightning adapters that let you plug in traditional headphones if you want to.

Plus wireless Bluetooth headphones are so affordable these days that many users are turning to those anyway for the added convenience of not having to worry about tangled wires that can break.

What we’re not so certain about at this point is whether Apple will make this move for the iPhone 7 next year. Although it seems possible, given the company’s constant pursuit of thinner devices, the headphone jack isn’t the only thing preventing a thinner device at this point.

Apple had to make the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus slightly thicker than their predecessors to accommodate the new 3D Touch display, so not only would it have to make the new display technology slimmer, but it would also have to reduce the size of other components, too — such as the battery, cameras, and possibly the new Taptic Engine.