A recent rumor is that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) plans to eliminate the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack in its next-generation iPhones. This rumor stirred up quite a bit of controversy, particularly as the reason cited for Apple's removal of the jack was so the iDevice maker could make its next-generation iPhones thinner.
Although this is move would definitely be "Apple-like," I doubt the company will actually go through with it this year. Here's why.
Removing the jack would be a super risky move
At this point, it's pretty widely believed Apple will have a hard time delivering year-over-year growth in iPhone shipments during fiscal 2016. It's reasonable to assume Apple will want to do everything in its power to return iPhone to growth in the coming fiscal year.
To do this, Apple is going to need to put out an extremely innovative and compelling pair of iPhones with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. These need to be superior to all previous iPhones in ways that matter to consumers. This includes not making changes that could serve to frustrate/alienate a good chunk of the user base.
And to be perfectly blunt, I think a lot of people use headphones that require the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.
Although there are a number of ways Apple could try to spin the removal of this port as a good thing, and Apple could surely ease the pain by including a 3.5-millimeter-to-Lightning adapter with the phone, such a move seems extremely risky.
What about all of those Beats products that Apple is selling?
Another thing to consider is that Apple recently bought headphone maker Beats and is still actively trying to sell Beats products. Though Beats does offer a number of wireless headphones that don't require the 3.5-millimeter jack, much of the Beats headphone portfolio does.
If Apple were planning on removing the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack from flagship devices slated to launch in about nine months, then it seems strange the company would actively try to market headphones that require it.
Additionally, as I perused the Beats website, I wasn't able to find a pair of headphones that connect to Apple devices via the Lightning port. Once again, if Apple were planning such a transition, I'd expect Beats (now under the Apple banner for more than a year) to begin rolling out flagship headphones that connect to iPhone via Lightning.
Apple (probably) doesn't need to remove the 3.5-millimeter jack to make the device thinner
Finally, it's worth noting that Apple probably doesn't need to remove the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack in the iPhone 7/7 Plus in order to make the devices significantly thinner. As has been widely noted, the fifth-generation iPod is just 6.1 millimeters thick and includes the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.
Although I suspect removing the 3.5-millimeter jack would make it easier for Apple to reduce the thickness of its next-generation phones, I'm not convinced it's required.
Indeed, since Apple pays an army of extremely talented engineers and designers to make its next-generation devices thinner and lighter while at the same time making them more robust, I wouldn't bet against Apple's teams achieving on the rumored thickness targets (6-6.5 millimeters, per KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo) while retaining the headphone jack.