After unreliable rumors surfaced last year reporting Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is thinking about ditching the headphone jack with the iPhone 7, the speculation has since lost momentum. But the rumor is now returning more strongly than ever, after 9to5Mac reaffirmed this speculation with its own sources.

iPhone 6s headphone jack. Image source: Apple.

The speculative rumor gains credibility
"Apple is prototyping a completely new set of Bluetooth earphones," reported Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac. Gurman, who is well connected with reliable Apple sources and has a very good track record with Apple speculation, says the new earphones could launch alongside the iPhone 7 this fall. Further, Gurman says, "sources confirm that the iPhone 7 will not include a standard headphone jack and will instead require headphones to connect via the Lightning connector or wirelessly over Bluetooth."

Speculation that Apple would ditch the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 originated from an article on Japanese website Mac Otakara. The website cited a "reliable source," but the claim was glossed over because Otakara's track record with rumors is mixed.

But Gurman's voice adds credibility to speculation about Apple's plans to ditch the headphone jack.

The headphones, which Gurman says will sport the Beats brand, will be similar to the Motorola Hint and Bragi's new Dash earphones, which were both demonstrated at CES this week.

Gurman offers more details: "It's expected that the in-development accessory will include a noise-cancelling microphone system, enabling phone calls, and communication with Siri even without Apple's prior in-line microphone and remote. In order to fit inside of the user's ear, Apple will likely develop different sized ear sleeves for the hardware, similar to the approach used by Motorola and Bragi."

The headphones will be sold separately from the iPhone 7, representing "a premium alternative" to a new version of Apple's EarPods, Gurman predicts.

Apple design
As crazy as it may seem for Apple to ditch the headphone jack, it's definitely a move that fits the company's persistent pursuit of sleeker, thinner, and simpler designs.

In 1998, Apple controversially ditched the floppy disk drive when it launched the iMac G3. Just three years ago the company began a transition away from its 30-pin connector in favor of the Lightning connector. Then, of course, there's Apple's gradual shift away from disc drives across all of its computers. And, more recently, Apple even combined USB and power ports with its USB-C port on its new MacBook.

Macbook. Image source: Apple.

Further, ditching the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 would be in line with the company's practice of launching its new flagship phone with an overhauled exterior design every other year. For instance, the iPhone 4, 5, and 6 all had different form factors than their predecessors, while the iPhone 4s, 5s, and 6s, sustained their predecessors' form factors.

The iPhone 7 is particularly important for Apple. After guiding for low-single-digit revenue growth for its holiday quarter, its proving difficult for the company to live up to its successful fiscal 2015, which included the launch of its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

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