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Lipstick on a Pig. Apple Shows Leverage Not Courage

It’s that time of the year again, and Apple attempted once again to convince the masses that its latest offerings would allow them to experience the future right now. Once again, the event was streamed around the world as Apple fans and opponents made their opinions heard loud and clear.

It’s no surprise that the latest iPhone 7 as claimed by Apple is faster and thinner than its predecessors. It also comes with the additional dividend of water-resistance, not to mention the variety of colors.

It however appears that most people were left feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the whole experience.

Perhaps Apple assumes the average user to be utterly imprudent and pliable? I on the other hand feel that consumers after having been exposed to years of great devices and technological experiences, have developed a savior-faire of sorts and worked out that they no longer need a new $700 to $1000 phone every year or even every other year to watch YouTube, take photos, surf the web, IM their friends and check emails, especially if the phone in their opinion is only incrementally better than the previous one, not taking into account design and cosmetics. The Sep 7 keynote even used the appeal of Mario Kart to make it more alluring in what seemed like a desperate maneuver.

Declaring that the headphone jack is now a thing of the past was always going to be a risky move. In fact I even wrote about this back in November. Proselytizing to a global audience that the Apple solution to the jack removal was the release of a pair of AirPods for just $159 with five (5) hours of listening time on a single charge seemed to bring back childhood memories of the Emperor’s New Clothes parable by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who [as mentioned in Wikipedia] “promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

In fact tech guru Shelly Palmer summarized the keynote quite well when describing excerpts from this article on Tech Crunch by Devin Coldeway. I quote:

“Courage. Phil Schiller yesterday caused the largest collective eye roll in the history of the world with his explanation of why Apple was leaving the 3.5mm analog audio jack behind. “It comes down to one word: Courage.”……(cough cough expletive cough)….The 3.5mm jack is robust, familiar, secure, well-documented, and so on — we’ve seen the argument play out over the last year. You know why it’s good: because it works reliably, worldwide, and with millions of devices. Without Apple’s permission. See, it’s that last part that must bother them. The idea that someone, somewhere, is doing something with an iPhone that they haven’t anticipated, like making a thermometer or payment system or 3D scanner. Someone who hasn’t paid for a license to attach that thing to their phone. Apple is taking the first step to make sure that never happens. They’re able to do this because they have leverage not courage. They’re in a position of immense power and they’re using that power to eliminate something good and replace it with something that makes them money. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a business plan”

Apple seemed oblivious to the fact that consumers will gasp, grimace and wince at the mere suggestion of permanently eliminating the headphone cord in favor of a wireless only solution, perhaps even tagging it borderline irreverent. Consumers will now have to decide whether they’d like to use their existing wired-earphone sets while dealing with the agony of an additional dongle adaptor to carry around with them, or continue instead to adopt a fully wireless solution [AirPods] thus further entrenching themselves into the Apple ecosystem.

In the forums online, the average user appeared to be more concerned with design faux pas in the AirPods. There are elements of the online community who believe in the core facet that using Apple products automatically catapults them into a creative and innovative part of society. However the appearance of AirPods could easily give them pause, not to mention an appearance similar to that of a middle manager wandering the streets shouting into a Bluetooth ear-piece a few years ago.

The pesky cables that many did not want to see disappear, may well get tangled, but they do also stop you from losing them. If you thought somebody losing a contact lens in public looked like a stressful scenario, wait until you see what happens when someone has lost one earphone valued at $159.

The fact that they look like the standard Apple wired earphones but with the cables cut off does not make this any easier to swallow. When you put all of the information together, You quickly realize that you can enjoy inferior audio quality with a short battery life while carrying around a charging box at all times. How can this be labeled as progress?

Fractured standards across the headphone industry will also further complicate matters. The truth is that Apple is not forcing anyone to buy this latest product.

There is a dongle included in the iPhone7 Kit that plugs into your existing headset as long as you don’t mind having the capability of charging your phone while listening to music at the same time. There is also a selection of wireless or Bluetooth headphones available to purchase. With so many options, what’s all the aggravation all about?

Removing the traditional and much-loved headphone jack was an incredibly courageous move as Apple itself acknowledged. I cannot help but wonder if mainstream users would gradually start migrating to a pair of Bluetooth-only headphones of their choosing. Several years from now, will we look back at our quaint ways and tales of tangled headphone wires agreeing in unison to never go back?

Will history judge those that desperately cling onto aging technology, only to end up living a life surrounded by dongles to keep everything working?

Is this latest change a deal breaker or game-changer for you? Will you be glad to see the back of cables from your headphones, or will you proudly tell every wearer that wireless transmission is unable to match an out of fashion cable for clear uncompressed sound quality?

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