Tech Now + Beyond

People are furious about Apple’s latest ridiculous decision

We won’t know for sure until the official unveiling at Apple’s annual event later this week but it’s extremely likely that the iPhone 7 will come with wireless headphones that utilize the lightening port or Bluetooth instead of a traditional headphone jack.

Despite the promise of the usual new tricks and perks that come with a new iPhone model, the Internet has been abuzz with talk of the headphone jack for months. Some say it’s an inevitable and smart move on Apple’s part, but many people are furious.

The controversy over the headphone jack is an unusual deviation from Apple fans’ usually ravenous desire for the newest innovations; that’s why the iPhone has been such a massive seller for years. Adele may have given the flip phone a brief comeback, but technology isn’t cyclical. Netflix flourishes while VHS tapes become a childhood memory, no one but your grandparents has a cell phone without a touch screen, and Apple wouldn’t be able to make new iPhone’s every year if people didn’t rush to buy them. But where is the line between making our lives easier and forcing us to shell out for shiny new gadgets?

Why must Apple put such a high price tag on products with such short shelf lives? Technology’s forward march benefits us all in a myriad of ways, from medical care to navigating your way through a new city, but Apple and its competitors are still after your money, just like any other company selling a product.

Though Steve Wozniak himself has argued for the superior sound quality of tethered headphones, most of the ire comes from consumers feeling pressured to trade up and pay up for a feature they didn’t ask for. Bluetooth and lightning port headphones cost more and require awkward dongles, which is why most users haven’t fully embraced them just yet. Of course, one day they’ll become as ubiquitous as smart phones themselves, but would it be so bad to have that traditional jack as an option for just a little longer? Better sound, a thinner phone, and an extra speaker don’t seem worth the sacrifice before wireless headphones are the overwhelming norm.

As frustrating and annoying as the decision may be, at the end of the day it would still be lot of fuss to put up over prolonging the inevitable. Sure, maybe given more time wireless options could become cheaper and more streamlined, but Apple and other tech companies pull stunts like this all the time.

That’s capitalism.

Most people are aware of that, at least on some level, which is why the headphone hubbub is about more than sound quality or a bit of a price bump. It’s about maintaining respect for your customers and not taking every possible opportunity to gouge them for what little spending money they have.

If Apple’s many many customers aren’t coming back because of brand loyalty (and many do) they’re coming back because it’s just so much easier than doing anything else. Even if you don’t like how their products are incompatible with other tech brands, it makes your life that much simpler if you do have a macbook to go with your iPhone. However, Apple would do well to remember that their hold on convenience won’t last forever if they keep going on like this.

Future generations will have the know not to be daunted by giving their PC’s cheaper piece by piece updates instead of buying totally new units every few years. Microsoft, Sony, and other competitors will continue to counter Apple with cheaper and equally beloved products, though their noses aren’t all that much cleaner than Apple’s  when it comes to shoddy tech. If pricey iPhones continue to become obsolete at the ripe old age of a year or two, consumers will eventually put their money where their chargers are and move on despite the hassle.

On September 7, the new iPhone will make its debut, and people will grumble about the lost headphone jack, but soon the surliness will stop. We’ll all coo over the new camera and sleek design like we always do, and eventually the tumult will be forgotten. But while our emotions may move on, our bank accounts do not. And even if this time next year no one remembers what it’s like to untangle their headphone cords, we’ll remember what it’s like to be shoved into unnecessary updates. And it’ll take more than a fancy new toy to make consumers forget that kind of resentment.

By Chelsea Ennen

Chelsea Ennen is a New York City-based writer and recovering academic with an MA in contemporary literature, theory, and culture from King's College London. Her nonfiction writing has been published on The Mary Sue, HelloGiggles and The Female Gaze, and her dissertation on postfeminism versus third wave feminism in contemporary pop culture was accepted for presentation at the 2016 Indiana University of Pennsylvania English Graduate Organization Inter-Disciplinary Conference. She is the fiction editor of the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal and a novelist who would very much like to pet your dog, please.