The 5 stages of grief for a headphone-jack-free iPhone

It's going to be all right. Right?

lightningheadphones primary

It started as rumbles and turned into solid rumors. Now, with the report from Bloomberg by Mark Gurman that the next iPhone won’t have a headphone jack, it seems like a sure thing. The standard audio plug that’s been around for decades (and in every Mac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone) is being removed from Apple’s most popular product.

As someone who’s been listening to music on plugged-in headphones since at least the 1980s, this has been a difficult story to come to terms with. The iPhone succeeded the iPod as my go-to music player. I’m listening to music on my iPhone via a pair of wired headphones right now. But Gurman’s sources are generally impeccable, and I’m starting to come to terms with the inevitability of this change.

I’ve gone through all the stages of grief to get here, though.

Denial: These rumors are false!

If you’ve been following Apple-related stuff for more than a month, you’ll already have learned that there are a lot of stupid Apple-related rumors out there. I’ve been writing about Apple since the mid ’90s, so I’ve seen ’em all.

So when the first rumblings of the headphone jack being removed from the next iPhone surfaced, it was easy to laugh them off. Outlandish rumors are common early in the iPhone product cycle. The next iPhone release was nearly a year away. There was no way Apple would do something as shortsighted as removing the worldwide standard for attaching headphones to electronic devices. This was just a silly rumor filling the space during a quiet period for Apple news. We’ll be the ones laughing come September.

Anger: Why would Apple do this?

Then a few more tangible rumors appeared. There was starting to be a lot of smoke, and that usually means fire. On the Upgrade podcast, my co-host Myke Hurley asked me about the headphone-jack rumors.

I told Myke that I didn’t really think rumors merited discussion at such an early date. But more importantly, I didn’t want to go on an angry rant about such a stupid idea when it was just a rumor. Why tear Apple a new one over a shortsighted, consumer-hostile move when Apple hadn’t actually made the move yet?

But angry I was. Removing the headphone jack from the iPhone seemed like a gimmick, a way for Apple to show off about how forward-thinking it was, when introducing an incompatibility for users that would require carrying around an adapter if they wanted to use headphones, connect to a car via an aux jack, or connect to the PA system in a conference room.

During this phase, I heard from a lot of people who insisted that the headphone jack was such old technology that it was time to finally give it up. My response was the same: What changed between 2015 and 2016 that suddenly made the headphone jack a technology that was on its last legs? “It has to go sometime,” was the reply. Sure, but why now?

Bargaining: Apple will make it great, really…

I’m not sure I spent a lot of time in the third stage, but I heard from a lot of people on Twitter and in email who lived there most of the spring and early summer.

wireless earphones rowkin mini 2

Apple's wireless EarBuds could look something like these, the Rowkin Mini 24K Gold-Plated Edition.

Yeah, it’ll suck to lose the headphone jack, the argument went. But just you wait. Apple will give everyone a free adapter in the box. Or maybe a free awesome set of wireless EarPods in the box.

Or even better, maybe Apple will invent a new wireless system entirely separate from Bluetooth, that will solve all of the problems of Bluetooth audio and in one fell swoop make all current wired headphones and all current wireless headphones entirely incompatible. But the new system will be so great, we won’t care!

I glommed on to the adapter. Maybe the adapter will be good. And included. And cheap if you want to buy another one, so you can leave them everywhere you connect to a standard audio jack. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Depression: Who needs a new iPhone anyway?

In this stage, I began considering the possibility that I didn’t need to buy a new iPhone for the first time. Maybe there was no point in upgrading. I could just use my existing headphones and iPhone until one or both of them broke.

It was a dark time. When the topic of the headphone jack came up, I’d try to steer the conversation to happier topics, like the possibility of a better camera on the iPhone Plus, or the unexpected success Apple was seeing with the iPhone SE. Hey, I love my iPad Pro, let’s talk about that some more!

Acceptance: Might as well get ready for tomorrow

When the Apple Watch came out, I bought a pair of Jaybird Bluetooth earbuds so that I could test the watch’s support for music features. (Short version: You can sync music to the Watch and play it on headphones, but I never take my watch with me and not my iPhone, so it’s all kind of moot.)

Over the past six months, every time I’ve gone for a walk or run with my iPhone, I’ve used the Bluetooth earbuds with my iPhone instead of my wired headphones. I’ve got lots of complaints: They run out of battery mid-walk sometimes. They don’t sound as good as my wired headphones. They don’t fit my ears as well as my custom in-ear headphones do. Bluetooth connections are sometimes spotty, and I have to fiddle with settings to get them to work right. They sound fine for podcasts but poor for music.

This is all true. But the fact is, for many months now I’ve spent my walks and runs with absolutely nothing in my iPhone’s headphone jack, listening to podcasts with Bluetooth earbuds. The world didn’t end. Life moved on. It was a tough six months, but I’ve finally come to peace with the fact that I’ll need an adapter if I ever want to listen to music on my iPhone with my good wired headphones.

I’m not happy about it–in fact, I do still think it’s a move with no clear rationale that will make life harder for a whole lot of iPhone users. But it’s going to happen, and I’ll deal. We’ll all have to.

If Apple comes for the headphone jack on my Mac, though… Then we’re going to have some serious trouble. (Or at the very least, I’m going to have to spend the better part of the year coming to terms with that, too.)

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter