The Curious Case of iPad Headphone Jacks

What is Apple going to do with the headphone jack on iPads?

The iPhone 7 dropped the headphone jack completely, moving on to being a Lightning port based device for headphones and all other things (except Bluetooth, which is still a thing). The new MacBook Pros with Touchbars came out, and even as they dropped every other port for USB-C, Apple kept around the headphone jack, as it is something they felt which could not be handled by the other new ports.

All of this makes me wonder what will happen in the next iteration of iPad models. Will the headphone jack stay, or will it go?

iPads No-Pro

I personally think that the non-pro versions of the iPad will drop the headphone jack as they keep racing to be ever smaller and lighter. With most users getting free lightning headphones with their iPhones, it would make very little sense to keep around the headphone jack.

In Apple’s mind I believe they see the iPad as a device in which you don’t ever need wires to use. If you do, you only need one at a time (either to charge while you sleep, or for headphones). Of course Apple’s preference is for you to use AirPods, but lacking that you can use the Lightning port.

I would bet then that the next round of iPad Air, and iPad mini models, you will see no headphone port.

The Pro

What I am less sure of though, is whether or not the iPad Pros will maintain the headphone jack. This actually has nothing to do with the headphone jack being a pro feature, nor does it have anything to do with the perceived value.

This has everything to do with how theoretical iPad Pro usage differs from normal iPad usage.

The marketing for the iPad Air 2 talks about how thin and light it is, how you will never want to put it down. Conversely, the iPad Pro marketing talks about the power and performance of the device — how it will improve your work. It seems fair then to say that of the two devices, the iPad Pro is far more likely to be used by people who are trying to work on it all day long. In other words, used for “real work”.

Therefore, I think it is far more reasonable to assume that people might like to charge their iPad while still using it, and thus still using headphones. In other words: you’re going to need two ports on the iPad Pro.

It would seem to me that keeping the headphone jack would be important on the iPad Pro, but there’s yet another consideration: this is Apple.

Perhaps a more likely solution is a new dongle, which supports charging, USB, and headphones all at once — a sort of desktop dongle for the iPad Pro. If this is the approach, I think it is the better approach for the singular reason that it offers better expansion than a headphone jack does. I would rather Apple spend time making dongles for the iPad Pro, then keeping in the headphone jack — because the former has far more potential for the device.

Ultimately, I have no clue what Apple is going to do, but I do think it will be interesting to see how they handle the headphone jack. If I had my pick, I would much prefer no headphone jack, especially if that meant getting a thinner device, while keeping battery life the same. Dongle or not, I tend to never need the headphone jack.

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