Apple’s next big phone—presumably called the iPhone 7—will come without a 3.5mm headphone jack, will be noticeably thinner, will very likely support wireless charging and be waterproof, a source with knowledge of the company’s plans tells Fast Company.
As has been rumored, our source confirms that the new phone will rely on its Lightning cable port for sound output to wired headphones. That port has been used for power and data transfer in recent iPhones. Users can also use wireless headphones.
Apple is working with its longtime audio chip partner Cirrus Logic to adapt the audio chipset in the iPhone to work with the Lightning port, according to our source.
Our source adds that the audio system will also leverage a new noise-canceling technology from Wolfson Microelectronics—a U.K.-based audio tech company Cirrus acquired in 2014. The software will be baked into the phone and also into the headphones that will plug into it, and will help remove background noise in music playback and in phone calls, our source says.
Numerous third-party headphone makers will use the technology in their own Lightning-compatible headphones, our source says, and they'll have to buy a license to use the audio processing technology.
Some media reports have suggested that Apple will include a set of Lightning-connected EarPod earphones in the box with the iPhone 7. It's more likely, our source says, that Apple will sell a more expensive pair of noise-canceling, Lightning-connected, earphones or headphones separately—possibly under its Beats brand. Others say Apple may include with the iPhone 7 an adapter that will allow users to plug regular 3.5mm analog headphones into the new phone.
The removal of the 3.5mm jack would be consistent with Apple’s fixation on making devices simpler and smaller. Last year Apple unveiled a new 12-inch MacBook computer that has but a single USB-C port to handle power, data transfer, and video output. That device, however, does have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
While the Lightning audio port is novel, other features in the next iPhone have long shown up in Android phones.
Samsung’s flagship phones support wireless charging, for example, and our source says Apple will likely (finally) put the technology into a phone this year. Apple has considered including wireless charging in at least two previous iPhones.
The iPhone 7 wouldn’t be the first Apple product to do wireless charging. The Apple Watch uses wireless inductive charging.
VentureBeat reports that the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S7 phone will be waterproof; and likewise our source believes the iPhone 7, too, will be completely waterproof. Waterproofing is accomplished in mobile phones by applying a special chemical coating to the devices' components.
Our source points out that while Apple is currently working on wireless charging and waterproofing technology, the company has in the past pulled features from new phones very late in the development process. And it’ll be months before the iPhone 7 goes into production.
Apple is under pressure to build new and impressive functionality into the next phone to tempt large numbers of people to upgrade from older iPhones.
Apple sold impressive numbers of its last phone, the iPhone 6s, a device that didn’t offer many meaningful new features and functions. But some analysts believe new phones are becoming a tougher sell, as consumers are expected to buy far fewer new smartphones in 2016.
In short, the next iPhone will have to be a capable and sexy device in order to yield the blockbuster sales numbers of the iPhone 6 and 6S.