No, it isn’t courage

I expect gushing fanboy adulation from John Gruber but holy shit his latest blog post really takes the cake ( link ) when it comes to missing the blasted point of why people are complaining about the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack removal from the iPhone 7 in favour of the lightening connection plus converter. The article in a nutshell tries to make the argument that the uproar regarding the 3.5mm can be viewed within the context of past upheavals such as the stance against Flash being made available on iOS or the removal of the 3.5” floppy disk from the iMac or more recently the removal of the optical drive from the MacBook Air with everything bought together by linking to the following video by Steve Jobs being interviewed regarding such changes:

The problem is that the claim simply holds no water given this: Is the lightening connector on the ascendancy? is it even an open standard? in the video itself Steve Jobs talks about how they would embrace a technology on the ascendancy and the examples given in past videos by him were….open standards! got rid of funky proprietary ports in favour of the USB standard, got rid of the funky proprietary expansion ports in favour of… standards such as the PCI slot! So where is the comparison being made at this point? I could possibly understand maybe if they had the argument of replacing the lightening connecting and 3.5mm with a USB-C could have some rational argument behind it but the argument being made by the Apple fanboys and devotees doesn’t make any sense.

Lets put the card in reverse and head back a few years just to dismantle piece by piece why the comparison between the recent change doesn’t fit into those past ‘courageous changes’ given the original basis on why these past decisions were. Take the 3.5” floppy disk, does anyone remember the horrible reliability? at the time they removed the 3.5” there were already multiple alternatives to it, Iomega Zip 100 drive for starters which was being putting up as a robust alternative and then there was the LS-120 aka SuperDisk not to mention the SyQuest EZ 135 Drive not to mention the multitude of floptical options, so it wasn’t as though there weren’t competing technologies that couldn’t be hooked up to the USB connector to replace what was a horrible unreliable form of storage. In other words there was clearly an inferior product with superior alternative products competing to replace it so why keep the old technology around?

Lets move onto the next one, the move away from funky proprietary connectors to USB where there was a general trend away from proprietary connections in favour of industry standard, why? because it was becoming increasingly clear that firstly the funky proprietary technology had no edge over the developing open standards that were coming through not to mention the fact that the extra cost associated with not only developing the proprietary technology but then trying to get third parties on board to support it – not going to happen especially in a world of decreasing margins on hardware. USB was a good drop in solution at 12Mbps not to mention Firewire for those who want more capacity (becoming an IEEE standard in a hope of wider spread adoption beyond Apple).

Then there was the granddaddy of them all which was the whole fiasco regarding Apple not allowing Flash on their IOS devices but what the media ignores when Apple took the stance was the fact that when the iOS device was launched there was never any intention of running local applications on the device. The original intention of the iPhone when it was launched was the idea that all the applications in the future would be web based which was why Apple was investing so heavily into Safari and Javascript performance as to provide near native performance and experience with all the benefit of running within a sandboxed environment that Apple could tweak and optimise going forward so that customers benefit from improvements in the underlying web based technologies. HTML5 was already in ascendancy and it was just a matter of a company willing to embrace it and take a stand with the most obvious drop in replacement for Flash being in the area of video playback given that it is what most people use it for – to play videos.  So when it came to dropping Flash there were already alternatives that existed with the biggest being the video and audio tag then when Google jumped then it was inevitable that the remaining areas where Flash had a niche (by the time then the Flash games in a browser created an application version for the iOS once the SDK became available) were supplanted by open standard.

Lets go back around to the ear phone jack, again, what is the technology in the ascendency? what suppose inferiority the 3.5mm have which necessitated the need to change? Flash was a horrible piece of crap on any operating system even with the supposed optimisations that Adobe tried with their Android version, floppy disks were horribly unreliable and limited amount of space when compared to the alternatives and the funky proprietary ports were needlessly expensive resulting in a limited range of hardware supported (made worse if your platform happened to be a niche like the Mac platform). What I’m saying is that there were legitimate reasons for replacing those technologies even though the technologies used to replace them were immature at the time but in the long run the end user would benefit. When it came to getting rid of Flash the net result was not having to deal with a buggy and crash prone CPU hogging plugin that performed horribly when compared to native video play back. As someone for example who moved from having a floppy to a Iomega Zip 100 I never looked back to using a floppy disk having never to worry about whether or not my disk would actually be read when I took a presentation to school not to mention trying to span the presentation over 2-3 or even 4 disks then finding out that the second disk has gone belly up.

I’m sitting here looking for where that legitimate argument has come from when it comes to the 3.5mm head phone jack. Was it removed because it allowed them to make the device more dust and water resistant? if so, why didn’t they say so? was it because they’ve found that the 3.5mm jack is overly fragile resulting in a large number of people having to get it repaired? what was the reasoning behind it other than just the sound bites regarding ‘courage’ that Apple has thrown around? I’m all for moving forward but if Apple wishes to bring along its base then they need to communicate effectively by explaining why they made a decision so then at least it would get the base to the point where some will disagree but can respect what they’re trying to achieve.

As for my position, do I think it is a great improvement over previous releases of iPhone? sure and I can see it selling well particularly for those with the iPhone 6 and older but for someone like me with the 6S there isn’t the drawing factor at least for me to upgrade. If I were going to upgrade I’d go for the black matte finish and to be honest the lack of a 3.5mm is a non-issue given that they have included a dongle plus a free pair of lightening enabled earbuds. For me the more exciting part is the iOS update along side macOS 10.12 more than the hardware upgrade but then again, that’s just me.

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