The rumor that Apple will get rid of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 resurfaced Tuesday with an article in The Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the matter.
The iPhone's Lightning connector will do double duty as its charging port and headphone connector, according to the WSJ. The result will be a thinner device and better water resistance.
If the rumor is true, the move "is right in terms of timing," said Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research.
"It comes at a time when Apple needs to demonstrate it's still an innovator, unlike the competition where there's a lot of iterations on devices," he told TechNewsWorld. "I was hoping to see an audio solution, and part of that was the idea of removing the headphone jack."
The iPhone 7 also might have a redesigned antenna and possibly will come in deep blue instead of gray.
The iPhone 7 Plus reportedly will have a dual-camera sensor -- a first for the iPhone -- and come with storage options of 32 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB, rather than the 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB of storage available for Apple's flagships up to now.
Leveraging Apple's AssetsRemoving the headphone jack "would be a great opportunity for Apple to tie together all its audio experiences -- its Beats headphones, Apple Music, its services, devices, content and content delivery system," noted Orr. "The lack of a headphone jack creates talk, and demand for creating solutions that are a better fit."
The move would "create first-mover opportunities for Beats Electronics to align products with the redesign, as they will clearly have influence on the upcoming release," suggested Brent Iadarola, a global research director at Frost & Sullivan.
Impact on ConsumersIn the short term, consumers who already have invested in wired headphones for their iPhones could be annoyed, Iadarola told TechNewsWorld. Also, charging wireless headphones could be cumbersome.
However, "it would not be surprising to see Apple remove the headphone plug in the iPhone 7," he said.
"The longer-term trend is that consumers are increasingly migrating toward wireless headphones, so, while it may anger some of the more traditional consumers and certain headphone manufacturers, the move caters to tech-savvy millennials who tend to represent a significant percentage of the Apple installed base," Iadarola pointed out.
Innovation Is Just Another WordRemoving the headphone jack would make "all those headphones and jacks with 3mm buds irrelevant," noted ABI's Orr. "It will change the way people will interact with the product and provide an opportunity for Apple to become an innovator again."
Apple would not be the first company to take the leap, though.
LeEco this spring introduced three smartphones without headphone jacks -- the Le 2, Le 2 Pro and Le Max 2 . They use the USB-C port for digital headphone connections instead.
Lenovo earlier this month followed suit, introducing two Moto Z models without headphone jacks. They too use the USB-C port for digital headphone connections.
Removing the headphone jack would make it easier to make the iPhone 7 water-resistant, catching up to the Samsung Galaxy 7 in that respect.
"I think the smartphone market's capability to innovate is starting to slow down," Orr said. "It seems like Apple should have been on the forefront of coming out with a water-resistant product."
Opening New MarketsA ruggedized iPhone might let Apple explore new avenues for sales.
"There are very significant industries, in terms of size and opportunity, that to this day haven't been able to utilize mobile technology," Orr pointed out, "because the environments are hazardous with gas and dust, where it's not safe for devices made for consumers."
The hazardous location market "would be a huge opportunity for Apple," he said, but he doubted the company would take up the challenge.