I get it Apple… This is why you purchased Beats!!! It makes perfect sense. Apple is being more Apple than we ever imagined and it could mean saying goodbye to your favorite pair of headphones; and to think, we were just getting accustomed to them.
Sources also say the new headphones could possibly sport the Beats logo.
Get Ready For Lightning Headphones
9to5Mac has learned that Apple submitted a specification to its MFi (Made For) licensing program for headphones which connect using the company’s proprietary Lightning port instead of the standard 3.5mm jack; and all it will take for the Lightning port to start accepting these new headphones is a firmware update.
The Lightning port will enable Apple to switch from analog to digital audio with an exceedingly high lossless stereo 48 kHz digital output and mono 48 kHz digital input. Headphones with a Lightning connector would be able to do more than lower/increase volume, end calls and skip tracks. There could be specific app control or even the ability to set a specific app to start when they are connected. Since the Lightning jack can also receive power, not just send it, you could still charge a device by connecting it to your headphones while listening to music.
As for users who want to stick with their headphones, they would need to pay for an adaptor which like the $29 Lightning to 30-pin adaptor would inevitably be expensive and just bulky enough to make you want to buy dedicated Lightning headphones long-term. Beats may primarily have been about securing a streaming music service, but suddenly the ability to earn multi-millions from locked-in Lightning headphones, license fees and sales of adaptors makes for a very juicy side business.
The Roll Plan
Make no mistake Apple is very strategic. It knows the state of the headphone market and it knows the risk of trying to impose too much too quickly. That said there is a very simple and effective roll out trajectory:
1. Announce the technology with Beats and headphone partners
2. Unveil clever third-party app integration
3. Make this integration inaccessible in any other way
4. Make Lightning port to 3.5mm headphone jack adaptors expensive and bulky
5. In a few years remove the 3.5mm headphone jack from Apple devices citing legacy, greater design flexibility and extra space for a bigger battery
The Flip Side
Apple will have an extra hurdle in attracting new customers to switch to their devices. Just as those with Lightning headphones won’t want the expense of paying to go back to 3.5mm headphones, those with 3.5mm headphones (particularly expensive ones) will be reluctant to splash out on an adaptor or a whole new pair.
Altogether, we haven’t seen a move like this since the late Steve Jobs and its reassuring to know that his impact is still resonating throughout the Apple organization.