There are hundreds of millions of smartphones out there, and tens of millions of people who have no big urge to upgrade right now. So the introduction of the iPhone7 — “now featuring no earphone jack!” — won’t change the business overnight.
But Apple has a way of moving the market in the direction it wants the market to move.
Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller said the iPhone7 two-little-buds AirPods (for just $159) are examples of Apple’s “courage.” I would say that’s true in the way American Airlines was courageous by starting to charge passengers $25 per checked bag, back in 2008. We were all impressed by an airline’s ability to make us pay more to fly.
BBC.com has put together a good collection of excerpts from tech writers dimly appraising the iPhone 7.
The Verge says those little plugs “just scream out to be instantly lost.” (If only they DID scream.) The Wall Street Journal says “Apple's rationale for this change — that we want too much jammed into our tiny phones — fell flat to me. It's an annoyance, but one I think we'll get used to soon enough.”
Writes The Guardian: “The beauty of the headphone cable is just like the beauty of a tampon string: It is there to help you keep track of a very important item, and help you fish it out of whatever nook and cranny it might have fallen into. Apple's apparent blindness to this blindingly obvious problem is perplexing.”
There's already a problem with the AirPods. When you exercise, they tend to fall out of your ears.
From a video perspective, I wonder: Will the new (and somehow better) AirPods encourage iPhone7 video watchers to now endure a commercial with sound, because they’ve got two little earplugs they’ve got to disengage? (Could it be AirPods will be more trouble than they’re worth, like early LED digital read-out watches that required consumers to use their free hand to press a button for the time to display?)
Or will it doom mobile video commercials with audio altogether? Maybe it does neither because users are already watching video, or scrolling through Facebook, with the audio muted.
But the new AirPods will almost certainly change something in the way that users relate to the smartphones, once enough consumers get iPhone7s or the successors to come.
But the apparent lack of excitement about this phone, and the difficulty proving it's necessary, also says something about our changing attitude. Internet-related hardware might now be fully meshed into culture, as dispassionately acquired as a washer and a dryer, or a TV set.
Maybe we’ve come to the point that content will really take over.
This column was previously published in Vidblog on September 8, 2016.