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iPhone 7: Apple is really ditching the headphone jack

It’s true: The next iPhone won’t have a headphone jack. Apple just made the announcement at an event in San Francisco. While the rumored change has been debated for months in the tech media, it’s still going to come as a shock to millions of ordinary iPhone users who can’t imagine life without the ubiquitous 3.5 mm headphone jack.

While many people will grumble about the change, Apple argues that it will actually make users better off in the long run. On the one hand, removing the headphone jack is another step in Apple’s relentless campaign to make each iPhone thinner, lighter, and more durable than the last. On the other hand, Apple argues that digital alternatives — either wireless Bluetooth headphones or headphones connected to the iPhone’s remaining Lightning port — actually deliver superior sound quality.

The new iPhone 7 won’t look all that different from its predecessor, the iPhone 6. But it will have some significant feature upgrades. The larger model will add a second camera to the back of the device. By taking two photos simultaneously, the latest iPhone will be able to take crisper, clearer pictures as well as perform novel tricks like tweaking the focus of a picture.

The iPhone 7 Plus comes with two cameras on the back

Apple says the new camera is even more powerful than the already good camera in the iPhone 6. According to Apple, the iPhone 7 captures richer colors, works better in low-light situations, and has more sophisticated chips that improve image quality.

Most importantly, the larger version of the iPhone — the iPhone 7 Plus — comes with two cameras side by side. One has a wide-angle lens, while the other has a telephoto lens. The result: The telephoto lens allows users to zoom in by a factor of two without sacrificing image quality.

Finally, the iPhone 7 Plus uses the pair of cameras to detect the depth of objects in a picture, much as the human brain does. That allows the camera to produce an advanced effect called "depth of field," in which a foreground image is in focus while the background is blurry.

The iPhone 7 gives you three options for headphones

If you buy an iPhone 7, you won’t be able to just plug a headphone jack into it like you can with an iPhone 6. What are you supposed to do instead? Apple offers three options:

  • You can buy a Lightning-to-headphone-jack adapter, allowing you to plug an old-fashioned pair of headphones — or any other audio device that uses the standard headphone jack — into your iPhone 7. The obvious downside here is that you have to carry around an extra adapter.
  • You can use wireless headphones based on the Bluetooth standard. This standard is supported by all recent iPhones, so products already on the market should work with the iPhone 7. The big downside here is that wireless headphones have batteries that need to be recharged. Recharging headphones is an extra hassle, and the greater complexity of Bluetooth headphones also mean they tend to cost more, which is bad news for people with a habit of losing them.
  • You can use wired headphones based on the Lightning standard. Apple will bundle a pair of these with the iPhone 7, and there are a few other options on the market already. But, as I’ve already mentioned, they’re pricey, with earbuds starting around $50 and larger headphones costing much more. Expect the options here to improve over the next year as third parties cash in on the bonanza of iPhone 7 users looking for Lightning-based headphones.