Apple has added more and more functionality to the headphone jack in recent years and the click wheel iPods seeming more and more barbaric to many of us who use an iPod touch or iPhone (touchscreens rock). I wonder what Apple will do to keep people moving up from the lower end iPods and also continue to improve/change the lower end iPods.
The most recent update of the iPod shuffle (you know, that buttonless one that you either hate or love) has made me think a lot about the headphone jack and what Apple will be able to do with it in the future.
They can already charge, sync, and control an iPod through the headphone jack, how long will it be before they remove the dock connector altogether from their remaining click wheel iPods?
First, let’s look at what is keeping Apple from removing the dock connector? In my mind it is video output and the ability to power accessories, such as FM transmitters, with the iPods internal battery. I would expect Apple to solve these problems by the end of next year (that is if they actually intend on tackling it). They previously had video output on the headphone jack but later removed it in favor of support the earphone remotes that are now supported by all iPods currently shipping. Since video is just data being sent, I expect Apple could somehow stuff that functionality back into the headphone jack. And with regards to powering accessories, headphone jacks already push electricity out to power the speakers in headphones,uch like the USB port on the MacBook Air, Apple could over spec the power output when an appropriate accessory is connected.
Although I don’t expect to see dock connectors removed from iPods any time soon, the extension of “Made for iPod” branding to accessories that only communicate through the headphone jack make me believe that it is possible and makes me wonder if the iPod dock is even necessary at all anymore (iPhone 3.0 may force me to change my tune now that developers can communicate through the dock connector, but click wheel iPods won’t benefit from that).
Since Apple is constantly trying to make there products increasingly elegant the removal of another connector would be a giant leap toward that goal of having the most über-elegant device out there. Not to mention the hours saved not having to clean pocket lint out of your dock connector before syncing that newly purchased album.
Update 3/27/09: I’ve thought a little bit more about this idea and decided to quickly explore the idea of Apple deciding against doing this because they don’t want to upset users. Apple would not hesitate to upset some of their users by removing the dock connector from their iPods. Apple has never been adverse to upseting users, just think about the buttonless iPod shuffle, or their refusal to build a two button mouse, or the fact that you can’t get a non-glossy display from Apple unless you purchase a 17″ MacBook Pro.
Apple may care a little bit about upseting users but they will never let it get in the way of what they may consider to be their “artistic vision.”