The iPhone 7 is better than a dog’s breakfast

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the iPhone 7. Beck Diefenbach / Reuters
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the iPhone 7. Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Here is what happened to me on Wednesday: the chief executive of Apple, Tim Cook, announced publicly that I have been a fool to purchase so many headphones and earbuds.

He didn’t put it quite so personally, of course. At a live-streamed media event in San Francisco, Cook announced that the ­iPhone 7 won’t have the 3.5 millimetre headphone jack that all of the previous iPhones have had. The new version will only have what Apple engineers call, with their typical understatement, the “Lightning” jack – what we ­iPhone owners currently call “the power thingy place”. From now on, apparently, we have to use Bluetooth headphones – which connect wirelessly to the device – or use an adapter which turns the power thingy place into a 3.5mm headphone jack.

This is what the geniuses at Apple call “progress”, because it requires iPhone users to buy more stuff to replace the old stuff that was just as good. I have dozens of pairs of perfectly useful earbuds squirrelled all over the house, tucked into folds and crevices in my car, in pockets and briefcases – and I was perfectly happy with this system. It meant that whenever a call came in, wherever I was, if I dug around within arm’s reach I’d find a pair of earbuds to plug into the phone.

Tim Cook and his executive team announced all of these improvements as if they were something we should all be grateful for, rather than barefaced attempts to gin up some more sales. The iPhone – and, it must be admitted, the highly-touted Apple Watch – have seen lacklustre growth over the past two years, so launching new versions that require the purchase of new accessories and adapters makes a certain kind of strategic sense, even if it infuriates certain customers (like me) who like to plug the headphones into the headphone place and the power thing into the power thingy place.

There is, probably, a more technical way to put that, but that’s sort of my point: I don’t want to know anything about the technical engineering behind my ­iPhone. I just want it to work. And I have to admit that when I learnt for certain – there had been rumours swirling for weeks – that the new iPhone was going to require Bluetooth headphones, I fumed for several hours. I hate Bluetooth headphones, I thought to myself.

Until I remembered what happened to me a few years ago, as I was taking my dog on her morning walk. We walked along the beach in Venice, and at the same time I was on a conference call with a production team in New York. Since the east coast is three hours ahead of the west coast, I find that I can do a lot of business with east coast colleagues while it’s still early morning in California, which is a euphemistic way of saying that on most east-west conference calls, I am within moments of being asleep in bed. That day was no different, except that I had somehow managed to feed the dog and begin our walk when the call began.

Let me put this delicately. I was cleaning up after my Labrador – this is a law in Los Angeles, and it’s strictly enforced – which requires one to bend over with a small plastic bag (I don’t need to go any further, do I?). One has to do this without forgetting that one’s iPhone is in one’s shirt pocket, or what will happen is this: the iPhone will tumble out of one’s shirt pocket and into the pile that the Labrador has left on the boardwalk, sticking up from it like one of those wafers in a dish of ice cream.

The good news was, I was using Bluetooth headphones at the time. That meant that I could stand about 10 metres away from the disaster and continue my conference call as if nothing had happened. When the call concluded, I scooped up the entire package – waste, iPhone, all of it – and threw it out. What was I supposed to do? Wash it off?

And then I went to the Apple Store and bought a new iPhone. So it seems that any way you look at it, the brains behind Apple are usually successful in getting a person to shell out their hard-earned cash for new stuff.

When this memory surfaced, and I remembered the value and convenience of a Bluetooth connection, I calmed down a little. Tim Cook had other announcements to make: the new phones have better cameras and stereo speakers, and the Apple Watch is faster and has improved battery life. But the only one that matched the diabolical logic of the missing headphone jack was this: the new iPhones will be water resistant.

This is an important feature to me for two reasons: I like to take my iPhone to the beach and poolside; and I often forget that it’s in my bathing suit pocket when I head into the water. This forgetfulness on my part has led to the purchase of a replacement phone on more than one occasion.

Bluetooth and water resistance are features which suggest that the Apple team have been paying close attention to their clumsiest and most fumbling customers, but it also suggests that they’re not as rapaciously greedy as I originally thought. Why? because the tougher and more resilient the product is, the less likely it is that I’m going to have to buy a new one after some careless mishap. A phone you can wash and get wet is a phone that will last. And that’s bad business.

Rob Long is a writer and producer in Los Angeles

On Twitter: @rcbl

Published: September 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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