Evaluate Weigh the pros and cons of technologies, products and projects you are considering.

Hit the road, jack

It’s official. I’ve just returned from watching Apple announce the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. And yes, the headphone jack is gone. This is a family-friendly blog, so, I won’t say what I’m really thinking about that change. There is news for developers, however. And that news is good.

While the talk was about the new Apple Watch, and the vast improvements to the camera and audio aspects of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, applications developers did get recognized: APIs were mentioned twice. Granted, this was a product launch, not a developer seminar, but any mention of APIs in a mainstream discussion is darn good.

The first major change of note to developers is with the iPhone’s Home button. It has been completely redesigned to make it, in Apple’s words, “customizable and more responsive.” Beginning with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the Home button is now force sensitive and works with a new taptic engine to provide feedback. To accomplish that, the button is no longer the push-down/pop-up mechanical affair we’ve dealt with for the past several years. It’s all solid state. Fewer mechanical parts means fewer things to break and fewer places where water can infiltrate, helping Apple achieve an overall design goal of dust and water resistance that complies with the IP67 protection standard.

Developers can leverage the new Home button’s taptic capability through the Apple Taptic Engine API. That means, according to Apple, that third-party developers can “create new feelings and experiences,” whatever those might be. I’m not imaginative enough to conjure up how an app might use this new Home button capability, but, it’s there if you can find a use for it.

The second mention of APIs came during the presentation of several amazing new camera capabilities. In addition to supporting a wider color gamut than before, the iPhone 7 models (at last) support RAW and DNG (digital negative) formats.

JPEG is no good for serious photographic work because it is an 8-bit file format that uses the small sRGB color space and compresses the image every time it’s saved, throwing out data. RAW, on the other hand, is simply an unprocessed, uncompressed pass-through of what the camera sensor sees, essential for high-quality work. It’s usually in 16-bit format that contains 14 bits of data. And RAW doesn’t compress the vast range of colors the sensor sees into the miserably small sRGB color space. On top of that, DNG is Adobe’s attempt to place a standardized wrapper around the many hundreds of proprietary RAW formats that exist industrywide for various camera models.

That Apple is supporting RAW and DNG is thrilling to serious photographers. Even better, if you’re a developer of a photo-editing, post-processing, or special-effects app (and there are many, many hundreds of them), this is a golden opportunity to recast your application as something that’s on the leading edge of smartphone photography. Yes, indeed, Apple is opening up a whole new vista for app developers.

Curiously, not one word was said during Apple’s event about how the new iPhones function as telephones. That function seems to have been forgotten as smartphones evolve into communicators, controllers, music players, and game platforms. Yes, lots of games were demonstrated, including the arrival of Super Mario and Pokemon Go to the iPhone platform for the first time ever. If you are a game developer, the new, powerful graphics engine is right up your alley.

As for elimination of the headphone jack, I don’t like it one bit, even though there will be an audio-jack-to-Lightning adapter bundled with each phone to support legacy analog earpods and headphones. That doesn’t solve my desire to keep the device plugged into a charger and into my stereo system simultaneously. It’s partially a push to sell Apple’s new $169 wireless earpods. No one has explained to me how you’ll protect against loss if one (or both) pop out while you’re jogging.

What do you see as the app development opportunities in the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus? Have you been working with the iOS 10 SDK? Share your opinions; we’d like to hear from you.

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

Wireless is replacing wired so I guess it is time to get with the program. We may not always like or agree with the march (blitzkrieg) of technology but it can not be stopped so it is time to move on.
I agree that wireless is the future, but I do not want to disconnect from the past, especially when all of those devices are still in perfect working order. Not to mention Apple's wireless AirPods look ridiculous.
The elimination of the jack is a terrible idea. I will not have things dangling from my ears like that. Someone could easily just come up and steal them too.

Steve Jobs is rolling over in his grave right now.
We're now at a point where companies that made devices designed to plug into the headphone jack are either redesigning their product or dropping it entirely. Today (Feb. 3, 2017), a major photography reseller, as part of its daily deals, is offering for $44.99 a light meter attachment designed specifically for the headphone jack of an iPhone or iPad. The former longtime selling price of the device was $149.99, a difference of $100. Sometime later this month, the manufacturer is slated to ship a new model, one that plugs into the Lightning port.
If Apple is sells the wireless headphones that are now required, this fits their greedy history. As for waterproofing it is quite possible to make waterproof connectors. The military has been doing so for at least 75 years.

Finally, radio channels are already overcrowded. We don't have to dump even more crap into the ether when there is no significant advantage over using a wire.

Admittedly, I am struggling to care in the slightest whether it has a headphone jack or not. If it doesn't, then I need to use my Bluetooth headset should I decide to purchase an iphone7, which in itself is not essential as my iPhone 5s is still going strong. From a tech perspective, freeing up space within the iPhone by removing a relatively large, and prone to fluff issues, physical jack is probably a great idea.

Had they announced they were adding an RJ45 ethernet jack for networking, I'd have a problem.

They simply don't get it. Wireless headset requires charging to work. Who would want to bother charging the phone and the headsets and x and y and a slew of other kitchen sinks.

I definitely wouldn't mind seeing someone with an exploding headset while wearing them in their sleep regardless how low voltage it is.
My problem is a little different. I use a long, long cable to connect the device to my stereo system's AUX input, but I want to keep it plugged into the charger simultaneously, so I can keep it playing music for hours. That works great on my iPod touch, but that device won't last forever. I see that Belkin has a splitter with two Lightning jacks, but it sure would have been nice if it also contained a standard 3.5mm jack either in addition or instead of one of the Lightning jacks.