Adapter Armageddon: Apple’s Dongle Problem

Jony Ives is all about minimalism and simplicity. His design language has completely reshaped Apple’s line up of products, from laptops to desktops to iPads and most importantly, the new iPhone 7.

Ive’s Minimalist Impact on Apple

Ive has been open and honest about his distaste for complicated designs, most recently in an interview he did for New Yorker Magazine where he recounts meeting Steve Wozniak and being appalled at the design of the watch he was wearing.

Needless to say, with a Wozniak-less Apple, the design ethos has been thoroughly stamped by Ives personal flair, which has helped it become the dominant tech hardware manufacturer, but has also raised growing numbers of complaints.

Sacrificing Usability for Design

Forever there was a nice balance between functionality which can be “ugly” but is necessary. We’re talking about ethernet ports, other connectivity ports, practical things that are needed in the real world.

Ive’s team has always managed to balance these functionality-critical elements with their designs, until however the iPhone 7 was released. The backlash at their decision to remove the headphone jack was enormous and is still being talked about a year later. dongle

Sure, the design is more minimalist than ever, and there are talks about future iPhones having no physical buttons at all, which is a minimalists dream product, however in the meantime, during the transition to a wireless world, we’re left with an ugly reality; dongles.

Dongles are Ugly Adapters

To reassure Apple fans that there was nothing to worry about in not being able to use their headphones with their new devices, Apple shipped lightning-to-3.5mm jack “dongles” with their new iPhones. This was a less than thrilling option as it was bulky, prone to being lost, and just made the whole setup impractical.

Many people have switched to other phone companies simply because of this issue. It is ironic how much effort Apple puts into design, yet how much they clearly love their hideous dongles.

Smarter Listening Alternatives

Thankfully, other companies have jumped in to offer more aesthetic solutions to the stock dongles shipped by Apple.

For example, there are now lightning cables that plug into popular headphones from Bose, Sennheiser and Audio Technica. Other companies like Shure have released in-house cables that will work with lightning ports to allow their customers to keep their iPhones.

Apple should send thank you letters to these headphones and electronics companies for their service in offering audio solutions to customers that might otherwise abandon Apple for a maker that does provide headphone ports.

Adaptor-less Platform Specific Headphones

If you don’t want to use any kind of adapter of any sort, there are a whole plethora of headphones now that are being made to be used ONLY with Apple devices via lightning ports.

Companies like Audeze, Philips, JBL, Harman and Kardon, even AKG now, all offer headphones that come out of the box with lightning cables. This marks a monumental shift within the industry that before only had to manufacture one connector type, now segmenting into models for various connector types like 3.5mm, 2.5mm, lightning, USB-C and other proprietary connectors.

There is now a thriving selection of headsets for Apple enthusiasts. One can only expect for this little ecosystem of audio tech to grow into a universe of products within coming years.

One must ask however, will Apple and Ives abandon their user base once again in the future in pursuit of minimalist “perfection”? If so, will anyone be there to bail them out again?