Apple Is Betting Big on a Wireless World

Apple wants to push consumers further into a wireless world. Its tactics: eliminate the standard headphone jack in its newest iPhones and market new "AirPods" -- tiny wireless earbuds that the company claims greatly improve on standard Bluetooth technology.

But that strategy has some risks.

AirPod Angst

Start with the AirPods themselves. These are a pair of earbuds, each with an inch or so of protruding plastic, and nothing else -- no wires to hold them together, no dangling cords. If they live up to Apple's claims, they're a technological marvel, tiny and expensive. And, perhaps, also easily dislodged or misplaced.

Analysts at IHS Technology say that Apple used a smooth-surfaced design that doesn't conform to the shape of the ear, and note that having AirPods fall out while running or biking "is less forgivable at the $159 cost level." Or as Bob O'Donnell, a veteran consumer tech analyst at Technalysis Research, puts it: "You start losing those things at $160 a pair, you're going to go crazy."

The alternative -- plugging a headphone cord into the iPhone's power port -- has plenty of downside as well. Older headphones that aren't compatible with Apple's "Lightning" power port will need an adapter. Those will come standard with new iPhones, but many consumers could find it annoying to use the extra "dongle." And they won't be able to plug in headphones if there's a power cord in the Lightning port.

Apple Cuts the Cord

Apple Senior Vice President Philip Schiller made it clear Wednesday that the company sees a future where its sleek gadgets are no longer encumbered by cords at all. "It makes no sense to tether ourselves with cables to our mobile devices," he said during the company's annual fall product event.

Eliminating the standard analog jack freed up some space inside the new iPhones, allowing Apple to...

Comments are closed.