Lightning headphones: everything you need to know

When Apple removed the traditional 3.5mm earphone jack from the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016, it divided opinion. What was the point of removing the audio jack ? And what ‘s indeed full about the Lightning connection ? Over four years on and some people even have n’t forgiven them. The lack of a 3.5mm laborer on the Cupertino giant ‘s adjacent swerve of smartphones ( iPhone 8, 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max ) confirmed once and for all that Apple had cut ties with the once-ubiquitous sound recording connection.

fast forward to 2021 and hera we are, with the still-devoid-of 3.5mm iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max, all of which mutant just the Lightning port ( and spoiler alert : they ‘re all five-star phones ). Despite newsworthiness at the end of January 2020 that MEPs voted in favor of a universal earphone connection – and thus an end to Apple ‘s proprietorship Lightning interface – the connection is still identical much a feature of Apple ‘s September 2020-issue iPhone 12 rollout. Where Apple goes, the stay tend to follow. even if you ‘re not an Apple fan, the changes have clearly had knock-on effects when it comes to the rest of the consumer electronics landscape. so why did Apple remove the iPhone earphone jack, and what does that mean for competing smartphones, for iPhone headphones and for the rest of the earphone market ? Allow us to explain .

When did Apple introduce the Lightning port?

Lightning headphones: everything you need to know The Lightning port was first base introduced with the iPhone 5 back in September 2012, replacing the 30-pin connection that had been used for charging on every previous iPhone and ipod – but its inclusion body did n’t do away with the 3.5mm jack for your headphones wholly. The Lightning port ‘s insertion meant the diligence had to adapt overnight, most notably by releasing newfangled speaker docks and accessories to accommodate the smaller association. Apple released an arranger that allowed you placid to use your 30-pin device, but lone with a Lightning dock or speaker. When Apple restfully killed off the ipod Classic in September 2014, it took with it the last Apple device using the company ’ s 30-pin connection. Though it was a big report at the clock, lento but surely, everyone simply adjusted to the variety. Apple no doubt hoped the same alteration would follow when the 3.5mm jack left the iPhone wholly with the iPhone 7 in September 2016. To help ease the annoyance for consumers with wire headphones, Apple provided a little Lightning to 3.5mm adapter in the box, excessively But more recent versions of the iPhone have not only ditched the adapter but besides omitted bundled EarPods and even a charger – the most late iPhone 12 rollout comes with good a USB-C to Lightning cable. This means you ‘ll either have to buy an adapter ( for £9 ), some EarPods ( for around £19 ), wireless headphones, or go for a pair of option Lightning headphones. MORE: Apple iPod Classic review

Why did Apple remove the 3.5mm headphone jack?

( image credit : Sony ) It ‘s quite clear that for Apple, wireless is the means forward – see the firm ‘s AirPods Max over-ears and ever-popular AirPods Pro. not got that kind of money ? That ‘s all right, Apple ‘s subsidiary company brand, Beats, offers a wireless neckband design for £50 ( $ 50 ) called Beats Flex. The 3.5mm earphone connection had been on portable devices since 1964 when it launched on the Sony EFM-117J radio. It subsequently became popular in 1979 with the passing of the Sony Walkman. It ‘s worth noting that although the removal of the 3.5mm jack on the iPhone caused quite the fad, the original iPhone did n’t have a earphone jack that worked for everyone, either. Apple ‘s inaugural 2007 iPhone did have a earphone jack ( hush a curio for mobile phones at that time ) but it was deep-set, meaning that not every pair of headphones was actually compatible. The audio port in the first genesis iPhone was embedded a few millimeters into the acme of the iPhone, with a round deferral that was narrower than many existing earphone ballyhoo. This presented three options : use the earbuds Apple included with your iPhone purchase ( which did fit ), try to whittle down the rubber on your existing earphone jack ( you may laugh, but some readers are nodding wisely at the memory ), or use a dongle. Moving through the generations, one winder benefit it was claimed could be achieved by removing the 3.5mm port altogether in 2016 was the chance to make the iPhone 7 sparse. But in fact, it was no thin than the former model – both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6S measured 7.1mm. One rumor that did prove true was that the space taken up by the earphone socket would make room for a irregular speaker. The iPhone 7 ( and iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, XR and XS ) had stereophonic speakers, which Apple claimed could deliver much better sound when not using headphones. ultimately, Apple just thought the 3.5mm earphone jack was n’t doing enough for the iPhone to justify its space – and, of course, it ‘s a good excuse to get everyone to move towards Lightning. Latterly, wireless headphones have besides been Lightning ‘s chief competition .

Does using the Lightning connection mean better sound quality?

( visualize recognition : Beats ) While we may have answered yes to this question in 2016, it ‘s been a long time since the first rightfully wireless earbuds arrived in 2015, and the region of audio technical school within the sector have improved dramatically. Every iPhone we ‘ve tested to date has sounded incrementally better with each fresh iteration and – although a big separate of that is down to the quality of the headphones you use with them – the iPhone 12 now supports Dolby Atmos and Apple ’ s own spatial audio serve, available to enjoy through the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max. Apple has got into the habit of producing some of the best-sounding smartphones on the grocery store and basically, the latest iPhone 12 picks up where the iPhone 11 left off. Wireless earphones did tend to sound worse than similarly priced pumped-up models, but a quick glance at the newest AirPods Max inspection will show you that Apple has atoned for that. That said, Lightning headphones, which take digital rather than analogue audio from your device, do have the likely to sound better than their analogue counterparts – but it ‘s a closely-run race. MORE: Apple AirPods Max review

What Apple Lightning headphones are on the market?

( image credit : RHA )

Since rumours of Apple ‘s arrant removal of the 3.5mm earphone jack started circulating, earphone manufacturers competed to release newly Lightning and Bluetooth models. Philips was ahead of the crowd when it released the great-sounding M2L headphones back in 2014, but since then, high-end earphone mark Audeze has released the on-ear Sine and over-ear EL-8 Titanium couple. There ‘s besides the iSine 10 and 20 in-ears that come with a Lightning cable television and the RHA MA650i – the company ‘s foremost dedicated Lightning earphones. But there are plenty more ( and better ) pairs of headphones that use the Lightning connection, such as Libratone ‘s Q Adapt range of headphones ( which besides feature noise-cancelling ), the JBL Reflect Aware, and the Pioneer Rayz headphones. B & W ‘s flagship Signature P9 radio headphones besides include a Lightning adapter in the box, while Beats ( an Apple subordinate since 2014 ) has a dedicated urBeats3 model with Lightning connection. Want another unique trace ? Beats besides offers a joint effort with Tokyo based fashion sword Ambush ( opens in new pill ). basically, it ‘s a glow-in-the-dark, Ambush-branded version of its latest spring 2020 passing, the Powerbeats wireless earbuds. The only difference in the Ambush Glow edition compared to the newest 4th-gen Beats Powerbeats ( the successors to the very adequate to Powerbeats3 although Beats decided to drop the total system and just call the 2020 update ‘Powerbeats ‘ ) is their color, the post, and the pouch to tote them around in. In the benighted, this Powerbeats model glows bright green. Way to make a affirmation … MORE: Best Apple AirPods alternatives 2021

What about wireless headphones for the iPhone 12?

( trope credit : Cambridge Audio ) Of naturally, it ‘s not just Lightning headphones that work with the very latest iPhones, but wireless Bluetooth ones deoxyadenosine monophosphate well. There are enough of excellent pairs already on the grocery store, such as the award-winning Sony WF-1000XM3, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, Sony WH-1000XM4, Cambridge Audio Melomania 1, Earfun Air and Earfun Air Pro – respective of which besides boast ANC ( active noise cancel ). We were n’t entirely enamoured by the looks or sound of the original AirPods, but the 2019 second-generation AirPods improved on the model ‘s sonic performance by leaps and bounds, and initiated an explosion of AirPods alternatives arriving on the marketplace daily. MORE: Why I will never own a pair of noise-cancelling headphones 

What are the disadvantages of Apple Lightning headphones?

The most obvious problem we faced when ditching the 3.5mm earphone joining was that our existing headphones would no longer plug straight into our iPhones. Nor could we plug said iPhones straight into our system with a simple aux cord. This affect plenty of other accessories, excessively. Apple provides a Lightning-to-3.5mm arranger for £9 ( opens in modern check ) ( it no longer comes in the box with the buy of an iPhone ) but it does n’t look particularly neat – and is easily lost if disconnected and bundled in with your headphones on a road tripper. Listening to music with wired headphones while charging ( both require the Lightning port ) was no longer possible with the iPhone 7, but Apple addressed this publish for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X series by offering Qi-standard radio charge. There are enough of Qi-certified charging pads available on the market, so you do n’t have to hope for the testis to start rolling on Apple ‘s debatable – and presently stalled – AirPower charging system again, either. Any active noise-cancelling headphones that draw power from your iPhone could reduce battery life, which has n’t been the firm point of some of Apple ‘s most recent handsets .

Do iPhones come with wireless headphones?

( image credit : Sony ) The iPhone X, XR and XS Max did n’t come bundled with radio headphones, and the change is here to stay – the latest iPhone 12 comes only with a USB-C to Lightning cable in the box. But, as the deepen from 30-pin to Lightning paved the way for radio speakers, a change to the earphone connection has seen a serious boost in the manufacture of radio headphones. There are a overplus of dependable Bluetooth headphones on the grocery store and the sector is only growing and diversifying – see bone conduction sports headphones from Bose and Philips, for starters. MORE: Best wireless Bluetooth headphones 2021: in-ear, over-ear, noise-cancelling

Can I use my existing headphones with the iPhone 12?

( effigy credit : Shure ) But what if you ’ ve invested a set of money in a pair of audiophile wired headphones with a 3.5mm ballyhoo ? You ca n’t use them with your iPhone via its Lightning connection, unless you use an adapter or connect them via a DAC, such as the Chord Mojo. Of path, you could get a give hi-res audio player from the likes of Astell & Kern, ( we ‘d recommend the Kann Alpha here ) Pioneer or Sony, alternatively of using your smartphone as a music player. And do n’t forget, the Apple ipod Touch ( 2019 ) hush sports a earphone jackfruit and silent delivers class-leading audio at its price point … MORE: Best DACs 2021: USB, portable and desktop DACs See the best iPod Touch deals 2021 ( persona credit : Apple ) Love it or hate it, there ’ s no ignoring the fact that Apple has a huge influence over the smartphone and portable audio market. The iPhone 7 might have encouraged manufacturers to ditch the earphone jack, but it has n’t quite disappear altogether. You ‘ll find it still varies from sword to sword and model to model. Google ‘s Pixel 4a has it, but the Pixel 5 does n’t. Samsung handsets, such as the company ‘s newest Galaxy S21, no longer feature one. Sony ‘s Xperia 5 II and Xperia 1 II ( a What Hi-Fi ? 2020 Award-winner ) silent sport the 3.5mm jack excessively, and what brilliant products they are.

however, as we said before, where Apple goes the rest tend to follow. And Apple clearly believes the future of portable music is without wires, Lightning or differently … See all our Apple reviews Check out the best iPhone headphones

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