The internet was in an uproar for several weeks when it was revealed that the iPhone 7 didn’t have a headphone jack. It seemed like people unanimously hated it. While some people still spoke highly of Apple (myself included), almost no one seemed to defend the decision.
I have a theory about why exactly Apple did this.
There is a robust debate about the future of the headphone jack. Intel expects the USB type-C to replace the headphone jack. There is no doubt that Apple has its own intelligence about this and as the largest consumer electronics company in the world it has unique insight into the future of the industry.
This was a strategic move. It was first and foremost about branding and creating a narrative. When Steve Jobs passed away Apple seemed to have lost its mojo. The prestige of their brand was diminished. As of Q1 2016 Samsung holds a greater market share of the smartphone market.
Part of what made Apple so special in its earlier years was Steve Jobs’ philosophy that you had to “bet the company” sometimes. He had an ethic about vision, quality, and artistic merit; this was obvious to the public. It caused Apple to take certain risks that other companies would not and this made them perceived as the leader in the industry.
Apple’s brand is super-important and what the move was about is reestablishing their identity as anti-establishment and a leader in the industry; post-Steve Jobs. If this is indeed where the industry is going then Samsung and others will be forced to drop the headphone jack as well. How reactive that would look.
They bet the company as Steve might have done and if it pays off then they’ll regain their mojo and prove that they’re still special. The narrative and the brand are once again compelling.