AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Now some more tech news that could turn the music world on its headphones. Apple may be set to end its use of the standard headphone connector in favor of its lightning port. That's the input for charging new iPhones. The news came from Jordan Kahn at a blog called "9 to 5 Mac."
JORDAN KAHN: Apple's introduced these new guidelines for manufacturers that allow them to build headphones that connect to an iPhone or an iPad pad through the lightning connector. That might be the first hint that Apple could remove that old legacy headphone jack from devices down the road.
CORNISH: If they do that, new iPhones, iPads and iPods pods won't work with the old headphone jack. It could be a big industry upset. For decades, the minijack has been the standard for all kinds of audio equipment. So why change it? We asked Gordon Kelly, who wrote about it for Forbes.
GORDON KELLY: There's two main reasons for doing this. On paper you can get a higher specification of audio out of the lightning port than you can out of the headphone jack. It's minimal, but on paper you could do that. It could be part of marketing. The other side to this, is that they would be able to, say, bring new functionality. Say you were listening to Spotify - you could connect your headphones, and through the extra functionality of the lightning port, it could work out where you were or what mood you said you were in, and it could start to adjust things for it. You could have a podcast, plug in your headphones - it checks your favorite podcast, makes sure downloads things as you need it. So there's all sorts of functionality which can potentially come with the lightning Jack.
CORNISH: And then, of course, Apple paid around three billion dollars for the headphone company Beats Electronics. Does this make that deal make more sense to you?
KELLY: It makes a lot more sense. When you look at Beats as a purely technical product, it very rarely wins when you come to out-and-out sound quality for the value. It's become a fashion statement. It's become a brand you want to be associated with. Well, the interesting thing is if they go down the lightning connector route, the first thing they're going to need is partners. They don't get any bigger than having Beats on board as a launch partner for a lightning headphone.
CORNISH: So looking ahead to, say, the iPhone six, is this a technology we can expect to see there?
KELLY: I'm sure Apple's not going to rush this straight in. It's too knee-jerk. What Apple will do is they will look to introduce this as a luxury option on the iPhone. Whether be the iPhone six, whether it become available slightly after the iPhone six, this will be something that will be rolled out over time. I'm sure that they won't drop the iPhone - the 3.5 millimeter jack straightaway.
CORNISH: There's another legacy technology that Apple tried to do away with which is the password, right? They came up with the fingerprint sensor on the phone. And that didn't exactly, like, revolutionize the entire smart phone industry. I mean, could this backfire on them?
KELLY: I think there is the chance that it can backfire. But you have to look at it from Apple's perspective which is, it's largely shot to nothing. You can keep the 3.5 mil jack on. You can make headphones for the lightning port. You can promote all the benefits for the lightning port. And if people don't go for it, they just stick with the 3.5 mil jack and Apple slowly fades it back out again. But what happens is if consumers do get convinced - and initially based on the articles I've written people are very, very skeptical. But if you do convince people, Apple is in a win-win situation. You fade out the 3.5 mil jack. You put it as to lightning only, and you have a whole new profit margin.
CORNISH: That's Gordon Kelly. He wrote about Apple's headphone connector for Forbes. Gordon, thanks so much.
KELLY: My pleasure.
CORNISH: Your listening to all things considered from NPR news.
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