No Jack City

Author’s Note: Although it will be obvious within a few sentences (if it wasn’t already from the title), this is a negative review of the new iPhone by someone with a fairly negative view of Apple products. Wait. Now, it’s the second-newest iPhone? In the course of finishing this paragraph, I think they came out with a new one.

Author’s Second Note: Yes, that was a “New Jack City” title pun. I’ll save you the time of looking it up. It was a movie you didn’t see.


It’s said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And sometimes, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from itself.

I’m not sure when we got locked in these endless product cycles. I suspect it was shortly after someone realized they could make people pay for the same thing over and over again by shaming them for owning the slightly-less-than-newest thing. Much like almost everything they do, though, Apple seems to have taken that existing concept, put a coat of paint on it and made it their own.

For one reason or another, I’ve never really gotten into iPhones. Every time it’s time to upgrade my phone, there tends to be a perfectly competent alternative for about $500 less. $700 counting the cost of switching out all the cords I already have for the ones with ends that actually fit into Apple products.

More importantly, Apple uses proprietary everything. When I was considering buying an iPod, I found out that none of my existing music would work on it. As far as problems with MP3 players go, that’s…sort of a big one.

But I semi-digress, even if this is informing the greater issue at hand…

I wouldn’t go so far as saying I hate Apple. They’ve never done me any personal harm even if I don’t like how they do business, sue competitors and have a smaller tax bill than I do. And, perhaps most importantly, businesses are incapable of feeling emotion and are more or less indifferent to any feelings you have for them. Or they would be, except they aren’t capable of indifference.

For the most part, I just sit back and enjoy the annual jokes that the iPhone 7 is going to be the best thing since the iPhone 6S or whichever numbers and letters are happening this year. (Is it annual? It feels like less.) Either way, the idea is that each generation is less a leap forward than a sideways step over a puddle.

And this year, for the first time, I’m not 100% convinced it was even a step forward.

So all the little bits and pieces are better. I have no doubt of that. I’m sure it’s faster and its pictures are sharper and its sounds are crisper.

Basically, if it wasn’t straight up missing a headphone jack I bet it’d be pretty cool.


Sure. You’ve got the wireless AirPods – a missed opportunity to name a product AirBuds if I ever heard one. Or, you know, you could just shell out the extra $30 and buy an F-22 Raptor and just fly to the people or bands you want to hear.

For me, $160 (I exaggerated the price, slightly) is a lot to pay for headphones of any quality. Maybe my ears aren’t good. Maybe it’s that trained experts have routinely been unable to tell whether they were listening to music on new or five-year-old headphones. Either way, that seems like a rather large investment so a commercial can say things about their product like “richer, fuller sound” and “deep, vibrant treble.” Or whatever two adjectives and noun you want to throw together.

But unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iBerg.

I’ve seen the videos. And yes, it seems cool to have integrated voice commands or touch technology built right into them. You can make a set of wireless earbuds as advanced as you like, but they’ll still have the same problem – the users have been broken for years.

Here’s a neat little trick. Go to Google Maps and pick a spot at random where other humans might be. Now go to that place. And when you get there, say, “That was lucky. I just dropped my phone. Good thing the headphones caught it.” Proceed to watch with amazement as every other human being there explains that the exact same thing happened to them within the past year.

In this case, wireless headphones suffer the same problem as headphones with cords longer than the distance from your ears to the floor – they better at surviving swinging around near your knees than just hitting the ground.

Now, let’s try this again. Pick another spot, or ten, or a hundred. (It won’t matter.) And say, “Oh, no. I just misplaced my phone earbuds.” You’ll likely get a number of people just giving you blank stares. Eventually, a very helpful individual will ask, “Have you tried following the cord out of your audio jack? They’re probably at the end of that.”

Wireless technology has been around for decades now. The reason anything has become wireless is the same – convenience. Just like the reason other things have remained wired is the same – practicality.

Video game controllers are wireless because teenagers were sick of their parents tripping over clearly visible cords and grounding them for it. If we’d have been able to convince parents to just walk behind us, wireless controls might still be another five or ten years away. Sadly, they were pretty dead-set on walking through the two-foot gap between players and the screen, so the wires had to go.

I’m sure any number of phone companies have toyed with the idea before. “Hey. Could we somehow make headphones wireless? And is there any way to make it look like you crammed a cigarette in each ear?”

To which his boss would reply, “I understand you’ve been a bit off since your wife left you, John, but it’s been ten months. Pull yourself together.”

Only with Apple, the pitch meeting seems to have gone a different direction. “Hey. Could we somehow make headphones wireless? And is there any way small children could eat them?”

To which the guy who isn’t Steve Jobs whose name I never learned says, “Great idea! If they look really stupid we can market losing them as a perk.”

And with Bluetooth, at least if your child ate them you’d know exactly where they were.

In summary, it feels like the new iPhone was designed by someone who’d never actually used a phone before. Sure. When it comes to specifications all the numbers are higher, but it seems like one of those strange marketing gimmicks like “the phone for people who don’t use phones.” Which seems clever until you realize, phone users are the only people buying phones.

Of course, people are still going to buy it. And the EarPegs, or whatever they’re called. So it is what it is.

And if all of this was too much reading, you can see the issue summarized here:

Oh, and the credit for that goes to Collegehumor.


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