Headset Jack Vs Lightning Connector

By Carrie Tsai, Last Updated: April 16, 2020

When Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus back in 2016, it caused quite a stir. Since then, Apple has stuck with their Lightning connector for audio output, resulting in the rise of Apple Lightning EarPods and other Lightning headphones among iPhone users. But why did Apple make this change? What are the benefits of the Lightning connection? Let’s find out.

Why Did Apple Remove 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Apple’s decision to get rid of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack wasn’t made on a whim. According to their official statement, there were several reasons behind this move, all aimed at making the iPhones better. Let’s take a closer look at these reasons.

Reason 1. For Thinner iPhones

One of the driving factors behind Apple’s decision was the demand for thinner iPhones. The round shape of the 3.5mm headphone port itself was a hindrance to achieving a slim design. Additionally, the circuitry inside the phone that powered the headphone jack took up precious space, making the iPhone bulkier. By eliminating the 3.5mm headphone jack and the associated circuitry, Apple was able to make the iPhone thinner and more compact, aligning with the trend of lightweight mobile phones.

Reason 2. Make Room for Better Parts Inside the Phone

The 3.5mm headphone jack, while not frequently used by iPhone users, occupied a significant amount of space. By removing it, Apple created more room for other components like a larger battery or improved speakers. This extra space allowed for increased battery capacity, enhancing the overall battery life of the iPhone.

Reason 3. For Better Water-Proofing Performance

The presence of the 3.5mm headphone jack made the iPhone more susceptible to water damage. The circular hole created by the jack provided an easy entry point for water, potentially causing damage to the phone. By removing the 3.5mm port, Apple was able to improve the water-proofing performance of their iPhones.

In summary, Apple’s decision to switch from the 3.5mm headphone jack to the Lightning connector for audio output was driven by the need for thinner iPhones, more internal space for better components, and improved water-proofing. The Lightning connection proved to be a better choice for headphones used with iPhones compared to the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Port

The most noticeable difference between these two types of headphones lies in their ports. Apple Lightning headphones feature a flat and short square-shaped port that perfectly matches the square Lightning connector on Apple devices. In contrast, traditional 3.5mm headphones have a round and comparatively longer port.

Following the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm headphones can only connect to iPhones using a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter. Apple Lightning headphones, on the other hand, can directly and easily connect to iPhones.

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Audio Output

Another key difference between these two types of headphones is the way they handle audio output. The Lightning port on Apple Lightning headphones is a digital adaptive interface that supports digital audio signal output. In contrast, the 3.5mm headphone jack supports analog audio signal output.

While our ears can only perceive analog audio signals, the built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC) in Apple Lightning headphones converts digital audio signals into analog signals that can be heard. This feature allows Apple Lightning headphones to deliver higher audio quality compared to 3.5mm headphones.

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Audio Quality

Audio quality is a major concern for iPhone users when choosing headphones. The port and audio output method significantly impact the audio quality of the headphones.

As mentioned earlier, Apple Lightning headphones come with built-in DACs and amplifiers, enabling them to deliver higher audio quality. Unlike 3.5mm headphones that rely on the iPhone’s internal analog circuitry, Apple Lightning headphones optimize the audio quality with better noise cancellation and deeper, fuller sound.

On the other hand, 3.5mm headphones can suffer from audio quality distortion and lower overall audio quality since they depend on the iPhone’s internal analog circuitry. Additionally, using a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter with 3.5mm headphones reduces the audio signal, further diminishing the audio quality.

Furthermore, Apple Lightning headphones support a higher audio sampling rate compared to 3.5mm headphones. When connected to the Lightning port, Apple Lightning headphones can deliver up to 24Bit/192KHz hi-res audio, while 3.5mm headphones are limited to 24-bit/48kHz audio from the 3.5mm headphone port.

The improved audio quality of Apple Lightning headphones can be attributed to their Lightning connection, which allows them to draw power from the iPhone through the Lightning cable. This power enables increased amplification, resulting in better sound quality and noise cancellation.

In summary, Apple Lightning headphones outperform traditional 3.5mm headphones in terms of audio quality.

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing, these two types of headphones have different quality requirements. Lightning headphones, excluding Apple’s original Lightning EarPods, must undergo Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone) certification to enter the market. This certification ensures that Lightning headphones meet Apple’s technical standards for both hardware and software. As a result, Lightning headphones, including the audio they transmit, are held to a higher quality standard, closely matching Apple’s original EarPods.

In contrast, 3.5mm headphones have been on the market for many years, and manufacturers are free to produce them without adhering to specific quality standards. Consequently, the quality of many 3.5mm headphones is not guaranteed, making it challenging to find a reliable option.


In the current market, the majority of iPhone users opt for Apple Lightning headphones for wired audio receiving. Compared to traditional headphones with a 3.5mm headphone jack, Apple Lightning headphones offer a more reliable connection with perfectly matched ports, superior audio quality, and higher manufacturing quality.

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