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Excess Baggage

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

I carry a bag around with me all day long that contains the following items:

1) Laptop

2) Notebook & pen

3) Water bottle

4) Business cards

5) Leather pouch full of cords

This – as far as I can tell – is pretty much par for the course for your average free-wheelin’ IT consultant. The quest for the perfect bag is a minor obsession; I like messenger bags but I’ve never found the equal of the no-name brand ones I had about ten years ago, which were essentially nice Timbuk2 knockoffs that cost about fourteen bucks each.

Space is something that’s always at a premium, so while I used to haul around a toolkit for all my assorted bits and pieces I’ve found it easier to replace that with the leather pouch. That works great, but the problem is that organization of the contents of said pouch is impossible, and I occasionally lose stuff. Nothing major; a USB-Ethernet dongle here, a spudger there, but there’s definitely stuff attrition.

The trick, I’ve found, is to minimize the amount of stuff you carry around with you. Replace external USB drives with thumb drives that you keep on your keychain with your car keys and you’ll never be able to drive off and leave something important behind. Trimming down the fat is the only way to stay efficient, which is why it’s puzzling to me that Apple is reportedly ditching the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and replacing it with a headphone to Lightning dongle.

They’ve done this before. Back when the original iPhone shipped you were obliged to find an adaptor if you wanted to use third-party headphones with your new iPhone; the recessed jack was perfectly-sized to fit the headphones that came with the phone but a fraction too narrow for anything else. The original headphones were – and there’s no beating around the bush on this – crappy beyond belief and if you had big ugly ears like mine they were either going to fall out or have to be jammed in place uncomfortably. It was a design misstep that was quickly corrected, which is why it’s puzzling to me that it’s something that they’re allegedly replicating for the new phone.

I’ve no doubt that the adaptor will come in the box, or that Apple will happily sell you a new one for – let’s say – twenty bucks or so. That’s fine, I suppose – twenty bucks is probably an outrage for what the thing actually costs but I figure enough people have twenty bucks that they can afford a replacement if they lose the adaptor. What isn’t fine is that Apple is essentially requiring you to use an adaptor in order to use the product that they’re selling you. It’s a move that obviates the idea of working right out of the box and stands between the user and the rest of their gear.

It’s a roadblock. Not a big one, nor an expensive or even poorly-designed one, but a roadblock nonetheless. I’m sure they’ll ship Lightning-compatible headphones (although I’m deeply skeptical about whether there’s any real improvement in sound quality) or that we’ll all soon be embracing bluetooth going forward, but for now it just makes me sigh and shake my head. I may or may not ever own an iPhone 7 – after all, I upgraded from my iPhone 4 only because the thing died, and I’d go back to that size and form-factor in a heartbeat – but if I do then I know in my heart of hearts that the first thing I’ll have to do is go and buy a bunch of adaptors, secure in the knowledge that they’ll disappear and that I’ll be unable to use my fancy new phone with my nice headphones without them.

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