How Apple will convince us to love the dongle

Hi, and welcome to my obligatory hot take on the nearly confirmed no-headphone-jack iPhones we’re about to see rolling out of Apple. I’m not an absolute fan of this idea, but we’ve seen this sort of behavior from Apple before — most notably the move from the 30-pin dock jack that probably caused a bit of an e-waste problem, forcing users and most notably hotels to upgrade their in-room docks. Now the same thing is happening, but with a far more common technology. And people are pissed.

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I understand the concern. We all have a favorite pair of headphones. I like my Bose QuietComforts and my Philips running earbuds. I pack them everywhere I go. But how great would it be if both of those things didn’t get tangled up with each other?

In general, wireless headphones are great. They’re comfortable on plane rides and they’re quite pleasant when it comes to running and sports. But what is really going to change is the dongle. It’s Apple’s half-hearted attempt to let you use your old technology on their new hotness. I’ll wager that we’ll see a million little things that will hang off of the iPhone to enable wired headphones, each in a different color, size, price and quality. It will be an ecosystem of dongles.

As it stands now, Apple’s use of the dongle has been… clever? My MacBook always has its little USB port dongle attached, a port that costs $79 and does little other than allow me to charge my iPhone. But still it hangs there, like a forlorn growth in form but absolutely essential in function. It’s this move, the decision to completely shed all external ports on a fully sized laptop, that let Apple make a beautiful, usable and ultralight computer. It also gave haters plenty of opportunity to jeer at the computing equivalent of a Maserati, which requires a huge spare truck tire attached to it to drive more than a city block.

But, for better or worse, that’s what Apple’s good at: convincing you that you don’t miss the things you’ve lost. Sure, I sometimes miss the DVD player, but thanks to the loss of DVD players in laptops I haven’t looked at an optical disk in years and have figured out better solutions. Sure, I miss the Serial port on a PC for plugging in old junk but, at this point, most of that old junk is dead anyway. We’re moving into the future here, and the future has fewer ports.

So never fear: You’ll be able to plug your Beats into your iPhone. You’ll just need a dongle to do it, and I’m sure there will be plenty of colorful options. And, slowly but surely, you’ll notice you’re buying wireless headphones over wired, USB-port-less laptops over USB-ported and you’ll slowly come to accept the inevitable: that ports have held us back and the future is seamless, clean and yet, somehow, full of dongles.