It is somewhat fitting that Nintendo made an appearance at an Apple iPhone announcement. Not because they’re similar companies, or are both in competition with Sony and Microsoft, or because I’m a fan of both. No, it’s because 11 years ago Nintendo made the same mistake Apple revealed they’d made this week.
Yes, I’m talking about the announcement that the new iPhone 7 won’t have a 3.5mm headphone socket.
When Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP, it was lauded by many – including me – as a great improvement over the original Game Boy Advance. A lit screen, a clamshell design, and a rechargeable battery built in. Bafflingly, however, the power socket did double duty – you charged and powered the GBA SP with it of course, but as the SP didn’t have a headphone socket, you used the power socket via an adapter to plug your headphones in. A decision Nintendo didn’t repeat with the DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, New 3DS or New 3DS XL. With good reason: it was bloody stupid.
And here is Apple doing the same thing. You can’t charge your phone and listen to music/games/podcasts/whatever you happen to be using it for at the same time. Why would you want to do that? Because smartphone batteries are rubbish, and with apps like Pokémon Go draining then ever so quickly, being able to charge (even if on the go with a battery pack like I do) is a must. In fact, I regularly walk listening to podcasts, playing Pokémon Go, powering my phone at the same time – with an iPhone 7, I can’t do that. In fact, I can’t even use normal headphones without charging it at the same time, unless I use an adapter to allow them to plug into the now all-purpose Lightning socket.
“Oh!” you cry, “But you can! You can use wireless Bluetooth headphones!”. No, no I can’t. Have you ever used them? The quality is poor unless you pay hundreds of pounds. They desync themselves. There’s interference. Worst of all – they need power, and so need charging themselves!
And have you seen those that Apple are peddling for ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY POUNDS? They look like Pat Butcher’s earrings, need charging (and only last 5 hours on a charge), and are going to fall out and get lost so easily. They’re an option not even worth consideration.
The lack of headphone jack was pretty much guaranteed to happen, given the leaks and rumours in the last few months. Less certain were the size and specs, and sadly there’s disappointment there too.
Not with the specs, though. The power of the device is great, and increased on-board storage (iOS devices never seem to have enough) is welcome. Improved cameras are nice too. No, the problem is that the iPhone 7, just like the iPhone 6, it just too damn big. I find my 5S a bit on the large side, to be honest, and a 6 is impossible to use with one hand. A 6 Plus (and therefore the 7 Plus) is basically a tablet in comparison.
I was relieved last year when they announced the iPhone SE, as it’s the same as the 5S in dimensions, but around as powerful as the (then) new 6S. OK, it didn’t have force touch or a couple of other new features, but it meant there was still going to be an iPhone for me when it was time to upgrade or replace.
But is that still the case? Nothing about a new SE was mentioned this week. No SE sized phone with mostly 7 innards revealed. Of course, it may still happen, but I don’t think the SE sold especially well so it may not. Even if it does, will it ditch the headphone socket too?
I’m not going to be looking for a new phone for a while yet anyway. My 5S has a year or two still in it (dependant on Apple’s usual built-in obsolescence trigger once iOS 10 is installed, naturally), so my fingers are crossed for something I can accept before then.
As for Nintendo springing an iOS based touch screen Mario auto-runner on us all… well. I think a part of me died, unsurprising as the Apple event was more like a eulogy than the excited announcement of a new child.