An expected new feature on the so-called iPhone 7 could require owners to ultimately spend more than they prepared for on accessories. But the upgrade might be worth it, analysts say.
The usual 3.5-millimeter headphone jack is expected to be missing from the new high-end iPhone, which has not been officially named the iPhone 7. Instead, headphones would connect to the phone via the lightning jack, which is used as the charging port on current versions of the phone. As a result, that new phone will be thinner than previous models, though this doesn't apply to the scaled-down and cheaper iPhone SE, which Apple is expected to unveil next week.
"What Apple likes to do is put as much functionality into as thin a phone as they possibly can," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, a market analysis and consulting firm. Moorhead said in an interview with CNBC that he's heard mixed sentiment about the possible change.
Apple's change should be considered "innovation by subtraction," according to Trip Chowdhry, managing director of equity research at Global Equities Research. Chowdhry also said he expects a mixed consumer response to the change.
One possible downside is that since lightning port-connected headphones would be a new technology, it could cost more for consumers to buy a set of those headphones.
"I think the biggest pressure is going to be on headset makers," Moorhead said, as companies like Sony and Sennheiser may have to acquire a license for Apple's technology to develop compatible headphones.
But some suggest that any additional expense could be worth it.
"Audio connections have always been continuously evolving," said Sennheiser co-CEO Daniel Sennheiser in an email to CNBC. "And if Apple chooses to go ahead with a new standard, we as an audio specialist have the expertise to make the best of that change. Digital outputs, such as Apple's lightning connector, will offer new opportunities to take a step forward and to further enhance the sound experience for the customer."
According to Sennheiser, whose namesake company designs and manufactures headphones, connections via lightning port could enable three-dimensional audio technology, a step beyond the usual stereo experience. Sennheiser didn't comment on whether those headphones will cost more than the traditional headphones that connect to phones via the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.
"At first, it may seem like an unusual move, but when you look back, Apple has pulled stunts like this before," said Mark McDonald, co-CEO of Appster, an app development firm. "The company caused a stir when it introduced the lightning adapter on the iPhone 5. In this case, if it is true, the reality is most people use the earphones that come with the iPhone so it shouldn't have that big an impact on sales. The existing iPhone jack has been around since the '90s, so advancement is overdue."
"The worst-case scenario here is it could frustrate a couple of consumers," said Angelo Zino, technology analyst at S&P Capital IQ. "I don't think it's a game changer in a sense that it's going to cost them sales."
In fact, Apple could end up making some existing tech more popular, and possibly even more user friendly, analysts say.
"I actually think that this could be the time when Apple goes wireless," Moorhead said.
The tech giant hasn't done much in the realm of wireless headphones, but its 2014 acquisition of Beats Electronics gave it access to new audio technology, Moorhead said.
Zino agrees. Some consumers have already migrated to Bluetooth headphones from the wired kind, Zino said in a phone interview. But a new connection between phones and headphones could further promote the adoption of Bluetooth headphones, he said.
"Fundamentally the issue with Bluetooth headsets and headphones is that they're just unreliable. They're hard to connect to and you have to remember to charge them," Moorhead said, adding that Apple could introduce more user-friendly wireless headphones.
Apple declined to comment. Beats and Sony did not respond to CNBC's requests for comment.