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Removing the iPhone headphone jack may risk angering consumers

Another report has surfaced claiming that Apple may remove the headphone jack from the next-generation iPhone. But while the move may make for a thinner phone, it may get a mixed response from consumers.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the removal of the headphone plug would be one of several "subtle" changes to an upcoming iPhone release. The rumor of wireless headphones for iPhone have been floating around the Apple blogosphere since March, and there are still conflicting reports as to whether the next iPhone would have earphones that plug in to a 3.5-mm port, a lightning charging port or be totally wireless. (Apple declined to comment on the WSJ report.)

It's a move that is likely, as it would allow Apple to remove the thickest part of the phone, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told CNBC back in March. But Moorhead and other analysts also told CNBC they'd heard mixed sentiment on the news from consumers.

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"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 in March.

Companies like Apple keep moving to make devices thinner — which may not be consumers' top concern. Longer battery life and faster processors won out against thinness in surveys, outlets like The Wall Street Journal and Fortune have reported.

It could also tick off a growing number of consumers that have invested in high-end headphones. The headphone industry saw a sharp post-recession rebound in starting in 2012 and 2013, as headphones became more fashionable and mobile phones were widespread, according to research firm IBISWorld.


High-end companies like Sennheiser, though, have said they would adapt to a new iPhone standard. Indeed, Apple itself bought Beats Electronics in 2014, a move some have connected to their current wireless headphone project.

Removing the jack could boost Beats and Apple's ecosystem, as it uses tools like Bluetooth to create a more seamless transition between devices, said Angelo Zino, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ. Apple recently revealed ways to unlock MacBooks with Apple Watches and copy and past across devices, highlighting its dedication to moving toward wireless integration.

As long as Apple provides an adapter to plug traditional earbuds into a lightening port, Zino said he sees the move as a non-event that would not have an impact on iPhone 7 demand.

"I think consumers will be perfectly okay as long as they offer an option for consumers that don't plan to migrate toward Bluetooth immediately," Zino said.

If the gossip is true, Apple's not alone in forcing the 3.5-mm port toward obscurity. Motorola is reportedly also axing the port, according to tech blog Engadget.

— Reporting by CNBC's Althea Chang.