Apple headphone jack headed for growing hardware graveyard

Why investors may worry about Apple
Why investors may worry about Apple

When Apple introduces an iPhone without a headphone jack on Wednesday, it will be the latest in a long line of controversial hardware changes that consumers will be expected to embrace.

Several years ago, Apple eliminated CD and DVD drives from computers, cutting unnecessary weight as the world was moving to streaming media. It was also early in getting rid of Ethernet ports, killing off the wired connection, and last year Apple released a MacBook with just a single USB connection point.

And chargers? Loyalists have boxes of defunct iPod and iPhone docks and cables.

The big bet is that Apple fandom is so great and unwavering that criticism will be short-lived and consumers will get in line — probably a long line. So the Cupertino, California-based company isn't worried about a pro-headphone jack petition that's attracted over 300,000 signatures.

"Although likely a contentious issue with iPhone users at first, we believe this will soon be forgotten," Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White wrote in a report Tuesday. It "makes room for an additional speaker with enhanced sound quality."

Bluetooth headsets have been on the market for years, but they've been largely fringe devices. Given Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats in 2014, it's reasonable to expect that brand to be tied to the future of wireless music listening. Beats' wireless earbuds start at $200 and headphones at $300.

Pacific Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves expects the iPhone 7 to ship with Lightning headphones (that plug into the charging port) and an adapter that connects to the port for people who prefer headphones with a traditional jack.