The release of the iPhone 7 heralded the removal of the headphone jack. I was nonplussed, to me it disenfranchised those who had invested in high quality after-market phones. While the arrival of the AirPods was thought to justify removal of “outdated” technology, and Apple was regarded as being courageous, it still seemed unnecessary.
An adapter being included was thought to assuage those wedded to 3.5mm jacks. To me that seemed to be just an annoyance. However, this is old news. What is interesting is what was not said about that adapter. It is not an adapter. That is right, it is not an adapter.
The lightning port does not carry any audio output. You can’t simply connect a headphone to it. The adapter is a miniature DAC.
The photo is of the ear pods, but the adapter contains the same electronics. Now the removal of the 3.5mm jack starts to make sense. The iPhone delivers a digital signal, now you can use any technology of your choice to decode it. No longer locked to DAC and amp in the iPhone an upgrade path exists.
The DAC adapter is being sold by Apple in the U.K. for £9, and it sounds as good as the iPhone 6, having tried it against the onboard 3.5mm.