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September 9, 2017 7:42 AM   Subscribe

In Strange Parts 2nd YouTube video Scotty Allen adds a functioning headphone jack to his iPhone 7.

A nice follow-up to his first video: How I Made My Own iPhone - in China
posted by zinon (27 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It feels bad to criticise this project, as he is obviously passionate and excited about this area. But! Spending 'thousands of dollars' to add functionality back to the iPhone is not a criticism of Apple. The first video was subversive, pointing out things about the supply structure that made these objects that we are so familiar with, and the value added by capitalism. This video doesn't do that.
posted by The River Ivel at 9:44 AM on September 9


I feel like I just watched a chapter in a Neal Stephenson novel.
posted by NoMich at 9:54 AM on September 9


I'm feeling pretty damn critical of Apple unnecessarily undermining a longtime universal standard in order to juice sales of their spotty, easily-lost, battery-powered proprietary peripheral.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:55 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


The River Ivel: "It feels bad to criticise this project, as he is obviously passionate and excited about this area. But! Spending 'thousands of dollars' to add functionality back to the iPhone is not a criticism of Apple. The first video was subversive, pointing out things about the supply structure that made these objects that we are so familiar with, and the value added by capitalism. This video doesn't do that."

"Value added by capitalism"? Well, yeah - if that's all you want, this video will be disappointing.

If what you love is hardware hackery, this video is astounding and delightful to watch. What fun. Thanks, zinon. For me, this really isn't about the amazing products of corporations - it's about taking ownership of the gadgets around us by learning about them and learning to do what we want with them - as he says at the end of the video, hoping for a future where "someday we'll truly own our devices."
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


(Also, I don't think this was intended simply as a pointed criticism of Apple, either.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:02 AM on September 9


As noted, there is a tiny adapter in the box with an iPhone 7, so you don't have to buy anything additional to use cable-type headphones. Also, Bluetooth headphones are now very inexpensive. I ride the subway to work, and I've noticed that wired headphones/earbuds are becoming rare. I just don't see any problem here.

Its like putting a retrofitting a car with a cigarette lighter. I'm sure somebody out there wants to smoke in their car, but its no longer mainstream.
posted by galago at 10:10 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


It's exactly like a car that supports an aux cable instead of being blue tooth only, and happily that's still very mainstream.
posted by idiopath at 10:22 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I have an older phone that still has a jack, and I use bluetooth headsets anyway because when I'm doing housework or even just going on a walk in the woods, that long cable from my ears to pants pocket or courier bag gets snagged on or tangled in freaking everything.

I still use a tethered headset when I take calls mostly because the Apple earbuds are still really good and clear for that purpose. But otherwise, I'll happily swap the inconvenience of having to charge a Bluetooth headset occasionally over the inconvenience of constrained movement and having in-ear plugs forcefully yanked out by the handle of a lawn rake.
posted by ardgedee at 10:38 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


So does the part he took out really not do anything, is the question. Seems like he just assumed that Apple would fill precious space with something not necessary. He said something about an altimeter, does that still work? What feature, if any, is he trading away for his headphone jack (without knowing it, because he didn't test it)?
posted by ctmf at 11:02 AM on September 9


It's exactly like a car that supports an aux cable instead of being blue tooth only, and happily that's still very mainstream.

Oh, look at your fancy 2008+ car with it's built-in aux port. Well, I'm still mainstream and cool, I just have a cassette adapter. Yes, it does make a tiny whirring sound as it spins, but it still works.
posted by FJT at 12:03 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


galago: "As noted, there is a tiny adapter in the box with an iPhone 7, so you don't have to buy anything additional to use cable-type headphones. Also, Bluetooth headphones are now very inexpensive. I ride the subway to work, and I've noticed that wired headphones/earbuds are becoming rare. I just don't see any problem here."

I have two MIDI keyboards. I use one of them to control a synthesizer on my iPad. I would like to use the other one to control a synthesizer on my iPhone, but there's no sound output once I've plugged a MIDI keyboard into my phone. I have never played a gig at a venue that had a Bluetooth PA, and even if I did the lag would be atrocious enough to make that pointless.

These phones are computers - full-on computers that can do amazing things. We should be able to do what we want with them. We should be able to add a headphone jack if we want. The fact that many people don't want to do X with a computer is not a good argument that nobody should be allowed to do X with a computer.

The point here is not that Apple made a decision we do or don't like. The point is that control over the devices we own - that is, true ownership - is a wonderful thing, and makes these devices infinitely more useful. The fact that this fellow went out and actually learned out to do this is inspiring to me.
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on September 9 [15 favorites]


The other part of the missing headphone jack and its ongoing trend to shift to digital audio connections like Bluetooth is that this is slowly closing the analog hole, which the music industry has wanted to do for like two decades now.

Keep in mind that Apple, Inc is a music publisher and part of the music industry.

If other handset providers follow suit, how long is it until analog audio jacks on laptops and computers follow suit?

This isn't just bad for people who might try to pirate music via an analog re-recording (which, these days, is a false argument since pirates rip things in software from wave data/streams) but it's really exceptionally bad for music producers and experimenters who use the analog input/output jacks on devices like phones, computers and other devices in wildly creative ways.
posted by loquacious at 12:56 PM on September 9 [11 favorites]


The point is that control over the devices we own - that is, true ownership - is a wonderful thing, and makes these devices infinitely more useful.

There's always a trade off between bespoke vs mass produced. I don't see either as truer ownership over the other. People just interact with their things differently.
posted by FJT at 1:22 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I thought of the analog hole immediately too, but there's a flaw in thinking removing the headphone jack helps with that - I think?

I mean, it still has to get into my ears. To the extent I can buy a good bluetooth headphone, I can also make a bluetooth receiver/recorder, no?
posted by ctmf at 1:50 PM on September 9


Its like putting a retrofitting a car with a cigarette lighter. I'm sure somebody out there wants to smoke in their car, but its no longer mainstream.

You've unwittingly made a excellent analogy because are you aware how vital and useful cigarette lighter sockets are in cars? Not least for charging phones? If I bought a car with no cigarette lighter I would be extremely pissed off.

Does the adaptor that comes with iPhone 7s allow you to charge at the same time as you have headphones pluged in? Because that's the state my phone is in 12-18 hours a day. My wife just 'upgraded' her old dying iPhone 6 to another iPhone 6 for the exact same reason. Paying extra for a phone with less basic functionality? Get fucked.
posted by Jimbob at 2:36 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


ctmf: the annoying thing with bluetooth audio is that it requires mp3 encoded frames (and much of the time, even if your file is an mp3, it will get encoded again to be sent to the headphones, not to mention what happens if it was already in some other lossy format of course), but I could imagine a dedicated device that dumped the mp3 frames directly to a file.
posted by idiopath at 3:42 PM on September 9


FJT: "There's always a trade off between bespoke vs mass produced. I don't see either as truer ownership over the other. People just interact with their things differently."

I don't mean that only people that hack their devices own them. I mean that ownership is defined by your freedom to do what you want with a thing; so if you're prohibited from doing a chunk of things with your device, then your ownership is lessened. Freedom doesn't mean doing everything all the time; it means being allowed to do anything all the time. If you are barred from taking apart and modifying your device, either by through legislation or through technology, then you own it a little less.

I really feel like that plasticity of the things around us is an essential part of making ourselves comfortable in the world. Maybe that's a nerd perspective, but it seems essential.
posted by koeselitz at 5:00 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


What I was trying to get at was that the first video had an intertextuality - it was both an engineering feat and a critique of the iPhone. Whatever else you might think of the iPhone, you've got to agree that making a video that points out flaws in the iPhone is always going to be punching up, seeing as it's the dominant paradigm of 'phone-ness' around at the minute

Following it up with a video that adds a headphone jack is more a concern of engineering types. This is fine; obviously a lot of people will like that. But it's not going to get the same pull, because it's a more oblique concern, tied into a debate that most people don't know about (the need to own the things you buy, etc) which has been rehashed in some of the comments here.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:05 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Q: Couldn’t you just buy a $10 headphone adapter instead?
A: Yes. But that’s less fun.
Oh isn't that a problem I can identify with.

In Max Barry's Machine Man, he says something along the lines of 'I'm not a user.' which I so agree with.
I'd much rather have something I can control than be stuck with Steve Jobs' preferences, even though he's right about me half the time.
posted by MtDewd at 5:52 PM on September 9


so if you're prohibited from doing a chunk of things with your device

Are you prohibited from using your device in a certain way, or does it simply not have the capability to do something you think it ought to do?

I mean, there's a ton of things my phone can't do that I wish it could, but I don't think that means I'm prohibited from doing them with it. It means this is not the device for doing those things with.
posted by dbx at 6:16 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


idiopath: I recently got hold of a pair of bluetooth headphones and they certainly don't sound like they're forcing the re-encoding of mp3 as mp3. That even I'd notice.

I got curious about this and after a (very little) digging I found this - looks like the current state of A2DP, the Bluetooth audio profile, is that it now supports a range of codecs including SBC, mp3, AAC (!?) and, optionally, aptX, whatever that is.

The last is what the new cans I have use, and those, to my admittedly non-audiophile ears, sound pretty ok, even when I know for sure the source is a streamed mp3 (mostly I listen to FLAC but musicforprogramming.net is a current addiction...)
posted by motty at 6:51 PM on September 9


Keep in mind that Apple, Inc is a music publisher and part of the music industry.

Apple is definitely not a music publisher.
posted by sideshow at 9:21 PM on September 9


I would like to use the other one to control a synthesizer on my iPhone, but there's no sound output once I've plugged a MIDI keyboard into my phone.

There are a number of third-party adapters that will let you do this.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 PM on September 9


I have an older phone that still has a jack, and I use bluetooth headsets anyway because when I'm doing housework or even just going on a walk in the woods, that long cable from my ears to pants pocket or courier bag gets snagged on or tangled in freaking everything.

Nobody's questioning the utility of bluetooth for some uses. I'm glad bluetooth headsets work well for the particular uses you've thought of for your phone. They work well for me in some situations and their cordless nature is nice.

But thsi does not mean bluetooth is a better solution for anybody who wants audio out. It has its own hassles and limitations and sometimes a 1/8" out is just what you need and most of all, up until Apple removed it, it just worked.

I honestly think it's one of the strongest signals that Apple has moved from a company that's long valued that in its products to a company that's entirely willing to sacrifice that for other goals that have absolutely nothing to do with user satisfaction. It's not the only one either.

And no, a dongle included with the phone doesn't restore the product to "just works."
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:17 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I mean, it still has to get into my ears. To the extent I can buy a good bluetooth headphone, I can also make a bluetooth receiver/recorder, no?

Until there's an extended protocol that involves new handshakes and encryption to communicate between device and bluetooth receiver, and getting permission to use it involves a certification process that your receiver doesn't have an analog out and your design makes it difficult to add one.

Sure, there will be hacks. Inevitably. But now you've just made this functionality inaccessible to people who don't want the hacks.

And it's not inconceivable that the hacks themselves would be made illegal.

In fact, in a world where the industry moves to digital protocols for audio out, the only scenario I can think of in which efforts to make that happen aren't inevitable is if streaming becomes completely dominant as a form of audio consumption and essentially every person is already paying whatever price the dominant 3 streaming services (whoever they end up being) demand monthly anyway.
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:26 PM on September 9


me: "I would like to use the other one to control a synthesizer on my iPhone, but there's no sound output once I've plugged a MIDI keyboard into my phone."

Halloween Jack: "There are a number of third-party adapters that will let you do this."

Wait - really? I've found no way so far; I've tried camera connection kit + USB hub, but that doesn't seem to work to output sound and input MIDI at the same time. Are you talking about these new music interfaces that provide a whole bunch of connections all at once? I feel like Arturia just released one, but it seemed expensive just as a connector, although I'm interested.

Sorry - this is interesting to me, so whatever details you can provide would be awesome.
posted by koeselitz at 11:27 AM on September 10


Are you prohibited from using your device in a certain way, or does it simply not have the capability to do something you think it ought to do?

I have a small bucket in my house containing all the old iPhones various family members no-longer use after upgrading. Amazing little computers, with a CPU, high resolution screens, gigabytes of storage, network connectivity. I could do amazing things with these old phones, if I was allowed to use them as general purpose computers. I don't care if it breaks the warrantee. Just let me put Linux on them and use them as a webcam or something. I paid a lot of money for them.
posted by Jimbob at 4:16 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


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