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Why Apple Killed The Headphone Jack

Why Apple Killed The Headphone Jack →

John Paczkowski, reporting for Buzzfeed.

For Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, the iPhone’s 3.5-millimeter audio jack has felt something like the last months of an ill-fated if amicable relationship: familiar and comfortable, but ultimately an impediment to a better life ahead. “We’ve got this 50-year-old connector — just a hole filled with air — and it’s just sitting there taking up space, really valuable space,” he says.

​What did they need the space for?

A tentpole feature of the new iPhones are improved camera systems that are larger than the cameras in the devices that preceded them. The iPhone 7 now has the optical image stabilization feature previously reserved for its larger Plus siblings. And the iPhone 7 Plus has two complete camera systems side by side — one with a fixed wide-angle lens, the other with a 2x zoom telephoto lens. At the top of both devices is something called the “driver ledge” — a small printed circuit board that drives the iPhone’s display and its backlight. Historically, Apple placed it there to accommodate improvements in battery capacity, where it was out of the way. But according to Riccio, the driver ledge interfered with the iPhone 7 line’s new larger camera systems, so Apple moved the ledge lower in both devices. But there, it interfered with other components, particularly the audio jack.

So the company’s engineers tried removing the jack.

In doing so, they discovered a few things. First, it was easier to install the “Taptic Engine” that drives the iPhone 7’s new pressure-sensitive home button, which, like the trackpads on Apple’s latest MacBook, uses vibrating haptic sensations to simulate the feeling of a click — without actually clicking. (Did we mention that Apple killed the physical home button too?) Taptic Engine vibrations will also be used to deliver feeling specific notifications — hitting the end of a scrolled page, for example. And because Apple has given developers an API for it, an awful lot of other stuff as well — particularly in games.

“You can’t make it feel like there’s an earthquake happening, but the range of customization lets you do an awful lot,” Apple SVP Phil Schiller explains. “With every project there are things that surprise you with the meaning they take on as you start to use them. The Taptic Engine API is one of them. It turned into a much bigger thing than we ever thought it would be. It really does transform the experience for a lot of software. You’ll see.”

Second, there was an unforeseen opportunity to increase battery life. So the battery in the iPhone 7 is 14% bigger than the one in its predecessor, and in the iPhone 7 Plus, it’s 5% bigger. In terms of real-world performance gains, that’s about an additional two hours and one hour, respectively. Not bad.

Even better, removing the audio jack also eliminated a key point of ingress that Riccio says helped the new iPhone finally meet the IP7 water resistance spec Apple has been after for years (resistant when immersed under 1 meter of water for 30 minutes).

The 3.5-millimeter audio jack has been headed to its inevitable fate for some time now. If it wasn’t the iPhone 7, it might have been the iPhone 8 (or, for that matter, the iPhone 6). In the end, it was simple math that did the audio jack in, a cost-benefit analysis that sorely disfavored a single-purpose Very Old Port against a wireless audio future, some slick new cameras, and the kind of water resistance that anyone who has ever dropped an iPhone in the toilet has long wished for.

​Given that the new iPhone comes with both Lightning ear pods and a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter, I think this is a very fair trade off. I already do most of my listening with Bluetooth headphones, so this really won't affect me that much. I think the updated features are worth the loss of my headphone jack.

This entry was tagged. Apple iPhone

Review: Dominion Card Deck Generators

My wife and I recently became fans of Dominion. We like how every Dominion game can be different — different strategies, different pace, different level of aggression — based on which cards you choose to play with. There are 205 total released Kingdom cards. Each game only requires 10 Kingdom cards, so there are over 28 quadrillion potential games that we could play.

Some of those combinations will be lots of fun and worth repeating. Others will involve cards that don't go well together and don't lead to enjoyable games. I decided that it would be nice to find an app that could help me pick good game combinations and help me remember which ones I like the most. After searching through the App Store, I found three to try: Dominion Deck Builder, Dominion Vault, and Adept. I downloaded all three, to compare and find out which one would work best for me.


Adept: Kingdoms List Adept: Kingdom Cards Adept: Setup


I was initially disposed to like Adept. The layout is simple, elegant, and very readable. I like the clear icons, on the left of each row, to show which expansion the Kingdom card is in. I like the coin, on the right of each row, to show how much each card costs. And I like the color coding, to indicate which type of card it is (Victory, Treasure, etc).

My favorite feature is the Setup display. It shows how many Victory, Treasure, Curse, etc cards you need to go with your chosen Kingdom cards. Additionally, it shows the correct quantity of cards for a 2 player game up through a 6 player game. This is a really nice feature, to make it easy to not only pick Kingdom cards but to quickly know how else you need to set up your chosen game.


Visually, this is my favorite app out of the three, but it has a fatal flaw. The app will show you which card to put in your game, but it doesn't show any information about what the card is or what game features it enables or disables. Unless you have all of the cards memorized (and I don't), you'll feel like you're picking blindly. That lack of information makes this app a no-go for me.

Dominion Deck Builder

DeckBuilder: Choosing Expansions DeckBuilder: Chosen Cards DeckBuilder: Setup DeckBuilder: Card View DeckBuilder: Card FAQ


Based solely on app descriptions, this would be my favorite app — it's the only one to have both an iPhone and an iPad version. The interface is gorgeous, with plenty of high quality artwork taken directly from Dominion. You start by scrolling through a list of expansions and choosing which ones to use to generate your Kingdom.

Once you've generated a Kingdom, you can scroll through the chosen cards and see each one represented as a high quality image, along with which expansion it's found in. At the bottom, you can see the required setup for this game, complete with whatever token pieces, trade route pad, treasure cards, etc are needed. The information is very useful and the graphics make it absolutely clear what you're looking for.

Finally, you can view close ups of each card, to review how it works. If you tap on the card, you get a text description of the card and all of the minutia about how it can and can't be used. Tapping on the text takes you back to the card view. The "Done" button will return you to the list of all cards and the "Change" button will immediately swap the card for another randomly chosen card.


Dominion Deck Builder does have two drawbacks. It has limited support for configuring how your Kingdoms are randomly generated. You can choose which expansions to draw from. You can choose to always add Reaction cards if the Kingdom includes Attack card. You can choose certain card types to exclude all together. Finally, you can choose to track cards so that cards that have been chosen for one game won't be chosen again in a future randomly generated game. This can help you play through the various Kingdom cards and have a chance to experience everything at least once.

It's also hard to browse and find saved Kingdoms. The app comes preconfigured with all of the recommended Kingdoms from each expansion. These are presented in one giant list, alphabetically ordered. There's no way to view just Kingdoms from a particular expansion or just my custom Kingdoms. In fact, my custom Kingdoms are mixed in with the rest, making it hard to find them and zero in on my favorites, unless I remember their individual names.

Dominion Vault

DominionVault: New Kingdom DominionVault: Card Details DominionVault: Card FAQ DominionVault: Advanced Options


This app frustrates me. It's both the ugliest app out of the three and the most powerful app of the three. It opens immediately, to a randomly generated Kingdom. The display packs a lot of information. The far left side of each row shows an icon representing the expansion the card is found in. The middle shows the name of the card and the cost. The right side shows the type of card. The splashes of color on the left and right sides further serve to indicate which type of card this is. The setup section, at the bottom, tells you if you need any extra cards or pieces for this game.

You can tap on a row to lock it. If you do, you'll see a lock icon, in between the card type and the right pointing arrow. This is useful if you like part of a generated Kingdom but not the entire thing. You can quickly tap to lock the rows that you do like, then hit the refresh button to replace the rest with randomly generated replacements. Doing this will allow you to iteratively construct a deck that you do like.

You can tap on the right arrow to view more information about the card. All of the essential information from the actual Kingdom card is included. Additionally, you can press the FAQ button to view more detailed information about the card, including when it can and can't be used and exactly how it can be used.

The real strength of Dominion Vault is in the Advanced settings. You can choose which types of cards to include, require games to include cards that have extra Buys or extra Actions, and play with or without Alchemy specific rules. You can also track cards so that Kingdom cards aren't reused between games and you can choose how Black Market decks are generated.


Unfortunately, this app has almost as many things that I don't like as it does things that I do like.

Low Quality Graphics — The overall problem is that none of these graphics appear to be retina quality. The icons representing each expansion are very fuzzy and can make it hard to tell which expansion a given card comes from. The icons for Intrigue, Prosperity, and Hinterlands are particularly bad. The graphics representing the refresh button and options button are similarly fuzzy and low quality.

Hard to Use — When viewing the Kingdom, you have the option of tapping to lock a card or tapping to view detailed information about the card. Unfortunately, the default tap locks the card. Tapping anywhere in the row activates the lock. In order to view card information, you have to tap directly on the right arrow. This is not as easy as it should be and makes it harder than necessary to view card details. I'd prefer to have the behavior switched around so that tapping anywhere in the row shows card details and tapping on the right side locks the card. (And heaven help you if you try to tap the uppermost right arrow, miss, and hit the refresh button instead. You'll suddenly get an entirely new set of cards.)

Boring — The app doesn't have any graphics directly from Dominion. Instead of nice looking representations of each card we get bland textual descriptions. Sure, the information is there, but it's not attractively presented. The app also doesn't support many swipe gestures. It would seem natural to swipe up or down, to move between cards in a Kingdom. It would likewise seem natural to swipe left or right to toggle between the card details and the card FAQ. Instead, you are forced to navigate solely through button presses.


I'm torn between Dominion Deck Builder and Dominion Vault more than I should be. I like the options available in Dominion Vault. It appears to be the app that would generate the best decks. But it's very hard to overlook the poor quality graphics and the usability problems. They really make the app seem cheap. If Dominion Vault had crisper icons (like the ones from Adept) that would help a lot. I'd also recommend making the individual rows larger (for easier tap targets) and finding a way to make it easier to view card details while still keeping the lock feature accessible.

I love the graphics in Dominion Deck Builder. That, combined with the iPad app, makes this the best looking of the three and the one that serves as the best companion to an actual on-going game. I'd like to see more advanced options for generating games and better organization options for saved decks. Give me that and I think this app would be about perfect.

I'm leaning towards using Dominion Vault to generate my Kingdoms and Dominion Deck Builder to save the Kingdoms, view them, and see setup details for each game. Preferably one of these two apps will step up and make the necessary improvements so that I can be completely happy with either one.

This entry was tagged. Review iPhone

Sprint to Get iPhone 5

Sprint to Get iPhone 5 →

Sprint Nextel Corp. will begin selling the iPhone 5 in mid-October, people familiar with the matter said, closing a huge hole in the No. 3 U.S. carrier's lineup and giving Apple Inc. another channel for selling its popular phone.

… Sprint will also carry the iPhone 4, starting at the same time, one person familiar with the situation said.

Nice. My contract is up for renewal in July. I wonder if Sprint would give me an early upgrade option before then?

Alternate link for the poor benighted souls that can’t read the WSJ online.)

This entry was tagged. Apple Iphone Sprint

What Makes the iPhone Work

Gruber, on why the iPhone is so successful:

One obvious but wrong answer would have been for Apple to start with a phone. That's what most companies in the mobile handset industry have done and it's led them to a dead end. The problem is that while successful complex systems evolve from simple systems that work, not every simple system that works can support additional complexity. It's not enough just to start simple, you have to start simple with a framework designed for future evolution and growth.

Consider that none of the major new features in the iPhone OS 3.0 software is related to the telephone. MMS comes closest, but even that doesn't pertain to phone calls. The "phone" in "iPhone" is much more about ubiquitous always-on wireless TCP/IP networking than it is about the 20th century conception of telephony.

And that's the main reason I'd like an iPhone. Always-on internet access, anytime, (almost) anywhere -- and it fits in my pocket.

This entry was tagged. Apple iPhone