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Apple Lightning VS 3.5mm Headphones: How Do They Differ

Apple Lightning VS 3.5mm Headphones: How Do They Differ


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Apple Lightning VS 3.5mm Headphones: How Do They Differ

Carrie Tsai April 16, 2020

Apple Lightning VS 3.5mm Headphones: How Do They Differ

By Carrie Tsai,  Last Updated: April 16, 2020TIPS

Back in 2016, when Apple launched the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, it has cut ties with the antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack, which made everyone frothing at the mouth. Since then, all the following iPhone series only keep the Lightning connectors for audio output, causing the prevalence of Apple Lightning EarPods and other Lightning headphones.

Nowadays, the vast majority of iPhone users utilize the Apple Lightning-enabled headphones for wired audio receiving. For those who prefer to use earphones with 3.5mm audio plug, they still have to connect the earphones to their iPhones with the help of a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter.

But the point is - why Apple got rid of the legacy 3.5mm audio plug technology? Compared with headphones with 3.5mm headphone jack, what's the difference of the Apple Lightning-compatible headphones? And what's good about the Lightning connection? All the questions are going to be answered. Just keep your reading.

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones

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Why Did Apple Remove 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Apple's decision to get rid of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack isn't all that impetuously crazy. According to Apple's official statement, the shift from 3.5mm to Lightning ports in earphones was impelled by several reasons. But all for making the iPhones better. Let's have a look at the reasons.

Reason 1. For Thinner iPhones

Apple's removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack was partly motivated by the increasing requirement of thinner iPhones. On the one hand, the 3.5mm headphone port itself on the iPhone isn't flat but round, which makes the thinner iPhone impossible. On the other hand, the headphone jack on the iPhone works by the operation of the circuitry inside the phone which also occupies space, making the iPhone bigger and thicker.

Therefore, removing the 3.5mm headphone hack as well as the circuitry inside the iPhone can make the iPhone become thinner and smaller, which follows the trend of lightness on the current mobile phone market.

Reason 2. Make Room for Better Parts Inside the Phone

For the iPhone, it seems that the antiquated 3.5mm headphone jack was something that wasn't applied extremely often but indeed occupied much space. Hence, removing the 3.5mm jack can vacate more room for better stuff inside the iPhone such as battery and speaker. Extra space for bigger battery capacity is propitious to enhancing battery life of the iPhone.

Reason 3. For Better Water-Proofing Performance

It's the fact that the existence of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone made the iPhone more susceptible to water. After all, the headphone jack on the phone is a big round hole by which the water can easily infiltrate into the phone, causing phone breakdown. Therefore, Apple's removal of the 3.5mm port helps with the improvement of iPhone's water-proofing performance.

In short, Apple's decision to switch from 3.5mm headphone jack to Lightning connector for audio output was mainly motivated by the requirement of thinner iPhones, more room for better stuff as well as better water-resistant performance. And it seems that the Apple Lightning connection is a better choice for headphones used for the iPhones than the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.

But why saying that headphones utilizing Apple lightning port work better with iPhone than those with 3.5mm audio jack? The following is going to explore the reasons by figuring out the differences between them and making comparison. Let's take a look.

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Port

The most noticeable difference between these two kinds of earphones lies in the ports. The port on the Apple Lightning headphones has a flat and short square shape which particularly and perfectly matches with the square Lightning connector on the Apple devices. As for the 3.5mm headphone jack on the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphones, it is round and comparatively long.

Headphones utilizing the 3.5mm headphone jack cannot directly connect to the iPhone series after the iPhone 7. They can connect to the iPhone only with the help of the 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapters. In this way, it's the Apple Lightning headphones that can directly and more easily connect to the iPhone.

Apple Lightning Port VS 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Audio Output

Another difference between these two types of headphones rests in the difference in the way of audio output. The Lightning port on the Apple Lightning headphones is a digital adaptive interface which only supports digital audio signal output. As to the 3.5mm headphone jack, it only supports analog audio signal output.

Actually, we human's ears can only hear analog audio signals. Therefore, in order to acquire analog audio signals which can be heard directly by human ears, the Apple Lightning headphones are equipped with a built-in digital-to-analog-converter (DAC) which can convert the acquired digital audio signals to analog audio signals.

DAC Converter

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Audio Quality

What makes iPhone users interest most towards these two kinds of headphones is their audio quality. In fact, the audio quality of the two kinds is largely effected by their ports as well as the ways of audio output.

As mentioned earlier, the Apple Lightning earphones have their built-in digital-to-analog converters. Also, they have their own amplifiers. This means that they are capable of bringing higher audio quality. This is because they don't have to rely on the analogue circuitry inside the iPhone, but use their higher quality built-in DAC converters and amplifiers which result in the optimization of audio quality such as better noise cancellation and deeper and more full sound.

On the contrary, traditional headphones with the 3.5mm headphone jack only support direct analog audio output, which means that they have to rely on the analogue circuitry inside the iPhone. This will lead to audio quality distortion and poor audio quality.

Moreover, when using headphones with 3.5mm headphone jack to listen to the music on your iPhone, you're in need of a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter which will inevitably reduce the audio signal and audio quality.

Another reason why the Apple Lightning-compatible headphones produce better audio quality than the 3.5mm ones lies in the difference in the audio sampling rate of their connected ports on the iPhone. The headphones with 3.5mm audio plug can only get up to 24-bit/48kHz audio from the 3.5mm headphone port on the iPhone. However, if you use the Apple Lightning headphones, you're able to acquire up to  24Bit/192KHz hi-res audio from the Lightning socket on the iPhone.

Furthermore, the improved audio quality of the Apple Lightning earphones is also attributed to the Lightning connection. Headphones utilizing Lightning port can employ power from the iPhone via the Lightning cable, causing increased amplification, better sound as well as better noise cancellation.

In brief, in terms of audio quality, it's the Apple Lightning headphones that outperform greatly.

Apple Lightning EarPods

Apple Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones: Manufacturing

In terms of manufacturing, the two types of headphones are produced with different levels of quality requirements. As to the Lightning headphones, with the exception of Apple's original Lightning EarPods, other Lightning headphones from third parties must strictly pass Apple's MFi certification in order to successfully enter into the market.

That means all the Lightning headphones are developed and produced in accordance with Apple's relevant technical specifications of both hardware and software such as the original Lightning port and the original smart chip of Apple's original EarPods. Hence, the Lightning headphones themselves as well as the audio they transmit have the quality more close to Apple's original EarPods.

By contrast, headphones with the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack are ubiquitous in the market for many years. Headphone manufacturers, whether big or small, are free to produce their 3.5mm headphones without having to achieve production quality standards. That being said, the quality of a large number of 3.5 mm earphones cannot be guaranteed. Choosing a reliable one seems very difficult.

Lightning Headphones VS 3.5mm Headphones


In the current market, the vast majority of iPhone users use the Apple Lightning headphones for wired audio receiving. After all, compared with the antiquated headphones with 3.5mm headphone jack, Apple Lightning headphones are more reliable to iPhone with perfectly-matched port, better audio quality as well as product quality.

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About Author

Carrie Tsai is part of team Neway and is always actively to share her ideas of Neway. She enthusiastically dives each day into the depths of the mobile interconnection industry waiting for new cool stuff to be shared with you and her team.


Neway, is the right person of white label. We are professional manufacturer in OEM & ODM for mobile phone. And we have our designer and QC team, so, we can fulfill your most demand in styles and quality.

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