Headphone Jacks

There has been quite a bit of talk about the move from having a lightning cable and a headphone jack to doing away entirely with the headphone jack and moving to some other standard on the next iPhone. The idea being you can reduce weight, increase water resistance and use that space for something else entirely.

That would then be replaced by an adapter for your old headphones and a dongle of some sort or you’d switch to using bluetooth headphones.

There have been quite a few exploits against Bluetooth in the past but it’s generally gotten much better. I do, however remember when I saw the Lookout team hacking phones from a mile away with their bluetooth sniper rifle (see the photo I took above). Things have gotten better, yes, but I’m unwilling to claim they’re perfect. As a force of habit I always make sure to disable bluetooth though for several reasons.

  • Bluetooth uses power and battery life, when you’re dependent upon mobile, is paramount.
  • Bluetooth sends information about the device name, which often includes your first name “Tom’s iPhone”. This can be changed but it’s still not great in this heightened age of casual surveillance by retailers as you walk by. I used a similar attack to gather information about criminals as they transited areas that were under tight control.
  • Most importantly, I have no way of knowing what sort of vulnerabilities might be remaining that have not yet been found or disclosed. Turning off Bluetooth guarantees it can’t be abused and since Bluetooth is a proximity based attack, turning it off when you leave your home is actually a decent defense for most people.

I’m all about pulling the plug on old technologies and getting on with life. Even if it does mean proprietary protocols and additional costs, I’m okay with that premise because other manufacturers still allow cheaper backwards compatible options as well. But I do give pause when someone implies wireless technologies are safe. Only time will tell.

But if there is a vulnerability in the chip, say, are we no longer able to safely use our headsets in a Bluetooth only world? It almost seems like Apple might be painting itself into a corner.

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Robert Hansen

Robert is an executive with a smart phone. Trying to tackle the big meaty problem of mobility, in the modern world where content and creativity are requirements of a job well done.