How the tech duopoly killed the headphone jack

The real consequences of 'vertical integration'

A guillotine.
(Image credit: Illustrated | erllre/iStock, Andrea Colarieti/iStock, DickDuerrstein/iStock)

The reviews are in and they are almost universal: Apple's new AirPods Pro are great. And why wouldn't they be? Despite many flaws in the original AirPods — poor fit and mediocre sound quality, to name a couple — they quickly became the most popular headphones in the world. All Apple had to do was make some obvious changes and apply their considerable engineering talent and, presto, they have another hit.

It's not just engineering quality and design that has millions of people ready to pony up a full $250 for the new earbuds, though. Rather, despite not being quite as good as some competing models from Sony or even Amazon, the AirPods are like all Apple products: they work best with other Apple products — pairing quickly, activating Siri, and so on. It's convenient — and perhaps all a little bit too neat. Apple removed the headphone jack from their phones, ostensibly to make thinner devices, and then released expensive wireless buds that yet again take advantage of the walled garden of Apple. Now the iPhone 11 phones are out, thicker than last year's model, and the AirPods Pro are the perfect match for your $1,000 phone.

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