There have been rumours for a while now that for next iPhone, apparently in a bid to make it even thinner, Apple are going to lose the headphone socket; instead, headphones will connect via the Lightning port.

As with any Apple rumour, there are plenty of bloggers and podcasters as well as professional journalists throwing in their opinions, speculation, anonymous sources and so on.

Here's the thing I don't understand about the rumour though. Suppose that its true, and this is a big change lined up for the next iPhone (ie. the iPhone 7 form factor), then it will have been in the works since the iPhone 6 design was finished.

Apple sells its own headphones. It also owns the Beats headphones brand.

Today, it isn't possible to buy a Lightning-connected set of headphones from Apple, or from Beats. New headphones from Beats designed for on-the-go usage retailing for over £100 that were launched in September 2015 still used the 3.5mm socket. There are much more expensive headphones being sold by Apple (not just 3rd party headphones on the shelves in Apple stores) that will be incompatible with a lightning-only iPhone.

So I'm expected to believe that Apple have designed, built and shipped a pair of headphones, selling for over £100, which are expected to become obsolete within 12 months for anyone buying the next iPhone?

It seems to me that if this were the plan, the first thing Apple would do would be to start designing and selling lightning-enabled headphones on their premium Beats headphone lines, with a story about how a digital socket enables better audio quality than the 3.5mm analogue stereo jack from the 1970s (introduced for the Sony Walkman in 1979, adapted from a 3.5mm mono jack that was already in use.) They would also be selling Apple-branded wireless headphones for the lower price points - perhaps introducing Lightning as an audio-enabled charging solution. (Worth noting that the iPad Pro pencil, Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard all now charge over a Lightning connection.) Basically, they would have started transitioning users away from needing the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Meanwhile, they would be preparing users to be able to use the Lightning port for headphones. The latest Macbook model launched last March (which includes a 3.5mmm headphone jack) would either also have a lightning jack, or would have dropped the headphone jack and expect users to have a wireless connection, (as would the revised Macbook Air and Macbook Pro models; the lifetime of those machines mean that users would be expected to be using lightning-connected headphones with their iPhone 7 while also owning one of those laptops.)

But no — nothing that Apple are doing indicates any sort of expectation that people will be using a different kind of headphone connection in the forseeable future.

I expect that Apple might well be planning on this — or even expecting that some future iPhone will drop the 3.5mm socket. But I will be very surprised if its something that happens in 2016. Apart from anything else, the iPhone 6s is 7.1mm thick — but the iPod Touch (at 6.1mm) and iPod Nano (at 5.4mm) still have room for a 3.5" headphone socket. There is quite a bit of space to shave off before the socket becomes a limiting factor for the iPhone's thickness.