I have a genius idea that I’m sure Apple considered and then rejected: build a headphone jack into the carrying case. When it’s plugged in, the case becomes a Bluetooth audio transmitter for anything, including (especially) airplane infotainment terminals. Heck, set it up with a double tap of the pairing button to put it into receiving mode so you can use it as a Bluetooth bridge to get audio to your old car stereo.
I can easily guess why Apple didn’t make this very simple tweak: it’s not the future, which is wireless. It wouldn’t be "courage" to make an accommodation to the very real fact that we still need to use the 3.5mm jack. It’s definitely not elegant or simple.
And yes, it would probably be a bad experience for some people: the thing about not being tethered by a wire is that it means you sometimes walk too far away. How many people would plug their charging base into their home stereo and then get mad that the audio sucks when they get out of range?
Still, though: I would be radically more likely to buy and use the AirPods if I knew I could use them with more things, things that I cannot (or will not) pair them to. If I could use them in the same way that I use by Bose on-ear headphones: usually via Bluetooth, but with a small cable when I really need it.
Anyway, maybe it’s a dumb idea. But it’s not the worst idea, I think. It would be a way to give users a helping hand as into this Brave — Courageous — New World without wires. It would maybe mean customers could have one less dongle to carry around or not need to carry a backup pair of headphones.
Reasonable people are not happy about the lack of a headphone jack on the iPhone — but look at it from the other direction. If you’re an AirPod user, suddenly your headphones can’t work with anything they’re not paired to. That kind of sucks, too.
If Apple is making us use dongles, I guess I wouldn’t mind if one of them was was wireless. I would love it if the AirPod case had a headphone jack.
Update! This is the bloggiest thing I've written in awhile so I'm going to be even bloggier and update it right away. If you're not clear what I mean, imagine this thing, but with AirPods. A Bluetooth bridge, basically. Also, yes, as John Gruber points out on Twitter, I mean a female headphone port, not a headphone jack. But I guess I don't know anybody who says "headphone port."