Hello Headphone Jack, My Old Friend
You might be surprised to learn that the 3.5mm headphone jack, a ubiquitous feature of most electronic devices, is actually a piece of technology that’s been around since at least 1878. It’s a slim-fit version of the 6.35 quarter inch jack, which is still popular today with musicians and recording studios alike.
Think about that. In 1878 the Ottoman Empire was still a political force in the Middle East, Canada had existed as a country for less than a decade, and it was the first time New Mexico was linked to the rest of the U.S. via railroad.
But in the last two years, we’ve seen leading technology companies take the “courageous” step of removing this incredibly long-lasting piece of hardware from their headphones. It might be the beginning of a future that could very well be devoid of headphone jacks. But is having no headphone jack in this day and age really a deal breaker? Let’s take a look!
Okay Google, Why No 3.5mm Port?
Back in October 2016, Google ran promo videos for its Pixel phone with a tagline that read, “3.5mm headphone jack satisfyingly not new.” It was a joke directed at Apple, which had decided the headphone jack would no longer feature on their latest devices. And yet, a mere one year later, the Google Pixel 2 was announced with a surprisingly absent feature.
Yup, you guessed it – it didn’t have a headphone jack. So, what gives, Google?
In an interview with TechCrunch, Google Product Chief Mario Queiroz argued that the company wanted to create a simpler mechanical design path for future devices. In essence, Google hopes its next generation smartphones will be all-screen devices – no black bars around the edges, what are called bezels. And according to Queiroz, they needed to remove the headphone jack in order to achieve this eventual design. But, to help lessen the blow to 3.5mm fanboys and girls, Google released its Pixel Buds wireless ear buds with the latest version of its flagship smartphone. The Pixel 2 also ships with a USB-C headphone jack adapter, in case you wanted to keep your wired listening accessories.
A Deal Breaker for Some
Even though Google decided to do this early in the timeline of industry change on headphones, it could still very well be a deal breaker for some smartphone buyers over the next couple of years.
Bluetooth AUDIO Still sucks
Well first and foremost, Bluetooth technology still isn’t as good as wired devices for quality and reliability, despite good progress being made. Specifically, the problem comes from the way Bluetooth encodes audio: by taking lossless formats and encoding them a second time, it causes a decrease in quality.
According to Android Authority, Bluetooth handles 2017 audio in nearly exactly the same way as it did in 2004; almost nothing has changed at all.
Just take the Pixel Buds as an example. These Bluetooth equipped alternatives to wired headphones have been reviewed as cumbersome to pair with multiple devices, with poor sound quality for the price, and a lack of both solid bass and treble.
More options for wired cans
A second consideration is that Bluetooth headphones have a fairly lackluster array of purchase options while their wired cousins are replete with features.
Open or closed ear. Active or passive noise cancellation. Portable. Buds or headphones. Cheap or expensive. Focus on base or treble. Waterproof and built for active lifestyles. Studio quality. No reliance on batteries or charging. Reliable and robust.
You can truly find a pair of wired headphones to fit pretty much any activity that life throws your way. You never have to settle.
usb-c dongle hell
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, dongles are actually just the worst. In some ways, they feel like a scam by technology companies to silo their products and force consumers to spend more money for the privilege of being able to attach peripheries to their smartphones.
To be able to even buy a dongle, you need to first understand the jargon of male and female, Thunderbolt, USB-A/B/C, micro, mini and variety of other terms. Then, when you’ve finally picked up the right dongle for your headphones and plug it in, you’ve immediately lost the slick, smooth, and beautiful profile of your device to the obnoxious accessory now hanging from the bottom.
Are you ready to sacrifice your dignity by using one dongle to make functional another dongle, just so your phone can be that much thinner?
Great New Phones Do Have Headphone Jacks!
We are happy to report that despite Apple and Google’s best efforts, the age of the headphone jack isn’t over yet. If you have a pair of wired headphones that you absolutely love, and you refuse to be seen with a dongled phone, take a look at a smartphone that still supports the technology.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 both include the 3.5mm headphone jack, and all without a noticeably increase in thickness or decrease in screen size. The OnePlus 5T is also a great option. Soon, it will take courage to say “No!” to Bluetooth only smartphones. Are you ready to stand up for the 3.5mm headphone jack cause?
What do you think – is the headphone jack a deal breaker for you when purchasing a new phone? Let us know in the comments below.