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6 min read 85 Shares 26 comments

Do you still need a headphone jack on your smartphone?

Apple caused quite a stir earlier in the year when it removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but it's not the only company to turn its back on the humble connector. Is this the end for the 3.5 mm headphone socket? Will phones still offer them next year? Does it even matter?

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Before we go any further, it's really, really likely that the answer to 'does it matter if we lose the 3.5 mm headphone port' is going to be a highly subjective one. If you use wired headphones every day, it's going to be tough to convince you that you don't need that socket anymore.

As already mentioned, and is often the case, Apple may have popularized this trend, but it doesn't own the jack-less smartphone space alone. It wasn't even the first; Lenovo dropped it from the Moto Z and LeEco also has a number of phones that don't offer the once-standard headphone port. There are rumors that the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 won't have one either, so it's not a move that I'd expect to see reversed in the long-run either.

AndroidPIT Moto Z Daydream 2108
You can do lots of things with the Moto Z, but plugging in 3.5 mm headphones isn't one of them. / © ANDROIDPIT

Ultimately, I'd expect all phones to ditch the port in favor of USB Type-C (or Lightning, in Apple's case), though it could take a while for the cheaper brands and models to make the jump. They will though, because using USB-C as a unified port for all your needs makes sense for the companies making the handsets, and it makes even less sense for Apple to keep it, as its previous use of a proprietary connector means it'll make millions from people buying connectors and adaptors, which they'll then lose and need to replace. 

It's a slightly unfriendly way to treat your customers, but while Apple devotees might think the company is there to solve the world's problems, it's actually just a company that's really good at making money, and removing the headphone jack is going to make Apple a bunch more money. It's the same deal with the nearly $200 Bluetooth AirPods too, when you lose one (or both), you'll be replacing it. 

For Android, the situation is a little different - can you think of a smartphone maker that also makes wireless Bluetooth headphones? - because the potential for direct profit isn't as clear. Android phones have previously used standard connections (mostly), so there's no single company that's going to see a huge uptick in the sale of adaptors. There's no direct profit from removing it (aside of the potential - and likely minuscule - cost savings from not including one) from Android phones.

The ultimate (in)convenience

That, however, doesn't answer whether we still need the humble headphone jack, and while the phone in your pocket probably says yes, I'm going to say you don't. 

Bluetooth headphones were my favorite tech item in 2014 and I recommended the TracksAir as my ideal Christmas Gift at The Next Web. I still wear the pair I reviewed over two years ago every day for the same reason I did then - they're the ultimate in convenience. You don't need to mess around with wires, you don't need to thread that cable down through your jacket or shirt to stop it getting caught in things. You just need to switch them on and hit play.

If you're a die-hard devotee to wired headphones, you're not going to agree or understand unless you've used a good set of Bluetooth headphones for a while but there's something that's just so much more convenient that it becomes indispensable. It's also pretty handy to be able to switch across to pairing with your TV for late-night gaming sessions without trailing a 10-foot cable across the room.

AndroidPIT Sennheiser PCX 550 0341
The quality of Bluetooth headphones has come along leaps and bounds in recent years, and the price has fallen significantly. / © AndroidPIT

Arguably, there are downsides to Bluetooth headphones - and therefore to losing the headphone jack. You need to charge them, for a start. Your trusty old wired cans never need you to remember to charge them before you want to use them, and it's true, you will need to charge your Bluetooth pair fairly regularly if you use them a lot. Your experience will vary depending on which headphones you have, but in my experience a 20-minute charge on the TracksAir will give a solid six hours or so of listening, and they'll charge to a maximum of 15 hours of use. 

And if you don't want to charge them, many can still be used as a normal pair of headphones. Yes that requires a 3.5 mm to USB-C (or Lightning, for Apple) adaptor, but you probably got one in the box with your new phone.

Growing pains

The change to wireless headphones won't be entirely smooth though. The 3.5 mm headphone port is an industry standard that's existed for 50 years and works interoperably across any device. Losing that is going to take some adjustment - and it's far, far more inconvenient for Apple users, as it still uses proprietary ports on other devices. That's not the technology's fault though, it's Apple's.

There's only one situation I can think of right now that I don't know how to fix with Bluetooth headphones, and that's sharing a device while listening or watching something with someone else. But again, reverting to the fallback of plugging them in with an adaptor and then a splitter would get the job done. 

It'd look stupid as hell and be the least 'futuristic' feeling experience you've had in a while, but really, how often do you use your phone like that? I've done it precisely once in the last two years, but the option still exists for the moments you need it. 

The future is wireless in every way, and holding on to an incredibly useful but inarguably old technology when Bluetooth is now cheap enough and performs well enough to replace it for the sake of a few rare moments just doesn't make sense to me. 

You might feel differently though.

Hate the demise of the headphone jack? Not sure what all the fuss is about? Let us know in the comments below!

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Readers' favorite comments

  • Deal Grabber 7 months ago

    Please stop calling it a headphone jack. It's a 3.5mm Auxiliary jack that can be use for more than just headphones. Add-on devices like Square card readers, external IR blaster and more use that port as an extra means to handle hardline data transfer securely.

    Removing it removes the ability to use external devices while also charging. If the 3.5mm port needs to go, fine. Replace it with an additional usb/lightning port so the device doesn't lose functionality in the process.

    Pre-emptive statement: a bluetooth payment card reader would be a security nightmare, hence the need for the hardline connection. Bluetooth gives up huge amounts of security in exchange for a quick connection.

26 comments

Write new comment:
  • Dean L. 7 months ago Link to comment

    Headphone jacks are overrated! Ugh, just used my wired headphones to make a call, worked great, then all I did was hangup and make a second call and they didn't work. Arrrgh! Switched to my LG Tone BT headset and was back in business. So the headphone jack is just another mechanical failure point on a device that sees a less than optimal environment. Just saying. Vent over.

  • How else am I going to plug in my headphones if I have no jack? No, I'm not going to buy a dongle!

  • Why don't they just put in a type c jack and a headphone jack too. It's not like they can not work together or something. Instead of including a 3.5mm audio headset in the box offer a type c earphone and people who prefer to use type c will be happy and also people who love the 3.5mm jack will be happy problem solved.

  • Dean L. 7 months ago Link to comment

    I use an LG Tone BT headset and love the freedom of no wires. Don't know how many times I have had my headphones yanked off my head due to the wire catching on something. So now let me address the BT device only pairs to one device, not true. I do it almost everyday. Pair the LG Tone to my phone for calls and to my tablet to play music or podcasts or YouTube viewing. Works exactly how it should and by that I mean when listening to content from the tablet and a call comes in, tablet pauses when I answer the call, and when I hang up the call the tablet content picks up right where I left off from it. So as far as BT being secure, IMO not so much. Don't get me wrong, I still use a wired headset to cause there are times when that is a better option for me. Just saying.

  • Warren JB 7 months ago Link to comment

    "Before we go any further, it's really, really likely that the answer to 'does it matter if we lose the 3.5 mm headphone port' is going to be a highly subjective one. If you use wired headphones every day, it's going to be tough to convince you that you don't need that socket anymore.
    If you're a die-hard devotee to wired headphones, you're not going to agree or understand unless you've used a good set of Bluetooth headphones for a while..."

    See now, the vibe I'm picking up here is that a stubborn, anti-progressive fear of change is being painted as the main hurdle for wireless earphones and their adoption by wired earphone users, but the first question that pops into my mind is something different:

    "Bluetooth headphones were my favorite tech item in 2014 and I recommended the TracksAir as my ideal Christmas Gift at The Next Web."

    TracksAir by Solrepublic, okay. Let's take a look at their wireless products: TracksAir, $200. Their cheapest wireless earphones, $80.

    Mmyep.

    Granted, the cheapest wireless earphones I can find after a quick google are a lot less than that, not very expensive at all. (Though it might be a case of 'you get what you pay for', I dunno) But then they're still not going to be as cheap and readily available as the phones that come bundled with the phone itself. Which kinda makes wireless earphones a moot point in this discussion unless, in the event of the extinction of the 3.5mm jack, bundled earphones are wireless rather than wired with a USB-C connector. (Not something I currently have strong opinions on, as long as there is some provision)

  • Dazzler 7 months ago Link to comment

    I think the loss of a port is worse than the loss of the Auxiliary jack.

    Most companies that removed the jack supplied an adapter with the device, but this doesn't solve the problem of listening to music whilst charging the device.

    There is also an increased chance of breaking the charging port as you walk with your headphones plugged into it. I believe Apple in particular want this to happen, as they don't have wireless charging, meaning you'd have to buy a new device if you break the charging port.

    Personally, if a new device came with 2 USB C ports instead of 1 and an Aux Jack I would be happy. But 1 port doesn't cut it for me. Same with laptops, I want more ports, not less!

  • Please stop calling it a headphone jack. It's a 3.5mm Auxiliary jack that can be use for more than just headphones. Add-on devices like Square card readers, external IR blaster and more use that port as an extra means to handle hardline data transfer securely.

    Removing it removes the ability to use external devices while also charging. If the 3.5mm port needs to go, fine. Replace it with an additional usb/lightning port so the device doesn't lose functionality in the process.

    Pre-emptive statement: a bluetooth payment card reader would be a security nightmare, hence the need for the hardline connection. Bluetooth gives up huge amounts of security in exchange for a quick connection.

  • joost 7 months ago Link to comment

    the untangling of the wires don't weigh up to the pairing of the BT every time when i switch devices.

    • Hi
      I disagree with that, how often do you switch to other devices is my thought.
      I turned to (android_user) Bluetooth because when traveling like I do a lot the wires are soooo irritating I bought the JBL E25BT and travel a lot more happier than before.
      But.... wires or Bluetooth. .. It stays a matter of choice and taste.
      peace ✌

  • Rakesh C. 7 months ago Link to comment

    it,s the best headphone but not use Iphone

  • Mark
    • Admin
    7 months ago Link to comment

    I just don't like to have to use Bluetooth all the time. When in public I want a headphone jack. Maybe it is just me, but I do not like to broadcasting all the time.

    • Hi
      What you mean " broadcasting" if your BT is connected to your device it does not pair to others. Maybe you should read your Manuel again about that.
      peace ✌

      • Mark
        • Admin
        7 months ago Link to comment

        I am fully aware how Bluetooth works and have read the manuals. Anything can be hacked into. It does not send a signal straight to your device it broadcast it 360 degrees. When you have your device "hidden" it is still sending signal to all devices around. The other devices are just told to not react to that signal because of the "hidden" communication. If someone alters their device to ignore that they can receive every bodies "hidden" signal. Yes it is supposed to be paired and I am sure there is away around that also. It is just the world we live in.

      • Dazzler 7 months ago Link to comment

        Personally I'm more worried about battery life, I've found streaming Spotify over BT uses about 10% battery per hour yet through wired headset it's about 1-2%.

        Of course each to their own, I like having both options on my devices but I understand that other people don't care as much about battery life or wires!

      • Mark
        • Admin
        7 months ago Link to comment

        That is also one reason I do not buy phones without removable batteries. It just take worrying about battery life out of the picture. Two extra batteries an external charger your set. 1 battery in your phone, 1 in your pocket, and one in the charger. I never worry about being low bat because I always have a spare.

      • Okay I get what you fear for
        Privacy.
        How about not using your phone at all any more. (joke)
        I mean u r afraid of someone hacking into BT but what about Big Brother Google and other data_miners in ALL apps u use?
        I would be more concerned about those if I were you instead of the tiny possibility when u r on a train station and on BT and there is someone try to hack your BT.
        Like just for example: some app like a compass_app. why would such app ask rights for unique phone_id and wants access to call%logs and contactlist?
        Rooting and xposed installed and there something like PMP (Google that) will give insight info about who tries to profile your life (style?) and protect you in a better way than using wires.
        peace ✌

      • Mark
        • Admin
        7 months ago Link to comment

        If you have a smart phone you have no or very little privacy is basically a given. You can limit the amount of data that they get by turning off the some of your setting. I also limit what data I put in my phone. No credit cards bank account any of that. It is up to you and you have to work at it to maintain a level of privacy.

      • You will in a couple years.

  • more choice is always better for everyone.
    leaving the headphone jack doesnt mean you cant use your bluetooth headphones. and if they break for some reason you can still use cheap wired headphones if you cant afford new bluetooth ones

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