A few weeks ago the annual rumor of Apple removing 3.5 mm headphone jacks from the next version of the iPhone started up again. It's probably not a question of if that'll happen, but more a matter of when. And certainly Apple isn't the only electronics company to look at getting rid of that legacy connector. Maybe it'll lead the way. Maybe it'll follow and do things a little differently and a lot better.
And it's an interesting conversation on the Android side of things as well. It's certainly possible from a technological standpoint — hell, we saw HTC try it with with an ExtUSB port in the Windows Mobile-era Touch Diamond. That's a world away, though. We're now in early days of USB-C, which opens up additional possibilities.
I could speculate all I want, but I don't make phones for a living. So I asked some folks who do about this sort of transition.
Getting rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack is possible, but still just one piece of the puzzle.
Huawei, one of China's top smartphone manufacturers and in the top 5 or so worldwide, thinks getting rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack certainly is a possibility, especially now that manufacturers are moving to the USB-C standard.
"The main reason for this is that since Type C already processes the functionality of charger, peripherals driver, and audio and video player," Huawei's Changzhu Lee, Vice President of smartphone product line, told me by e-mail. (Huawei's Nexus 6P is one of the first Android phones to move to USB-C.) "The 3.5mm headphone jack becomes redundant, unless users need to connect an external USB hard drive to the phone while listening to music via headphone."
Getting rid of the 3.5mm jack probably won't mean we'll be going all-Bluetooth, either, Nextbit's Eric Lin (previously of HTC) told me. In addition to power and audio quality concerns, "wired headphones are much cheaper to produce. And for now, many users (especially outside North America) expect a headset with a new phone." Nextbit's first phone, the Robin, includes a 3.5mm jack along with USB-C.
Losing the headphone jack would, of course, free up some space on the inside of the phone. That makes even thinner phones a possibility, though not a certainty. The port itself and accompanying board is just one part of that puzzle, of course.
"Removing the jack and the associated board would create a little more room inside a phone," Lin said. "Not a ton, but it is significant." He added that we're still likely to see digital-to-analog converters on the phone and not left for headphone manufacturers to deal with. Huawei's Lee agreed and hit on another key word in removing redundant modules — flexibility.
"Removing the headphone jack would definitely provide more flexibility in the spatial distribution and thickness of the phone," Lee said, "as it is the thickest peripheral part of the phone."
So it's certainly possible. And definitely not a question of if, but rather when. It'll be a big leap in any event. And a wake-up call for those who like to charge and listen to music at the same time, maybe. But more important is that the folks making the phones already have been thinking about this for a while now.
A few other thoughts on the week that was ...
- Star Wars. Go see it. I mostly managed to stay away from spoilers. And even the one I did run into didn't ruin the experience at all. I wanted more.
- You know that move dudes do when they're looking away and fidgeting with something to make sure nobody notices that something just got in their eye? Yeah. That happened a few times.
- That part when [redacted] reaches for the [redacted]? (The part toward the middle, not the end.) You coulda heard a pin drop in my theater. That was cool.
- All the nerd-bros bro'ing on the way out was fun to listen to, too.
- Yes, I'm going again. Taking the kids this time.
- Jerry kills me.
- One week left to vote in our year-end awards. Go do it!
That's it for this week. Gotta go find time to see Star Wars again. Pixel C review drops Monday. See y'all then.