From the Editor's Desk: Sorry, the headphone jack isn't coming back

Galaxy Note 10+ and Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 10+ and Galaxy Note 9 (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Throughout the process of writing the Galaxy Note 10+ review, from our initial first impressions updates to publishing my final definitive version, it was extremely interesting to see just how little outcry there was regarding the loss of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Be it in the article comments, in our forums, or on Twitter, people had plenty to say about everything ... except the physical audio interface.

Perhaps the headphone jack mourners got out all of their frustration a couple weeks ago when the phone was announced and have shifted to acceptance. Or perhaps, there's a more likely explanation: most people just don't care that much about the headphone jack.

Sure we'd all prefer to have a headphone jack, but you have to see the reality of the situation.

Sure everyone would prefer to have a headphone jack in their phone. When viewed in a vacuum, not taking into consideration the complexities of making a phone that companies have to face, there's no downside to having the port. It's still a useful and completely ubiquitous audio interface. The 3.5 mm jack ends up being the lowest common denominator for getting audio into whatever sort of headphones, speaker, entertainment center, car stereo or other device you need to connect to.

My friend MrMobile makes some great points in his review regarding the headphone jack's usefulness for content creators. They're the people who want to plug in wired microphones for video capture, and also then use no-latency wired headphones for editing. They're probably also the crowd that will appreciate the bump in audio quality from a wired connection.

I'm not at all questioning the usefulness of the headphone jack for some applications. I'm questioning just how many people actually care, and whether that would ever be enough for a company to actually bring a headphone jack back.

The lack of a headphone jack isn't a deal-breaker for not buying the Note 10 or 10+.

The lack of a headphone jack isn't a deal-breaker for not buying the Galaxy Note 10+, nor is it something important enough for most people keep making noise about on any phone. Seeing the way that people choose to buy phones, and how even the most diehard of smartphone enthusiasts discuss them, it's clear that in people's hierarchy of needs when buying a phone the headphone jack is several positions down the list — underneath price, display, cameras, software features, battery life, design and so much more.

Fact is that whether you have a headphone jack available or not, there are many compelling reasons to just go wireless — and most people have. Bluetooth headphones, even cheap ones, are really good — and if you're willing to spend, they're great. You can find a Bluetooth speaker at every single birthday party, barbecue, get-together, beach day or whatever other gathering you're at. Most cars made in the last 10 years have Bluetooth in their stereo systems. Same goes for A/V receivers in home theaters.

Certain people will never be satisfied with wireless, but that group is smaller every year.

Yes Bluetooth has its own problems, but it's reaching the same level of ubiquity, for most people, as the "old" 3.5 mm jack. And of course, wired connections have their own problems. Getting tangled up in cords, having your phone yanked out of your hand or pocket as you walk down the street, and breaking your headphone jack or the headphones' cord are all things that can easily happen.

It's not as though a 3.5 mm connection is free from issues and a perfect audio solution. Different situations call for different audio interfaces, and they each have their trade-offs. And y'know what? If it really comes down to it, you're never completely out of luck — you can just use a USB-C to headphone adapter.

Perhaps the biggest reason to stop the complaints about the headphone jack is that it just ... isn't coming back. Just like the removable battery, the physical home button and so many other hardware features, we're past the point of no return with the headphone jack. Nowhere near enough people have shown the propensity to make a buying decision based on the headphone jack for companies to prioritize keeping it in the phone — let alone adding it back in.

Hate to have to break it to you, but it's the reality of the situation. The headphone jack is gone from phones, and it isn't coming back — and we'll all be okay, I'm certain of it.


Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.