Here's why OnePlus is getting rid of the headphone jack on the OnePlus 6T

OnePlus announced a USB-C variant of the popular Bullets V2 yesterday, and shortly thereafter, the company confirmed that it was getting rid of the headphone jack in its upcoming phone, the OnePlus 6T.

It's a particularly puzzling decision because just four months ago — during the OnePlus 6 unveil — OnePlus took several jabs at Google and Apple for getting rid of the headphone jack on their phones. In an interview with TechRadar confirming the move, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei said that it was the "right time" to do so:

We found 59% of our community already owned wireless headphones earlier this year - and that was before we launched our Bullets Wireless headphones.We're not doing it for the sake of doing it and because everyone else is. We believe now is the right time, as it'll benefit the majority of our users while keeping the downside low.

That logic is inherently flawed because even if a user invested in a pair of wireless headphones, that doesn't mean they've completed switched away from wired audio. Furthermore, if the responses to Pei's Twitter poll are any indication, a lot of OnePlus customers care about the headphone jack.

While the move doesn't make much sense considering OnePlus' "Never Settle" motto and its stance on the headphone jack even until four months ago, manufacturing factors outside of the company's control could have had a major role in the decision.

OnePlus doesn't have anywhere nearly the same amount of resources as Samsung, LG, or even Xiaomi, and as such it turns to OPPO for manufacturing and distribution of its phones. The company's main assembly line in Dongguan, China is part of a larger OPPO facility that manufactures the R15 and the F9.

OnePlus sources components from OPPO, and the R17 Pro doesn't have a 3.5mm jack.

OnePlus sources the internal components — including the display and camera modules — from OPPO, and although the OnePlus 6's external design is different to that of the R15 Pro, the internal layout is near-identical. With the OPPO R17 Pro eschewing the 3.5mm jack, it is possible OnePlus had to take a similar stance.

As we've seen from Nextbit, it's incredibly difficult for a new brand to make its foray into the smartphone segment and create a sustainable business. OnePlus simply wouldn't exist today if not for OPPO's supply chain, but the downside is that it is not fully in control of product-related decisions as it relies on OPPO for the components.

And while Pei cited battery life considerations, the removal of the 3.5mm jack is not enough to free up space for a significantly larger battery. The OnePlus 6T is likely to retain a similar design as the OnePlus 6, and the curved back doesn't allow for a larger battery unless OnePlus increases the overall thickness of the device — which it will not do. OnePlus is increasingly looking to differentiate its phones on the design front, and releasing a heavier device with a thicker chassis isn't in the best interests of the brand.

Don't hold out for a 4000mAh battery in the OnePlus 6T.

As such, we're not going to see a 4000mAh battery like the one on the POCO F1, and the only tangible gain from getting rid of the headphone jack would likely be a larger haptic motor. It is possible the OnePlus 6T will offer a marginally larger battery, but most of the improvements around battery life will stem from the software. The 6T will come with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, and the Adaptive Battery mode should go some way in boosting battery efficiency.

Monetary considerations could also have been a factor in the decision to get rid of the 3.5mm jack. OnePlus built its community around enthusiast users, but as the brand garners more mainstream attention, it is increasingly looking for ways to maximize profits. One way to do that is with accessories, and with the launch of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless and the USB-C Bullets v2, it's clear that the brand is turning to accessories to drive growth.

It's unlikely the removal of the 3.5mm jack will affect sales of the OnePlus 6T.

While OnePlus is still a niche manufacturer in the U.S. — where the unlocked market itself is minuscule — the company has made significant inroads into India and various markets in Europe in recent years.

OnePlus has an aggressive marketing campaign in India and is expanding its retail presence, both of which ultimately add to its overhead when selling phones in the country. And while a vocal minority of users will undoubtedly vent at the brand for getting rid of the 3.5mm jack, the decision is unlikely to hurt sales of the OnePlus 6T. After all, the introduction of a notch was derided four months ago, and OnePlus racked up over a million sales in just under a month of the device's debut.

Although OnePlus' phones aren't as affordable as they used to be, they still represent great value. For instance, the OnePlus 6's retail price of $529 is nearly half that of what the Galaxy Note 9 retails for in the U.S., and the OnePlus 6T will have significant upgrades in several areas.

The 6T will offer an in-display fingerprint sensor, and it is likely we may see three rear cameras, much like the R17 Pro. We could also see new color options and a smaller waterdrop notch that doesn't take up as much space at the top of the display. OnePlus will be hoping that the improvements will be more than enough to assuage potential buyers looking to pick up the OnePlus 6T, but with the brand attracting more and more mainstream buyers, that shouldn't be a problem.

For the rest of us, there's always POCO.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is Android Central's Senior Editor of Asia. In his current role, he oversees the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, networking products, and AV gear. He has been testing phones for over a decade, and has extensive experience in mobile hardware and the global semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.