I love having a headphone jack on my phone. Even though I don't actually use it every day (love my Bluetooth headphones), I sure do miss it in the couple times a week when I encounter a 3.5 mm audio cable that I'd like to plug into my phone and I simply can't do it. When I use the Pixel 2 XL, HTC U11, Essential Phone or the various iPhones owned by my family, I don't carry around an adapter to let me plug in that headphone cable. Yet when I want to listen to something privately, or plug into my car stereo, or hook up to a friend's speaker, that's still the universally expected way to get it done.
Saying, "Oh here's how you pair the Bluetooth on it" isn't a fast or easy way to get the audio out of my phone and into the thing sitting right in front of me. Even with NFC pairing or Google's new "fast pairing" method going forward, nothing beats plugging a piece of metal into a port in terms of simplicity. USB-C audio shows promise, but we're so early in its development — with clear standards battles still to be fought — that we're years away from its ubiquity. Even though it's an "old" analog technology, the headphone jack still has plenty of use in 2017 (and beyond). It's worth fighting for as a standard port on consumer electronics like phones, laptops and tablets.
But the question is, how much longer do we continue to complain about the lack of a headphone jack before we realize it's a lost cause and an irreversible trend?
As soon as Apple released the iPhone 7, the stage had been set for high-end phones to come without a headphone jack on them. Motorola, HTC, Google and many others have now followed suit. Though none of the companies have been able to give us a real, solid, user-focused reason for the removal of the port, it's a clear win for each and every one of them. Even though the margins are small, it's one less component in each phone, one less point of failure, one less gap of entry for water and dust, one less weak point in the increasingly thin frame of the phone ... and one more way to sell you new headphones and speakers, of course.
Samsung and LG are the increasingly rare exceptions, at least for now. Every phone they each sell still comes with a headphone jack. Samsung uses that fact to take digs at the competition for easy marketing wins, while LG uses it as a differentiator and doubles down on it with a high-quality DAC in its top-end phones. There's a good argument, however, that Samsung is selling phones with the headphone jack as a tiny part of the overall sales driver, and LG ... well, it isn't really selling many phones in either case.
The companies, it seems, are in the power position here. With a majority of new high-end phones being announced without a headphone jack, it sure doesn't seem like any of them are interested in changing their tune in a response to our complaints. It seems no matter how loud we are, it isn't a big enough issue to dissuade us entirely from buying a phone without a headphone jack — particularly as our number of options for phones with the jack is decreasing. And just like physical keyboards, removable batteries and SD card slots have turned into features that are either niche or dead entirely, it seems the headphone jack will follow suit.
I'm not quite done complaining about the lack of a headphone jack on new phones. But I'm getting pretty damn tired of it, and am coming to the realization that nobody who has any influence on these products is listening at this point. I'm ... nearing defeat.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.