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Where the funk are all the headphones that charge over USB-C?

I spend an ungodly amount of time searching for products to buy online — I am not complaining about that, it's a rare thing to get paid for being an obsessive shopper — and of the things I spend my off-hours hunting for, none have burned my patience and time like the hunt for Bluetooth headphones. No, I'm not an audiophile, not even close, but I am someone who refuses to leave home without headphones, and nothing is worse than being hours from home when that dreaded BATTERY LOW warning blares like an air raid siren.

I don't just want to charge my headphones on the go, I need to charge my headphones on the go, and the utter dearth of USB-C-charged headphones is driving me insane.

My pretties

Meet my "daily driver" headphones: the Bluedio A2 Bluetooth headphones. They're just OK sound and the controls aren't great, but I live with them for three reasons: they look cute as hell, they fit my head well, and they charge over USB-C. I bought them for $29 on a Lightning Deal, and since I haven't been able to find them on Amazon for the last few months consistently, I finally broke down and bought a backup pair on GearBest for $50 (opens in new tab) so that — heaven forbid — the first pair breaks, I will still have a pair to rely on.

It's impossible to even search for headphones that charge over USB-C.

I did this because I've searched for over 30 hours on pretty much every retailer I trust, and not only is it impossible to find another pair of headphones that looks decent, fit my small head, and charge over USB-C: it is impossible to even search for Bluetooth headphones that charge over USB-C. If you search for "Bluetooth headphones USB-C", you get a mix of cheapo wired USB-C headphones, some no-name earbuds, or $400 tanks (opens in new tab) that charge over USB-C. You'll also see tons of reasonably-priced, reasonably-sized headphones that still charge over Micro-USB.

There are a lot of reasons manufacturers can give for wanting to stick to Micro-USB, and in 2017, they might've even made sense, but less so in 2019:

  • Everyone still has Micro-USB cables to charge it with. Yeah, and I've got some mini USB cables banging around in a drawer, but that doesn't mean I want to dig out old cables to charge new headphones, especially since a pair of headphones tends to last me 2-4 years.
  • Using USB-C would just lead to confusion about charging/data profiles. Admittedly, USB-C can be a little daunting because USB-C can be used for both audio data and powering/charging a pair of headphones, and many USB-C-charged headphones on the market right now can't charge over Power Delivery chargers, only USB-C to USB-A cables. So long as you clearly state what your headphones support in their product listing and user manual, that's no reason not to use USB-C.
  • USB-C is too expensive to bother changing to yet. Again, a good pair of headphones can last years and years, and even if Micro-USB doesn't seem completely and utterly outdated right now — which it absolutely does — why would you force users to carry an extra charging cable for your headphones when their phones switched to USB-C two or three years ago?

The Bluetooth headphones market has been a race to the bottom for years already, and raising the price a few dollars to accommodate the more expensive USB-C port and charging/data profiles can seem like a non-starter, but consider how few USB-C-charged headphones are out here right now. Having USB-C can also help a pair of headphones stand out from the pack.

I need more of these

With more and more users looking to ditch the old Micro-USB and only carry one cable to charge phone and headphones alike, whether they're off for another day of schoolwork and side jobs or off on a vacation in some far-flung corner of the world, the industry needs to rise to the demand and move more headphones to USB-C. Finding USB-C-charged headphones you like shouldn't feel like winning the lottery, and so long as it does, I'll keep looking for diamonds in the rough, waiting for something to shine that doesn't cost a king's ransom.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

  • I don't think your reply really matters... Considering they already addressed the biggest issue that your link brings up: 200-400 dollar monsters. There's really only one listing in there that makes sense, and its STILL $55 bucks.... I wouldn't spend more than 20 on anything that's going to be used nearly non stop for 2-4 years, and tossed around in a bag. NOW though, with that... If I'm going to be strictly using it in one place nearly non stop... then yea, definitely INVEST in a nice high end pair. That's what I did with my selection of headphones... Have a decently higher end Audio Technica headphones for use at home, and a pair of decent quality yet cheap Bluetooth headphones for roaming around/at work.
  • Beyond that: if they charge over USB-C, they better also be able to handle audio over USB-C.
  • I would by no means consider that a requirement, at least as long as it has a 3.5mm jack on the headphones for when they die, which luckily most Bluetooth headphones still do.
  • I think it maybe should be a general requirement, especially if the idea is to get rid of the headphone jack everywhere. People will assume they can listen via USB C
  • B&W headphones
  • Good point, 3.5 headphone jacks are a dying breed.
  • May I suggest the OnePlus wireless bullets. They charge USB-C and sound really good. I think you may be pleased.
  • This seems like something beyond a first world problem.
  • It's definitely a first world problem
  • It's not. It's no different than wanting a rechargeable devices that doesn't require a proprietary charger.
  • No kidding. Word.
  • You took the words right out of my mouth.
  • First world tech problems. I mean seriously, what is so hard about keeping a micro usb cable around? Some people can be so lazy it boggles my mind.
  • Having to carry a second cable is a "tech problem"? What a lazy idiot. AC used to employ decent writers and now.... I don't even bother with the Podcast anymore.
  • No, the point is to travel and have the same charger cable for your laptop and cell phone. Micro-USB might as well be proprietary at this point.
  • I've already stopped buying anything without type c.
  • Nothing wrong at all. The world is full of nitpickers.
  • Exactly, I still use my Galaxy S7 so it doesn't bother me using micro USB.
  • I'm with you here, and I agree that there's no excuse to be releasing NEW models with anything but USB-C, but I think the case for "being able to carry only one cable" is overstated. I realize I'm not as mainstream in my habits, but who literally carries ONE cable? I have so many gadgets myself (not to mention my family's stuff) and am constantly switching locations, bags, cars, etc. I've gone to having a cable "bundle" in every bag & every car so I have at least one of each type. Even if I didn't have a variety of potential connectors needed, I'd have to have about 5 USB-C cables everywhere. I freaking hate the micro USB connector now and am slowly working it out of my lineup, but it's going to be a LONG migration.
  • I'm with her on this point. I only carry one cable because I like to have a light load. When I change phones (Android to iOS or iOS to Android), I change the cable I take to work and the one in my car. Not going to waste space carrying extra cables that I don't need.
  • Fair enough... I'd love to travel light, but the gadgets I actually use on a daily basis that require connecting/charging add up quick. My daily carry includes a Surface Laptop, iPad Pro 10.5, Note 9, iPhone 8+, Sony WH1000XM2, Plantronics Voyager Pro, and a portable hotspot. That's at least 4 different connector types and multiple gadgets I'd want to charge simultaneously. If my workload was lighter and I cut it down to just the phones, I guess I could cut down to a single USB-C cable with a lightning adapter. I guess everyone's needs are different, but amongst the things one carries, cables often take the least amount of space.
  • Oh man, If you only had waited for Sony WH1000XM3!! Pretty much XM2's but with USB-C. Oh, and your article has an error. There's no need to worry about power delivery support. All USB-C chargers must support 3A @ 5V level - which is what the Sony's use. Heck, you can even charge your Macbook Pro (overnight). Although at 15Watts, that will take about 4-5 hours for that 59Watt-hr battery.
  • i just don't see how an extra cable is space. You can literally wind up a micro usb cable to be the size of a paper clip. I agree that it would be nice in a perfect world to use one cable for everything and we may get there eventually but the notion that it's too much trouble is just WoW.
  • Because a USB-A to Micro-USB cable requires a charger with a USB-A port. So now, you gotta carry an extra charger that has a USB-A output - something that's extra when your laptop and phone charge via USB-C.
  • Just seems like USB-A ports are everywhere to connect to that I don't know if you would really need to carry a brick too. But even so, the cube bricks are also pretty light and small. This still doesn't seem like its something that you can't have space for.
  • I am also with her. It's easier to just grab your one usb c cable and know you're good to charge anything that you have in a pinch as opposed to: micro usb (check), usb c (check), etc. It is a semi first world problem but it's an awkward one being that most newer phones are coming with usb c, so any refresh of a product should be coming with usb c, especially if it's predecessor is still competent and has micro usb already.
  • Wired headphones and 3.5 jacks still work for me... One less gadget to charge.
    Old school rules! 😎
  • Everyone's missing the point that USB-C can deliver different amounts of power and if your headphones aren't set to receive every kind of input and you're not using a smart charger (like iQ from Anker), you can easily burn out headphones. Hence them being expensive (having the circuitry to handle different inputs *or* can assume their clientele will pay for branded chargers since they're willing to pay ridiculous amounts for headphones) or cheap (low cost enough to not cause too much blowback from people breaking them by using the wrong chargers). Or they have to be big enough to weather the blowback, like with the Nintendo Switch. If your USB-A to USB-C cable didn't have the proper resistor in it, there was a significant risk of bricking your switch. A lot of people thought it was a firmware update, but in reality it just came down to circuitry. USB-C is not as universal as Micro USB. At least not yet. There's more confusion than just "will or won't charge." It's "will or won't break" to worry about too.
  • I agree with you. No matter what warnings you put in a manual, you're still going to get someone who ignores them, breaks their device, and then complains when you won't "honor" the warranty. We're not far enough along that you can say things like this: "So long as you clearly state what your headphones support in their product listing and user manual, that's no reason not to use USB-C." I do think we'll get there, but people are expecting way too much, way too soon. It took years for USB to become easy to use, and back then we weren't worried about frying our devices.
  • Actually, it's the USB-A to USB-C cables are that most problematic. Anything that charges with a USB-C connector on charger end, must support 5V level - which is what most headphones use. Also, you don't PUSH electricity, devices PULL it.
  • I've been using Bang& Olufsen h8i for a year, very satisfied. Bluetooth, USB-C, 3.5mm, it has everything. The best part, USB-C is not only working as the charging port, it work as USB-C headphones too.
  • Completely agree. I don't want o carry more than one cable. USB-C is the future and these companies need to jump on it. We all complained when companies used proprietary cables and this is no different. My phone and laptop charge over USB-C, why shouldn't my headphones.
  • Yep. I'd suggest to invest in a decent 100W Thunderbolt 3 cable too, so you don't have to think about what type of cable you need for what device ever.
  • ....or if 3.5mm jacks were still prevalent you could just use that. Not sure about you but I expect my headphones to last more than 2 to 4 years. I have a set of Audio Technica headphones going on 15 years old now. The high end wireless models, which are the only ones with good sound quality, cost well north of 200 dollars. Some 300 or more. If it only lasts me 2 to 4 years I'll be very pissed.
  • I don't really see much of a problem with this... Sure its nice to have Type C on it.... but... do you honestly have 'nothing' else that you use that still uses micro? Yea sure my phone uses Type C... but I charge wirelessly... My phone is almost never 'plugged in' unless its in the car for android auto. Everything else that's used, all use micro... the drawing tablet, my wireless mouse, all my arduinos, all my ESPs, and all my 3D printer boards.... Other than that, everything else is just the usual Type A... Like my keyboard, flash drives, and webcam. Heck I even have one device using Type B still, which is my microphone's adc/dac. . . I don't have 'anything' else that uses Type C except for the phone... So if you'd like to use the argument of 'type c is on everything else' like you're implying, at least state what all YOU are using that is also Type C... Because in all honesty here... I don't think there is anything else that you're using that's Type C... You have your phone, and your headphones... You MIGHT have a laptop that charges over Type C, but that's still useless, because you can't exactly charge anything OTHER THAN that laptop with it... Your phone would just trickle charge if not out right blow up/refuse to charge. And the headphones? You said so yourself that they won't work with anything other than a normal Type A to Type C cable.... soooo that's outa the question too... Sure having Type C on the headphones would be nice, and there isn't much 'reason' to not have it at this point. BUT the reasons given here, are still not good reasons as to why they 'just should' use Type C for now on... When we go away from Type A and just replace it all with Type C, THEN we should be all set for everything being Type C. But that won't happen until a long long time sadly...
  • I agree with Ara. It would be nice if my BT headphones (and other peripherals) use USB-C, that would mean a couple less cables for me to deal with. The reality is that OEMs buy components in batches of tens of thousands. Therefore, it is more economical for them to use up the components already in their inventories before switching to a new standard. It's all about efficiency; OEMs are not going to waste money just tossing out components that are still supportable.
  • I just suck it up with my beats solo 3 with microUSB. even tho I have a Note9.
  • Bah, who cares what kind of cable comes with your headphones? The actual cable that comes with it will work with the same wall adapter, so just carry a battery pack or a wall adapter and the two possible cables. It's no big deal, sheesh.
  • I'm all in on the USB-C. I have a macbook pro, a pixelbook, a pixel 2xl, and Samsung wireless buds that all charge via USB-C and it makes everything so much easier when traveling either for vacation or just going from office to office. Even on the weekends, when I want to pack even more lightly...having just one charger is great. The only main device left that doesn't charge over USB-C is my MS SurfaceBook. At this point, if I have to buy a device that's portable (instead of stationery/staying at home), USB-C is a key differentiator in my selection.
  • Or .. where are all the AAA battery powered headphones? Eh? Eh?
  • I have the pink Samsung Gear Icon-X and the charging over USB-C was a big thing that I like about them! That and because they are so small they don't mess up my hair when I am wearing them.
  • I'm waiting for Bose to update the QC35 headphones with USB C, until then I'll hold tight with the pair that I have.
  • This screams as a first world problem. Consider yourself thankful you are losing your mind over an electric cord... Heaven forbid a serious crisis enter your life. Most people have a mix of USB devices... In the real world consumers aren't upgrading and disposing of tech every year or two. Just a guess, but my Bose QC 2's hold a charge for 19 hours... I use them on walks, etc. I'm thankful I also have a pair of corded Bowers and Wilkin's P9s....(found via airmiles, of all places to find quality) For home use. If you can afford it, buy quality once.. Both the Bose & Bowers headphones have replaceable ear cups and should last you a very, very long time. The Bose have a great case to protect them on the go. To my knowledge, there is no therapy or support groups for the electric cable fixation you suffer from. C'mon millennial, it's a cheap pair of headphones..... But maybe it's your ears who should be complaining. 🤣
  • I refuse to buy any device that doesn't charge over USB-C (ear phones, mouse, keyboard, phone, etc).
  • You know i get it that USB type C is better but it's not the end of the world to have headphones charge using microUSB.
  • I refuse to eat a hot dog with anything other than my favorite brand of mustard. It's important.
  • Well written article! Exactly the same problem I have been having. I have been using USB C to charge my previous and current phone for a few years now yet still have to carry around a micro USB cable for accessories and it just becomes annoying, more manufactures should just move to the newer standard for not just headphones and buds but also power banks and everything inbetween.
  • Pixel Buds use USB-C, love mine.