Just Let The Headphone Jack Die Already
This has been a year of outcry, as phone makers remove headphone jacks from their latest models – with Apple most publicly starting this trend by nixing the port on their iPhone 7 the name of “courage.”
And what has come out of this so-called brave move? Well, it turns out a lot of you like the 100+ year-old audio port, which I get. It’s easy to hold onto what is comfortable and familiar. But like those festival wristbands you thought would last forever as a worn memento, they have long outstayed their welcome.
Before you criticise me or threaten the safety of my family in the comments, allow me to explain why.
The headphone jack is, to be fair, the last widely used analogue connection on planet Earth – original designed for the ye olde telephone switchboards of the early 20th century. They’ve even been traced all the way back to 1878, with an original, primitive version of this tech being used by operators. And now, nearly 140 years on, it’s time to admit our love affair with this port is long overdue a break-up.
What’s taking its place? Two standards – digital and wireless.
Many self-proclaimed audiophiles will recoil in horror at the idea of headphones with a digital connection, sharing serious hate for the Lightning-connected earbuds of the iPhone 7 or USB-C based earphones of many Android devices.
If you know someone like this, do please correct them. As is common knowledge, all music - whether recorded digitally like 99% of all songs or via analogue means, is pumped through a Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) into sound, resulting in little-to-no difference in sound quality.
The only difference comes in mastering said tracks for the particular DAC in your headphones/computer (hence the start of the 'mastered for iTunes' guidelines, amongst many other digital service standards), which if regulated to a universal standard across all digital-based headphones/earphones, could lead to a superior listening experience.
That's right - your music streaming will probably sound better.
Hell, tell them that vinyl collection technically sounds worse that its digitally released counterpoint – due to the lost quality of transferring the audio into an analogue press for vinyl. It’s all smoke and mirrors in that particular industry, really.
Transitioning to digital connections also reduces the component size, freeing up a lot of space for extra electronics inside the phone, and makes waterproofing a lot easier and less clumsy than a fiddly rubber toggle.
But why stop there? It’s clear that wireless headphones are the way the entire industry is going. So confident are the companies in this movement, they've thrown their premium audio design geniuses at the problem - products such as Sony's MDR-1000X proves this. Yes, there are iffy Bluetooth connectivity problems to resolve and the whole “losing one AirPod” problem needs a more elegant solution than playing a sound for you to find it.
However, the future is cable-free and consumers are reacting to it with more than 900,000 totally wireless headphone units sold in the U.S. since the beginning of 2017 (85% of which were Apple’s AirPods).
That’s not to say this is a perfect solution that we are just too ignorant to grasp. Companies have got to do better in making this transition simpler for consumers.
If we’re making this move, entire suites of products have to be ready and the nonsensical elements of this move to digital have to be prepared. Yes, phone makers, people want to charge their phones at the same time as listening to music… Crazy, I know! And if you’re moving people to a digital connector on your phones, why not put that port on your laptops?
And for the love of God, there has to be a more elegant solution to the dongle life that many of those without a headphone jack have to lead...
We’ve already committed the first cardinal sin of creating fragmentation with handsets like iPhone 7, Essential Phone and HTC U11 killing the port, but the OnePlus 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 openly mocking these decisions and keeping their own 3.5mm jack.
There is a lot to resolve, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t enough progress to declare the ancient analogue audio port dead.
Trust me, you won’t miss it.