Follow-Up: My Response To Commenters And Headphone Jack Loyalists

It looks like I ruffled some feathers with my previous post about why people should just let the headphone jack die - with many of you voicing your own opinions in the comments. This has been a great dialogue to see, and I've picked some to respond to.

Reading through the comments across Facebook, Twitter & Techspy (I've embedded the posts below too, so you can join the discussion too), I've seen the responses fall into three categories:

  • The transition would ruin a market that has come together around one standard port
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it
  • The analogue vs digital story is pointless, because digital gets converted to analogue anyway

If your response does not fall into these categories, then do get in touch - I'd love to discuss this with you. But upon my thorough reading, these three topics are the big ones. So, without further ado, I'll go ahead and quote three different comments and put my response.

Comment

Wilko Wilkinson: Have you not seen the countless people walking around London with aux headphones in? Or the countless drivers with earphones in one ear? Or plugging phones in to cars that have an aux port, but no Bluetooth capability. Or the tape that has a wire to go in to cassette players, so you can play your music from your phone in classic cars. Stuff this article up your arse, you bunch of media influencing b-tards...

Response

Firstly, I hate to shatter this illusion you have of New Rising Media because to be deemed a “bunch of media influencing bastards” is quite the compliment here. The reality is I’m just one opinionated bloke who loves technology with a passion and blogs about it. Thanks for taking the time to read this piece.

And the scenarios you mention are not just limited to London, they are present in my hometown of Nottingham too. Hell, in a true moment of self-admitted hypocrisy, I still use a set of 3.5mm headphones - still on an iPhone 6S. 

These are all scenarios I’m well aware of, and I do clearly say this transition away from the headphone jack has been incredibly poorly executed. It’s the fragmentation of audio inputs that urges everyone back to this universal connection, as you quite rightly allude to here.

My point in the piece is that this transition should have happened by now, with better buy-in from both companies and consumers alike.

Comment

Alan Dowell: “Bit like DAB radio replacing the old system which works.”
Elshaneo Grande: “if it ante broke.”

Response

I’m going to guess you’re saying “if it ain’t broke,” Elshaneo? And if so, I’ll categorise your criticism with Alan Cowell.

And my response is this - if the tech industry lived by this mantra of resorting to old systems that work and not fixing concepts that aren’t broken, then progress would have come to a screeching halt long ago. 

We’d probably still be using 3.5” floppy disks, continue to live a contentious life with poorly designed flash websites, sit waiting for slower data transfers on USB 1.0. 

Simply put, just because something old continues to work, doesn’t mean you can’t develop new technology in that area.

This is simply a prelude to the saying “don’t fix it unless you know you can do better,” and the wireless standard is that “better” that requires us all (companies and consumers) to get behind digital.

Comment

Phil Taylor: “What a load of shit that article is.... you have to convert digital audio to analogue at the headphones anyway for it to be heard…”

Response

Now now, Phil. A dialogue is not started with rude language like that. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. 

First of all, yes you are right about what happens to the audio. Using a Digital-to-Analogue Converter (DAC) in the headphones or the phone, digital audio is converted from the many millions of bits into sound waves humans can hear.

Whether that audio is converted on the phone or in the headphones themselves, your ears will struggle to differentiate that. And the simple way companies keep headphones cheap and small is to put the rely on the DAC in the phone, computer or laptop to do the processing.

But you see, this puts a solid road block up in the way of progress - keeping a grasp of the 3.5mm headphone jack stops innovation in the mobile music listening experience moving forward.

The future of mobile audio, as has been made quite clear, is going cable-free - which is certainly not perfect and not recommended by audiophiles at the moment. 

Consumer fears have to be relaxed over the potential of introducing DRM restrictions on certain types of music through transitioning to digital connections and Bluetooth transmission needs to move past what’s known as A2DP (short for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) in order to become the standard that consumers move onto - eliminating the fragmentation problem altogether by removing all the different connectors coming onto the market.

One bit that humours me is the fact this debate has been played on repeat for nearly the last couple of decades. Phone makers have tried to introduce digital audio for a while now (see the Sony Ericsson FastPort or Nokia Pop Port).

But our reliance on analogue audio ports continues because they are the only option supported across the board. This needs to change, and it comes from company action, FTC or general Consumer Rights Group-based regulation to allow only for one universal standard, and consumer tolerance of such a change.

We’ve done this many times before - complained about a change that turns out to be better in the long run…

Join the conversation below...

Have no idea what I'm talking about? Read the previous piece and catch yourself up.