What Happened to the Headphone Jack on Your Phone?
I’m going to show my age here, but I grew up with a Walkman on my hip. First, it was cassettes, but eventually, I upgraded to CDs. One thing was always true, you plugged your headphones into the provided jack. When smartphones came out, they all had headphone jacks. But slowly, they’ve started to disappear. In place, we’ve been told we need to use the dreaded dongle. Easily lost, this small connector attaches to the charging port and allows you to connect your wired headphones. Of course, when the dongle is attached you can no longer charge your phone. Why? What happened to the headphone jack on all of our phones?
At first blush, the removal of the headphone jack on our phones happened at the same time that Bluetooth headphones started to become more common. Now we were forced to buy a dongle that we could easily lose as well or opt for wireless earbuds that were also easy to lose?!? Clearly, this was a conspiracy to make us spend more money replacing things that we shouldn’t have to replace. I know that the last time I bought a replacement dongle, I bought a pack of five. Why? Because I knew I’d lose it again.
You could make the case that, for Apple, removing the headphone jack would create additional income. They sell their own headphones (which are some of the few that work with spatial audio) and their connector is proprietary. This means that to make a 3rd party dongle, you have to pay Apple a licensing fee. But most companies have switched to USB-C ports. For them, they get no extra revenue from licensing. So, what is this really about?
When asked, almost every company gave space savings as the primary motivator behind ditching the 3.5mm jack. This round port takes up considerable internal space as well as limits how thin you can make a phone. By removing the headphone jack, they can make the screen bigger, the phones thinner, and the batteries larger. That’s a lot of motivation!
Now, some manufacturers also mentioned audio quality. While you can make a case that a headphone that connects digitally (through the charging port) might have potentially better audio, this is certainly not the case when all people are really doing is adding a dongle. Those companies claiming better audio quality? Yeah, they were also selling branded headphones. While we don’t think this is the case with all manufacturers, some certainly took advantage of the trend to remove the headphone jack as an opportunity to sell headphones.
Don’t Forget About Water!
People use their phones all the time. When they are working, playing, or exercising, they want their phones nearby. This often puts them in close proximity to water. Either through being outside where it might rain, or just from excessive sweat. People started finding out, very quickly, that their phones might be smart, but they weren’t waterproof.
One of the main ingresses for water is, surprisingly, the 3.5mm headphone jack. This weak point in the smartphone design was not only bad for waterproofing but was redundant. If the charging port could be used for audio, and the 3.5mm headphone jack only did the one thing, doesn’t it make sense to remove it? Since the loss of the headphone jack, just about every phone released has boasted increased water resistance. That alone seems like a pretty good tradeoff.
This is very much a chicken and the egg question. Did they remove the headphone jack to sell Bluetooth headphones? Or did the cost of Bluetooth headphones come down enough that they felt like they could realize the benefits of removing the headphone jack without too much pushback from consumers? We tend to believe the latter. That said, we do miss our headphone jacks. What about you? Do you still use wired headphones with your smartphone? Let us know your solution in the comments!
I still use my headphone jack all the time on my Pixel 4a 5G, it was a selling point for me getting the phone.
The functionality of being able to have multiple sets of headphones connected to my phone was a great tool in my music lessons. Portable, compact and easy. This basically renders my new phone AND my favourite $200+ headphones useless to me for this purpose and I am HIGHLY tempted to replace it with something old to get this feature back.
Up until the phone I have now, the OnePlus 8t, every phone had a headphone jack and always loved it. But I noticed the more advanced and expensive phones has basically erased this feature which I wanted. It was annoying but I gave it a chance, but didn’t surrender right away either.
The first thing I did was in fact get the dreaded dongle which I didn’t mind at all but a few weeks later there was already a short in the thing and became useless. So instead of buying another or Bluetooth earbuds I just used my old phone to listen to music and podcasts with. In other words I would drag two phones around on some days. And I had did it for 5 months now.
But it started to get tiring and I had this really expensive phone I wasn’t using for audio outside of the car so I finally gave in and bought my first pair of blue tooth headphones a month ago.
I have to say overall I like it. There are some drawbacks like charging them and carrying the case with you but the freedom does feel amazing. And because now so many companies are making them you can find good ones for cheap prices these days for under $20. Mine cost me a whopping $15 and sound amazing, water proof and holds a charge over 6 hours. A big reason I didn’t want Bluetooth headphones was the price. I didn’t want to spend $80+ on something I can easily lose or die out in a year as my brother’s did. But today you can spend half that for quality products. And half of that if you still want something reliable and solid.
So I’m OK with with a lack of a headphone jack today. I fought it for as long as I could lol. But I would certainly be happy if I still had it of course but I admit the benefits without one as stated in this article is probably worth it. For some like me, change can be hard but once I finally made the switch it wasn’t so bad. And especially since the price to buy quality ones are more reasonable today.
What a retrograde step! I didn’t realise until after I’d bought my phone that it had no headphone jack. As someone with hearing problems, I found being connected directly into my phone through earbuds helped me hear more easily. In addition if I want to listen to a download etc nobody around me has to listen. I don’t wish to spend a fortune on Bluetooth technology.