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  • It was in 2016 that Apple announced it would be

  • ditching the headphone jack.

  • It really comes down to one word. Courage.

  • And for the smartphone industry, it was the shot heard 'round the world.

  • There are several reasons why Apple removed the

  • headphone jack from the iPhone 7, and

  • surprisingly, courage is not one of them.

  • Samsung also just removed the decades-old

  • technology from its phones, even though it took

  • every opportunity to ridicule Apple for the

  • headphone jack's removal in the past.

  • Do you want to know what else it comes with?

  • An audio Jack. I'm just saying.

  • With the launch of the Galaxy Note 10 in August

  • of 2019, Samsung ditched the jack, too.

  • Samsung, was definitely one of those companies

  • that criticized the rest of the industry for not

  • having headphone jacks and conveniently forgot to

  • mention that they got rid of it in their newest Note 10.

  • The headphone jack has been around for more than

  • a hundred years.

  • So why are companies increasingly removing them from our phones?

  • It wasn't a pro-customer move.

  • It was it was a way for them to make more money.

  • Let's start with a brief history of the

  • components needed to make mobile music what it is

  • today, starting with the beloved audio jack.

  • The grandparent to the standard 3.5mm

  • jack, the quarter-inch jack was used all the way

  • back in the late 1800s by switchboard operators.

  • The larger jack continued its reign until the

  • 1970s, when Sony released the Walkman, the first

  • widely available mobile music device.

  • The Walkman was also the first successful

  • commercial example of the same 3.5mm

  • jack we use today.

  • An obvious next step was the rise of the MP3 and

  • the MP3 player, popularized by Apple's iPod.

  • It was 2001 when Steve Jobs took the stage to

  • announce the iPod.

  • This amazing little device holds 1000 songs, and it goes right in my pocket.

  • The Siemens SL 45 was released in 2001 and was

  • the first phone that was also a mobile music

  • device, and that set off a trend in the mobile

  • world. Music was now a must.

  • But the SL 45 was not the first phone with the headphone jack.

  • My first phone was a Nokia 3310 and that had a

  • headphone jack. Back then, there wasn't really

  • any wireless communication standard that was

  • acceptable enough to do good headset phone calls.

  • So it was kind of born out of a necessity to

  • deliver high quality, you know, headset calls.

  • By the mid 2000s, there were many phones that

  • could also play music, but were still limited by

  • storage and battery life.

  • Bluetooth grew in popularity around the same

  • time, and that spelled the beginning of the end

  • for the headphone jack now that wireless

  • listening was possible.

  • While wired headphones may seem antiquated, most

  • audiophiles prefer the sound quality from this analog port.

  • The reason why you want to go wired over wireless

  • is that compression that you get over Bluetooth.

  • All the Bluetooth standards for the most part

  • have some kind of compression, which then affects

  • the actual quality of the audio.

  • But that wire can be really frustrating,

  • especially when you're working out or need mobility.

  • Most the time when I use headphones, I'm at the

  • gym and have wireless phones.

  • I mean, it's not that important to me, but the

  • few times that I do need wired headphones, like

  • when I'm traveling or something like that, it is

  • super inconvenient not to have a headphone jack.

  • And while Bluetooth technology has come a long

  • way, it still has its pitfalls.

  • Bluetooth sucks right now, but the optimist in me

  • hopes that removing the headphone jack will act

  • as a springboard for companies to work harder at

  • integrating Bluetooth and wireless audio technology.

  • Most cars have Bluetooth audio, but a lot of

  • people, like, all new cars within the last five

  • years, cars before that have the aux cord that

  • you plug into, you know.

  • So why did Apple decide to remove the jack from

  • the iPhone 7?

  • Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analog,

  • big connector doesn't make sense because that

  • space is at a premium.

  • It's the mental shift that, you know, flagships

  • have had for the last couple of years.

  • It's like, it's not a flagship unless the

  • headphone jack is gone. And that's kind of, you

  • know, Apple's fault. Premium phones are now

  • associated with no headphone jacks.

  • See, there's not a whole lot of space inside of a

  • smartphone. Tech companies have crammed more and

  • more into that incredibly limited space, and when

  • something becomes antiquated, it's got to go,

  • making the phones thinner and allowing for other components.

  • The thickest part of the phone is that headphone jack.

  • I think it was a decision of, OK, we have to use

  • this space for other components because we've

  • used so much of the phone's overall size as

  • screen that we just don't have room for other

  • components in other places and we have to get rid of the headphone jack.

  • The removal of the headphone jack also helped the

  • iPhone 7 receive its IP 67 water-resistant

  • rating. So there were some good reasons behind its removal.

  • As much as I do appreciate being able to plug in

  • a pair of headphones and just have them work out

  • of the box, I also appreciate engineering in the

  • technological space.

  • Most companies have been moving away from the

  • headphone jack, partially because a lot of the

  • wireless capabilities of earbuds today have

  • gotten much better.

  • The quality is not perfect yet.

  • There's still lots of room for improvement, but I

  • think for most people it's pretty good and it

  • satisfies their needs.

  • But some folks don't agree that the headphone

  • jack had to go at all.

  • When you're designing the circuit boards and

  • stuff like that, you can make as much room as you

  • want. I mean, I've taken apart phones that have,

  • like, projectors inside of them, and there's room

  • for a projector, there's room for an S Pen, you know, there's room for a headphone jack.

  • You could look at any tear down that doesn't have

  • a headphone jack and say, oh, yeah.

  • There's no way that there could be room in there.

  • But then you look at a tear down of a phone with

  • a headphone jack and it's there.

  • This choice to leave off the audio jack came

  • simultaneously with the announcement of Apple's

  • $159 Air Pods, which called into question Apple's

  • real motives behind the exclusion.

  • Personally, I do think that it was monetarily

  • motivated, at least in some way.

  • It wasn't a coincidence that they released the

  • AirPods at the same time they took away the

  • headphone jack. It was something that wasn't

  • making them money, so they got rid of it so

  • people would buy the AirPods.

  • Not to mention the fact that the Lightning port

  • is a proprietary connector, meaning companies

  • have to pay Apple just to make a compatible device.

  • Apple charges a fee to license their Lightning

  • port. They can get more money if you have to make

  • a Lightning accessory, whereas the 3.5mm

  • jack, just anybody can make.

  • I think there are going to be people scrambling

  • to license it, and if they can't afford that

  • Apple license, essentially there's gonna be

  • headsets that work well with iPhones and there's

  • gonna be headsets that don't work well.

  • And when Apple kills something, it usually

  • creates a domino effect in the tech world.

  • They removed the floppy drive, they removed the

  • CD-ROM drive from their Macs.

  • And people went crazy.

  • Right? But people kept buying the devices and

  • their competitors, quite frankly, followed their

  • direction only two or three years later.

  • So, slowly other larger companies started to follow suit.

  • But Samsung kept its grip on the audio jack.

  • Whether you're listening to the S9's amazing new

  • speakers, or on your own pair of headphones by

  • simply connecting them to the convenient

  • headphone socket at the bottom of the device.

  • Can I still use these headphones with the X?

  • Yeah, but you'll need an adapter, or as most

  • people like to call it, a dongle. A what?

  • But, with its most recent phone release, Samsung

  • finally left out the headphone jack without

  • mentioning anything during the keynote about why

  • it left it out and even took down some content

  • that challenged Apple's decision.

  • If you are going to take such a solid stance

  • against Apple for not putting a headband jack in

  • the phone, at least own up to it, I feel like, in the moment, you know?

  • There could have been a story where, "This is the

  • best, most compact device we can make.

  • There's some compromises.

  • If you don't like it, we have a bigger version

  • for you. If you don't like either, you can still

  • get an S10." But the fact that they didn't even

  • address it was a little bit not great.

  • Samsung did tell CNBC it removed the headphone

  • jack to make more room for its powerful battery.

  • There are still some brands, like LG, that find

  • the space for a headphone jack, whether it be for

  • its audio phile customers or its customers who

  • don't want to, or can't afford, the switch.

  • In, you know, other markets like China and India,

  • the headphone jack and actually micro USB are

  • still important because people can't get rid of

  • their old chargers or can't afford them.

  • Luckily for those who want to keep their

  • headphones, many of the big phone makers are

  • coming out with lower-cost models of their

  • flagship phones like the Google 3a and 3a XL,

  • which include a headphone jack.

  • There's still a considerable amount of people

  • that want the headphone jack because they can't

  • afford, you know, wireless earbuds that are good.

  • There are so many awesome phones at the $500

  • level that still have the headphone jack because

  • people who are buying cheaper phones probably

  • don't have an extra $100, $200 bucks to throw

  • down on some wireless headphones.

  • But those $500 phones are, they do 95% of what a

  • $1000 phone does.

  • Like it or not, it looks like the headphone jack

  • is gone for good when it comes to the top-end

  • flagship phones.

  • I think they are going for the portless phone and

  • they won't stop until they get there.

  • In fact, some speculate we might not even get

  • buttons in a few years.

  • There is no fingerprint sensor, no buttons and,

  • you know, charges wirelessly.

  • So it might even be, you know, no more USB port.

  • So what can you do?

  • You can go spend $1000 every year if you really

  • want to, but you're not getting a return on that

  • $1000. A $500 phone is more than enough for the

  • average person. And whether it has the headphone

  • jack or not, I would just say, you know, use your

  • phone as long as possible because there's no

  • reason to upgrade. Which is kind of strange

  • coming from a tech reviewer who makes a living

  • off of reviewing cellphones.

It was in 2016 that Apple announced it would be

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The Rise And Fall Of The Headphone Jack

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    John Bi posted on 2020/05/10
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