Is It Too Soon To Ditch The 3.5mm Headphone Jack?

That little headphone socket on your smartphone dates all the way back to 1964. Its bigger brother, the 6.35mm jack is one of the oldest connector standards still in use, and got its start in 1878. While various music devices and smartphones have gone without the 3.5mm socket over the years, it's still almost universal. But the new iPhone 7 is rumoured to be using the lightning connector exclusively, and the recently launched Lenovo Moto Z is 3.5mm free. But with almost everyone owning a pair of headphones using the 3.5mm jack, is it too soon to move on?

Whilst robust and simple to use, the 3.5mm plug and socket is quite basic, and new connection types offer certain advantages. Already you can buy USB powered headphones, which offload the DAC and AMP to the devices themselves.

The advantage here is that users can pay extra for a higher quality audio system, without being limited to what’s in their music player of choice. Sure, you can get a similar result using Bluetooth, but wired audio can be better quality, and not need it’s own power supply.

But over at xdadevelopers, an analyse of the potential pros versus cons of ditching the 3.5mm socket doesn't come out in the consumer's favour.

The suggestion is that if Apple movies to using the lightning port for headphones and not USB-C, it will create two different markets for new audio gear.

Of course, adapters will be available to allow use of existing headphones, but will likely be an extra cost, as well as hassle to use.

Part of the problem is the jump straight to the new standard, rather than a slower phase in of new headphones, and the phase out of 3.5mm. This forces users to spend money either way, be it on a new pair of headphones, or an adaptor.

Whilst Apple is keen to throw out the old to make way for the new, Android implementation could be a lot slower. Here’s hoping that the next generation of droids all feature both USB-C and 3.5mm audio options.

Are you ready to ditch the 3.5mm socket? Tell us in the comments.

[xdadevelopers]


Comments

    I'm just hoping there will be replacement cables with mic / volume for those of us with decent headphones that don't have fixed cables. Lightning one end with mic/volume and 3.5mm the other end is what I want.

    I would love to hear music on my mp3 without the annoyance of having to twist the jack around a couple of times to get stereo back. Unfortunately, an adapter won't solve that problem, so I'd have to invest in new Headphone/earplugs and I already have excellent kit in that department, so It'd be too soon to get rid of the 3.5 jack for me.

    I don't like the idea of having a heap of equipment being pushed into obsolescence. Though to be honest I can at the moment really only see the phone and a few pc manufacturers moving in, so other audio brands will probably keep making traditional hardware for some time to come.

    Plus of the 3.5mm is to big for apples phones have they considered the 2.5mm jack. 1mm might not seem like much but it is shorter as well.

    The competing standards is what irks me the most. We have a universal patent free Standard across all platforms why try split us into 2 camps I don't want 1 pair of headphones for my phone 1 for my pc then another for my stereo.

    The advantages to the consumer are already available. If you want a better sounding audio device, connect to the lightning port that is already on the phone.
    The iPhone itself will still require a DAC and AMP to power the speakers in the device, so the only savings is the space that the port takes up.
    Although I generally use Bluetooth, I keep a set of 3.5mm headphones in my bag for when the battery on the Bluetooth is empty. My wife and mother-in-law have never used anything except the 3.5mm jack to listen to audio from their phone. I don’t see how this will benefit anyone except Apple.

      It removes the dac and amp from the iPhone, all that will be in the headphones, so it reduces a few things within the phone and above all takes load off the phone battery.

        you still need the DAC and amp to power the iPhone/iPad's internal speakers - otherwise you'd need to connect your headphones every time you wanted to listen to it.

          The DAC and amp in the iPhone / iPad aren't "high fidelity".
          Those with golden ears, who pay $500 for volume knobs and demand oxygen-free speaker cables, would demand the best possible DAC etc. so they can get back to comparing audio artifacts caused by different audio compression routines and rates.

          We ordinary folk would be unlikely to hear a difference.

        . @stevenadams3 is right. Unless they are also getting rid of the ability to play audio from the speakers on the device.

          I'm with @stevenadams3 there still will be some sort of dac and amp but at a much lower quality. Heck they don't even need the dark for the internal speakers, if it's for voice or low quality audio you could do it with PWM.

    Will a 140 year old technology be decommissioned because ONE tech company produces ONE device that doesn't make use of it?

    No.

    Will a bunch of adapters come to market letting you use your 140 year old plugs on the ONE device that doesn't support them?

    Yes.

    I still don't get what this article is about...

      EXACTLY!...
      I was just thinking the complete opposite of this article other day: Staring at the side of my laptop, a USB connector really should have used the 4 conductor variant of the 3.5mm plug. It's so much easier to plug in, takes less real estate on the side of the device, is more robust than any USB connector. Sure, it's not going to have great data rates, but you can push 5 amps through one of those babies before they get hot.

      When a single company has to much market it is quite possible. My car audio system doesn't have an auxiliary input socket but has ipod connectivity.

    And how are you going to charge your phone and listen at the same time?

      I was just going to add this!

      I'm all for better sounding music, but hate the idea of 2 ports (1 audio, 1 usb) becoming 1.

      Apple are very keen on this strategy of reduced functionality (they already have a laptop with no usb ports when charging!), just hope noone I'd actually buy from follows suit.

      Last edited 14/06/16 11:54 am

      second to this, the multi purpose port better very robost... extra plugging and unplugging, lots of wrecked lie ports ahead.

      USB-C is a hub type standard. So a simple Y adapter will get around this issue for Android.
      Don't know if Lightning connectors support this however.

        Which means you have to BUY another piece of equipment, and you have to carry it around with you, and it's another thing that could get lost.

          Permanently stick it to the end of the headphones? It's not like you're going to use them with much else anyway. And I'm sure you'll start to see headphones with both a male and female USB-C connector soon enough. It's still early days.

    As a bluetooth earbud user this whole thing is a non-issue for me.

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