The Headphone Jack - To Be or Not to Be

Samsung

The Headphone Jack Controversy

The debate whether to include the old headphone jack in handhelds continues — a debate that was sparked back in September 2016 when Apple launched the iPhone 7 without the auxiliary point. The port for wired headphones, that has been around since 1950 and could be found in everything from the Walkman to cassette players, prevails in today’s iPhones, iPods, and more.

Why the Jackless iPhone7?

Whether consumers were ready for jack-less phones or not was really of great concern for Apple. On August 1, 2014, Apple Inc. acquired Beats Music, which produces audio products, for a cool US$3 billion in a cash and stock deal — the largest acquisition in the company’s history. By killing the jack, they locked customers down into their own ecosystem to raise consumer demand for higher margin products (i.e. Bluetooth devices) and to boost a more robust wireless ecosystem. Despite killing off MP3 players as well as a majority of smartphone consumers, people still bought the phone. In all honesty, the move did signal the ever-increasing demand for thinner and thinner products (with as much screen space as possible) with no room for jacks. As of 2018, you won’t find any more Apple phones sporting headphone jacks.

iphone

In the Stats

However, the stats released by Statista, a Germany-based online stats, market research and business intelligence portal, beg to differ. In a 2016 report calculating all US headphone and earphone sales, the trusted old analog wired phone sales beat Bluetooth sales hands down (83% vs 17%), showing that wired headphone users are not ready to throw in the towel. They will tell you that the main factor in their choice is the quality of sound, claiming that Bluetooth is just not the same. One might argue that anyone into high-end audio is not using the driver in their phone anyway. However, is that still a reason for manufacturers to kill off the headphone jack?

headphone jack

Samsung - Phasing out the Jack?

Apple is not alone in its battle with regular tech used by everyone else in the world. The latest news around Samsung is that the Galaxy S10 might be the company’s final flagship with headphone dongles. This comes despite Samsung’s (as well as LG’s) adamant support to-date of audiophile-grade output. However, with nearly all former-jack pushers giving in to the trend — from Xiaomi to Google to Huawei to OnePlus, the question arises as to whether Samsung’s policy will change. The Galaxy A8s is the company’s first jack-free phone (not counting flip phones) and its circular screen model for selfie cameras would indicate a focus shift to placing front line features in the middle of the range devices. Old headphone aficionados can take comfort in the fact that at least the Galaxy S10 will keep the 3.5mm port feature.

Other indications of a corporate policy change in favor of omitting the jack came a few months ago from Korean branch of ET News, known for delivering trustworthy up-to-the-minute IT-related news, including that on the electronics industry. Apparently, Samsung is seriously debating the removal of the port from all flagship devices to be released post fall 2019. This might mean consumers can expect a Galaxy Note 10, or more likely a Galaxy S11, without the jack.  

samsung smartphone

The Bottom Line

Although wireless and USB-C headphones have greatly improved in quality, value and availability since the jack-free iPhone 7 and a lack of the jack is less annoying, it’s still difficult to justify the removal of the jack to consumers. However, trends tend to become the norm and in the future, there will probably be more wireless users than headphone users and the jack will be seen as nothing more than a restriction on engineering and not worth including.

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