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Killing the 3.5mm Jack: How Simple Is Changing into Needlessly Complicated (xda-developers.com)
269 points by lost_name on June 13, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments



I'm always blown away out how little cell phone manufacturers seem to listen to customer feedback. I don't care about my phone being paper thin. I'd guess most people don't either.

Often I'm sitting at work with my headphones plugged into my computer to listen to music. I'll then see a little video or something has been sent to me by a friend on my phone. I unplug the headphones from my macbook, plug them into my phone, watch the video, then plug my headphones back into my macbook. Simple.

Can you imagine what an annoying hassle it would be to have to pair and unpair the same bluetooth headphones between two devices like that? I'd be paranoid it's not connected to the right device and suddenly I'm blasting music to the people in my office. Not even including the fact that I now have another thing I need to worry about charging.

I like my apple earbuds. They sound nice, let me control the volume and playback, and don't need to be charged.

Also, all my nice headphones are 3.5mm. I don't want to have to get new ones, and I don't want to have to carry around a stupid lightning adaptor for them.


The problem is that explicit customer feedback doesn't line up with reality.

Many companies have tried making slightly thicker phones with bigger batteries (which many people claim is what they want), no-one buys them. Companies make thinner phones, lots of them get sold.

These companies (mostly) aren't idiots, they do huge amounts of measurements on what people say they want to buy, and what they actually buy.


it fails not because of what you think.

I always claimed I wanted qwerty keyboard. now blackberry finally has a phone with it that is not selling. the priv.

well, while id kill for a keyboard on android, I'd also need a non-phalet size and open firmware. so I continue to use my keboardless motoX developer edition first gen.

nobody buys phones for one feature. you cant add a thick battery but sel a device with 300x200 screen, which was the case I think you're talking.


Yes! I hate hate HATE trying to type on a glass keyboard, and I really wish I could have a plain old QWERTY button keyboard back. I'm delighted to see Blackberry offering one with the Priv. And yet - a phone also needs to fit in my pocket, and it is difficult to imagine how one could do that with a Priv. I don't really need a huge screen because I don't find the web very useful on a phone, but writing text messages and emails is my phone's primary function. The device I actually want is something the size of my Moto X equipped with an actual keyboard. Make it twice as thick, I don't care, just let me type without stumbling constantly.


You might enjoy the Kyocera Rise (but it is CDMA only AFAICT, so only if you are in USA). It's slow and outdated but it's the best emailing phone I've ever used.


I have a Priv, you will like it. You don't sacrifice any Android features (or security updates), and the keyboard is there. I have had it since December and only typed on the touchscreen about 3 times. It is a bit big, but it is the same as any other phone manufacturer makes. I find it is fine in my front pants pocket and it also fits nicely in a shirt pocket.



I had a Moto droid. It has a physical keyboard. It was fking terrible. Keys are so small as to be nearly unuseable. The onscreen keyboard was so much better... error rate was about the same but correction made it much better in practice.


I had quite the opposite experience, actually. Yeah, the keys were small and took some getting used to. I'd imagine if my fingers were bigger it may have become a problem. I felt lightning fast on that thing, though, and rarely needed to correct anything, which really added to my effective typing speed.


I had a Droid as well as various BlackBerry products, including the Bold.

I found the Bold keyboard to be fantastic. I could type 60 wpm without looking at the phone.

I found the Droid keyboard to be terrible and unusable.

Not all keyboards are the same, but I do know the best-possible keyboard experience can be far better than the Droid (or any iPhone I've used).


I had a T-mobile G2 and I loved the keyboard on it. I used to type entire emails on that without a problem but with my touchscreen phones, it's an exercise in frustration. The swype-style is nice, but it still gets things wrong that I have to correct all the time. I'd buy the Priv if it wasn't $400 and exclusive to AT&T.


> I always claimed I wanted qwerty keyboard. ... nobody buys phones for one feature.

Barebones BB Curve 9310 user here for ~4 years and counting, which replaced a Treo 755p when seemingly everyone had iPhones back in uni. Been meaning to purchase a spare for when this one inevitably hits the pooper. Battery obsolescence is my biggest sustainment worry. QUERTY keyboard requirement has made me a perpetual mobile luddite.

Definitely feels like the last man standing now that our senior-most engineer's wife forced him off his flip phone this past Christmas. Personally don't know anyone who doesn't own a smartphone these days...lonely world.


The main reason I bought my Galaxy S7 is because they made it thicker and with a bigger battery than the S6.


I went for the Samsung Galaxy Note for the same reason. I don't know about any other customers but I for one would buy a long battery life phone in a heartbeat regardless how thick it may be.


Same with the iPhone 6 Plus. I did want a bigger screen, but the battery was the main draw for me. Paper thin phones never appealed to me. I used to use an HTC Apache (Verizon XV6700) with a bulge battery. That thing was over an inch thick and it barely lasted a whole day, but it still fit easily into the front pocket of jeans. Phones were rugged enough back then to not require cases. I think manufacturers realize this more than we give them credit for and consider cases a personalization option, but IMO the best phone design would be a back-plate-less design where the case provides some of the structure as well. This would allow a choice: thin backplate only if you want that, or more protection without tons of thickness, or bigger battery as part of the case without some hacky battery-charging-the-other-battery-and-blocking-the-charging-port ugly super thick case like we've seen for e.g. iPhones.


I have thick amzer case on my note to keep it safe. Who cares about paper thin phones!? Not like the phone is always in my pocket ; but actually thicker phones are usually better to grip on to


You might want to checkout the Elephone P5000


Same reason I went with the Droid Turbo over other choices.


It's the coffee question. Ask people if they like coffee and look at coffee marketing and it's all about "rich, dark roasts". Marketing focuses on deeply aromatic black espresso. Work as a barista for 5 mins and most of the 'coffee lovers' are ordering single shot lattes with syrup.


And I wonder if the barista's opinion takes into the account that a) coffee at Starbucks is a different experience than coffee at home, and most importantly b) they probably price those single shot lattes better.


Same thing with the airline industry. People often say they'd pay more for extra few inches of leg room, but when they shop online, it's the cheapest price that wins.


Flyers routinely pay more for direct flights. International travelers often pay much more to avoid transiting unpleasant countries like the USA with its awful security procedures. Lots of people want to pay more for more width and recline in seats on long haul flights; no US carrier offers those but W class on foreign carriers is often their most profitable space.

But few want to pay more for leg room. It's just not much of a benefit compared to the five things I mentioned (and several others like comfortable lounges at hubs -- but not apparently decent food). The airlines want to sell leg room because it's very easy to adjust.


Avoiding US would be a big reason why US airlines are not doing so well (among others).


US airlines are doing fine now that fuel is almost free. We'll see what happens when oil prices rise again.


Do you have a source about international travelers avoiding the US? That sounds odd to me.

Not that it's on the way to many other countries...


I've read about it before, at https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Avoiding_travel_through_the_U...

Basically, the problem seems to be that the USA does not have "sterile transit"; if your plane stops there in the way to somewhere else, you have to disembark and go through customs, and you need an expensive visa.


It's not the money but the abuse they can dish out at you. Even if you get a visa (which is a pain in the neck and a total time sink on it's own), customs can just tell you "You know what? Go f yourself." After you've landed...


Try pricing tickets regularly between Latin America and Asia. My peer groups buys a lot of such tickets and the AeroMexico tickets that fly with a change of planes in MEX and go on to PVG and NRT with no USA transfer cost about US$500 more than tickets that change planes in LAX, SFO, DFW, and SEA. YVR is usually priced in between but sometimes Air Canada has deals.

There are no other flights directly between Asia and Latin America (unless you count the EK GRU-DXB flight), though NH may be flying to MEX soon.


Flying in the US is a consistently miserable experience. Airports which are too small for the number of flights they handle - leading to cascading gate changes and flight delays, slow & interrogative customs which you must go through even if you're getting a connecting flight straight out of the US, obvious complaints about the TSA and airlines who all (apart from Southwest in my experience) really just have no interest in making flying a pleasant or comfortable time for you.

On my most recent trip to the US I selected cities that I could get between via train to avoid the entire mess apart from arrival into the US (and made an effort to depart out of Canada).


Part of the reason that people go for the cheapest price is that all of the other variables in flight aren't really verifiable.

Among a wide variety of industries, a large portion of revenues come from "upsales", pushing some impulse buys extra like insurance. Which is to say that the impulse buy extras are shitty ripoffs and consumers over time have grown to expect promises to be worthless and to only pay for things they can clearly verify.

And that relates to selling cellphone with longer battery life - all the companies make unrealistic claims, how could someone feel safe giving up something that can see (like a feature or a smaller size) for something they can't see?


Discoverability of things like leg room is also practically zero when booking. Even if it was easier to see it, there are usually very few options anyways and they often differ hugely on other criteria like number of stops, departure time and price. I might be happy to pay fifty fiat extra for a free inch more leg room even more on a longer flight. Am I willing to have an extra stop for that out get out of bed at 4am instead of 6am or leave awkwardly in the middle of the day to arrive in the evening my vacation spot and effectively lose half a day at my vacation spot? No

I think the airline market hardly ever offers real choices and many things that look like choices end up actually being the same flight sold by different carriers from the same alliance. Alliances are a huge pet peeve of mine anyways. There are certain (US based) airlines I strongly dislike and would like to avoid. However, it's almost impossible. Even if I book another carrier the flight often times end up being operated by them again. Sometimes it gets changed after I book. This is a dysfunctional market. I want Delta and United out of business and I've had the same from others. Yet we are all stuck flying them because we can't avoid it.


I'd sort by legroom if the flight search engines offered that information, but it is not available: price is the only discriminator.


Exactly.

Want +3in legroom? For each flight, go to a flight forum and punch in the route to figure out what plane they're flying. Google the airline and that plane to figure out how much legroom is available.

Give up and just fly jetblue and/or southwest, and if they don't go, decline to travel.


Skip the forums.

1. Flightaware

2. Seatguru

3...

4. Comfortable flying

(Step 3 is becoming a millionaire that flies business class.)


thanks for the link to seatguru


All airline seat selection pages I've ever seen show a map of the plane's seats, nobody needs a forum for that.


You have to select the airline and buy the ticket before you get that map, don't you? By then it's too late. I'm talking about the initial search process, where you decide which flight you're going to take. The only data present are the price, arrival & departure times, and the airline name.


And how much leg room do each of those seats have?


Or look up the seat/cabin details on Seat Guru.


KLM lets you pay extra for sitting next to an emergency exit, which gives you a nice legroom increase.


I try to avoid emergency exit seats because they take away the storage space underneath the seat in the front. I'd rather have provisions, laptop, pen, book(s), tissues etc. available without fetching them from overhead storage, and sacrifice the extra leg space.


It still depends on the price, though. Is the difference $10, $50, or $100? For $10 or $50 I might select more leg room, but not for $100.


Speak for yourself... I almost always try to get a first class seat, unfortunately when I travel by plane, it's usually on short notice, and I'm generally stuck with whatever is available... worst yet is when the seat you select when buying your ticket isn't the one you're assigned when you checkin. First class is usually 3x the price, and yet I always look... as a fairly tall fat guy, comfort is something that I probably value more than someone who weighs in under 180# at 5'9 though.


Most consider flying first class a luxury reserved for the wealthy or those who don't fly very often. The majority of flyers could never consider a first class ticket a responsible purchase.


Usually because it's ridiculously expensive. Would I pay 20-50% more for a first class seat? Probably. Would I spend 2-3x more? No. I'm still going to be miserable, the flight is still going to take just as long, and once it's over I'll be out all that extra money.


Those who fly a lot may get frequent upgrades through an airline's loyalty program. Some programs will upgrade you automatically if there are any seats available.


Last long distance flight I did we took economy premium, considering the amount of luggage we had, it was actually cheaper, and the leg room was very reasonable.


There are also cases, like with larger phones, where every manufacturer starts making bigger and bigger phones because "that's what customers want", without providing any options for customers that would prefer smaller phones. Customers then buy the big phones but are unhappy with them because that's all that was available.

I'm glad Apple didn't go in the same direction and released the iPhone SE, but even they were surprised by the demand for it:

http://appleinsider.com/articles/16/04/26/apple-faces-constr...


There is also Sony's Compact models. Same internals as their namesake, but physically smaller.

That said, i wonder how much the "big phone" issue comes from the paradox of wanting slim phones (needs to fit those jeans after all) longer battery life (Wh pr volume is largely a fixed value based on battery chemistry). Stretching the phones on the X and Y then allows a bigger (Wh) battery to be installed.

Never mind that they can also then market it with a higher screen inch number...


You're right, there are lots of reasons why manufacturers want to make larger phones, and there are lots of reasons why some people want to buy larger phones. I don't think that these reasons are wrong, but I also think it's fallacious on the part of the manufacturers to assume that just because a lot of people like large phones doesn't mean that everyone does, and that they shouldn't make smaller ones to cater to that market.


May be an ROI thing. A smaller model means additional design, testing, retooling the production line, etc etc etc.

On top of that you have things like store commissions, carrier subsidies, and who knows what else, going on between the OEM and the end user that affects the choice of model.

One relative of mind went from a small featurephone to a large smartphone, because another relative had gotten the same one. This with the idea that said other relative would be "tech support".


I recently got a 6S. What I really wanted was an SE, but they took so long to release the larger capacity ones that I couldn't wait.


I have a 64GB iPhone SE. What I really wanted was a 128GB SE, but sadly such a thing does not exist.


Maybe, but I think one can only really test if customers are willing to pay for battery-life if there are two otherwise identical models with different battery life available. Otherwise it's the thinner model with all the latest engineering built into it vs a high-battery life model that was implemented by a low-resource team because it's an experiment. (do you want a iphone 6 or iphone 6 w/ extra battery life...)


Something similar happens with TVs. If you ask people what they want, they say: "good color reproduction" but if you let them loose in a big box store they all gravitate to the brightest most blown out sets.


> If you ask people what they want, they say: "good color reproduction" but if you let them loose in a big box store they all gravitate to the brightest most blown out sets.

Big box stores are usually brightly lit (which is usually compounded by having all the light-emitting TVs next to each other, whatever their brightness setting is); human perception of color is strongly influenced by background, and in that environment not having a set configured at the brightest makes it looked dull and washed out rather than seeming like accurate reproduction of color.

This is, of course, very different from what looks good in typical use conditions.


Most big box stores I've been in the last few years, all the TVs on display are configured for maximum brightness and contrast anyway, I guess so they don't look washed-out next to all the other TVs that are configured the same way. It's impossible to tell what's good and what's not.


I'm thinking about getting a new TV soon, and I plan to order one online sight-unseen based solely on reviews. I don't want to sway myself by what they look like in a bright showroom with the brightness and contrast cranked up to the max.


They don't need to make it thicker. Just not thinner and with a better battery.


Battery chemistry gets in the way. You can only pack so much Wh into lithium with a given weight and volume.


If you could make the phone smaller from shrinking components, don't. Instead keep it the same size and fill the extra space with a bigger battery.

Or, if you could remove battery because of lowered power consumption of components (and then make the phone smaller) just Keep the battery the same size.


Phones have a huge set of features for consumers to choose.

I would not bet anything on phone companies marketeers ability to run multi-dimensional hypothesis tests on the market. And I do actively doubt they have any intention to, given the opportunity cost they'll pay at the beginning of such test, and how long the test results will probably stay valid.

The idea that the Market is an all knowing beast always operating at maximum efficiency is hilarious.


Not only that, another hilarious idea is that customers actually influence much in a market like this. People don't choose the closest phone to the hypothetical most perfect one for them - they choose out of what's available to buy, and the decision which one in particular is mostly driven by a) price, and b) marketing.

I'm yet to see a person who'd say "You know what? It would be cool if the new phones had heart-rate sensors.". It's always "oh, they put a heart-rate sensor in that phone, cool.". Driven by what manufacturers do, not what the consumers want.


People come up with all kinds of stuff they'd like to see, all the time. It's just that, for the most part, those ideas are not: * feasible for current mainstream tech * compatible with manufacturer's business models * forwarded to decision makers and prioritized.

Also the fact that people end up buying something different than they were initially requesting doesn't help to put more weight on their suggestions. But if you don't hear people asking for features, you're not listening all too closely.


If that was a real $100 bill someone would have picked it up already.


Could you name a few of the many "slightly thicker phones with bigger batteries" that no one bought? I must have missed them somehow.


The Droid MAXX comes to mind... except that everyone who bought them loved them. 5.86oz, 2.8 x 5.41", 5" 720P super AMOLED, 3500 mAH battery. The worst thing about them was that they were Verizon-exclusive.


Typing on one right now and cannot agree more. Great hardware ruined by Verizon exclusivity. Moto and Verizon teased the us with an upcoming lollipop update for a whole year before cancelling it and tried to make us pay more for the newer models with a discount, thank you but no.

Before that I owned every Droid qwerty slider including the elusive Droid 3. I love the form factor mainly because once extended the phone becomes a very natural reading/typing device not unlike some of the early PDAs. The keyboard was getting better with each iteration and Droid 4 was probably the best phone I have ever used for remote management with the row of dedicated numbers keys. We have all lost something when qwerty sliders faded out of the mainstream.


The iPhone 6 Plus is selling huge volumes with a bigger battery and a heavier phone for $100 more.


The LG G4 was slightly thicker than the others, has a 3000 mAh battery. I can go two days unheard of before I had this phone.


aka "last year's model"


Where are the phones with similar specs to the current flagship phones, but that are thicker and have a bigger battery? All the big battery phones have slower hardware and poorer screens. That's why they don't sell.

The closest thing I've seen is the S7 Active. It looks good, but I'm on T-Mobile, so it wouldn't be a great idea to get one.


I wonder if they work hard to eliminate effects of their own sales & marketing from that "research". People don't really give back much of a feedback about mobile phones - most average folks get whatever seems hot (i.e. mostly what the operator markets the most) or whatever the operator gives them as a cheap option to extend the contract.

I haven't seen a market that's more driven by what is being put for sale than mobile phones. People don't choose shit, they pick from the few somewhat cost-effective options that are available any given year.


It's about what companies can afford and are willing to purchase as well.

I doubt the technology to have higher density and more energy efficient battery is far off, but I fail to see any report of mass manufacturing of these, only article about new technology advancement in labs. And if there is no incentive from buyers (the device manufacturer) for better parts (in this case the battery), then the alternative is just have something that is good enough and that won't be dwarfed by the competition.


Agreed, also, customers value different things at different times: when buying a plan ticket, they value money more than comfort, but when actually flying, they usually regret that decision.

Also, when buying a smartphone, they rarely think "I should go for the uglier one, with a bigger battery", but after they notice how often they run out of battery, they'll buy an external one.


I bought gionee marathon m4 because it has the best battery. so some people do buy phones with better battery.


> I'm always blown away out how little cell phone manufacturers seem to listen to customer feedback. I don't care about my phone being paper thin. I'd guess most people don't either.

We can only guess based on what we hear. Cell phone manufacturers have a lot more data than we do and they keep going for thinness, so I have to imagine there's a demand for it.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that most consumers prefer battery life to thinness in surveys and polls but actually wind up buying the thinner phone when presented with actual hardware. Thinness is easy to see. If you're comparing phones in a Best Buy, the thinner one might feel more modern and impressive. Battery life is a hard feature to demo in that environment.

In other words, maybe the average person only wants battery life in the abstract, but opts for thinness when making a purchase.


You may be confusing "because of" with "in spite of". If your phone breaks and you need a new one, you buy one that has new features. If the only choice is thinner than you buy it and grumble on HN. I've never been asked to fill out a survey about the features I like/dislike about my phone.


> I've never been asked to fill out a survey about the features I like/dislike about my phone.

I've never been asked which political candidate I prefer, but I see polls on the news every night.


> We can only guess based on what we hear. Cell phone manufacturers have a lot more data than we do and they keep going for thinness, so I have to imagine there's a demand for it.

I worry about this being "data driven design", where X sells so lets try X+1. Problem is that phones do not sell on their own. Most customers buy them with some plan attached, meaning they often grab what gets the biggest carrier subsidy (or whatever gets the seller the biggest commission).

That or they get whatever their neighbor/relative/coworker/friend has.

There are a whole pile of perverse incentives between the OEM and the users that may or may not show up in the data hitting the meeting room table.


I remember this being one of the things that caught Blackberry by surprise. BB had better battery life and functionality etc, so BB co-CEOs never thought the iPhone would catch on.


Then again, the iPhone had years of iPod install base to bootstrap from. People in part bought it because it was an iPod with a mobile radio attached. The tech press had been hammering Apple for years to get into the phone market, as Nokia etc was eating their lunch with MP3 playing featurephones (at least in Europe).

And i seem to recall the stated surprise for BB was how much of the iPhone was battery.


I have worked in tech retail and the customer's needs are actually quite flexible with a bit of marketing. In any case the thinner and bigger trend seems to have ran its course: With the current UX design in iOS and Android, phones with screens larger than 5in are uncomfortable to a lot of average people and thus manufacturers can no longer cheat the thickness game by making the screen and chassis bigger.


> I don't care about my phone being paper thin. I'd guess most people don't either.

Sales seem to prove otherwise

> Can you imagine what an annoying hassle it would be to have to pair and unpair the same bluetooth headphones between two devices like that?

Bose seems to have come with a solution to avoid un-pairing and re-pairing: https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/over_ear_head...

> I don't want to have to get new ones, and I don't want to have to carry around a stupid lightning adaptor for them

Well, you can always not upgrade, or purchase a phone that has a 3.5mm jack. If enough people feel the same, manufacturers will continue to produce compatible products.

I suspect that (outside of HN), you're in the minority, however.


>> I don't care about my phone being paper thin. I'd guess most people don't either.

> Sales seem to prove otherwise

I'm not sure that sales have proven that people prefer a thinner phone. I know that when I buy a phone, I never look at the thickness specs, just at the height/width. My phone could be another few mm thicker and I wouldn't notice or care -- it would still fit in my pocket either way.

I may end up buying the thinner phone since it has more of the features I'm looking for, but not because it's thinner.


> Bose seems to have come with a solution to avoid un-pairing and re-pairing: https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/over_ear_head...

"Manage your headphones with an app" still sounds like an annoying hassle to me. Even if it works seamlessly, it's still a far cry from hot-plugging at will.


Do you expect "everyone" to buy $350 headphones, or for headphones with the same capability to be viably cheaper in price?


My $20 totally off-brand bluetooth headphones support multi-pairing. Does it always work 100%? No. Do I think cheap multi-pairing capable headphones will get a lot better as it becomes more important? Definitely.


> My $20 totally off-brand bluetooth headphones support multi-pairing.

What do you use? I also buy $20 totally off-brand Bluetooth headphones (I wear them while exercising, and sweat ruins them every few months), and mine don't have this feature, which I would love.


How often does it need to be recharged? Will it last a whole day at the beach?


Sales can be distorted in so many ways it is horrifying to rely on it as a trend indicator.


They don't listen to their customers because there is tremendous financial pressure to close "the analog hole".

Once data has to be transmitted wirelessly, there is a much better chance that you will do it in ways that can't be pirated, but can be controlled, monitored, and profited from.


It's hard to find DRM-ed music these days. Both iTunes and Amazon will sell you DRM-free music. Not convinced this is a driver of the design.


The continued availability of DRM-free music (just as we had before they first tried to introduce DRM) might be viewed as a temporary setback – I don't think they gave up their DRM push because they were suddenly convinced by the philosophical arguments, but rather because there was too much market resistance.

Once all the necessary pieces are in place to decisively force it on the consumer, why wouldn't they try again?


I wasn't talking as narrowly as the RIAA. I meant even USB ports are disappearing in favor of wireless charging and bluetooth.

If there's a USB port, most people will just plug in and back up to their computer. But if they do it over wireless, they'd just rather use Google / Apple's services, which means they get your data.


It's not about music. It's about movies, or why else should anyone be interested in a 4K phone screen?

And with movies, there's the ridiculous HDCP crap... and I highly believe that the MAFIAA would give manufacturers with a fully protected AV path cheaper licensing.


All you would be able to steal is the soundtrack then.


From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-bandwidth_Digital_Content...

> it must not transmit high definition protected video to non-HDCP receivers; and DVD-Audio material can be played only at CD-audio quality[7] by non-HDCP digital audio outputs (analog audio outputs have no quality limits)

Analog hole is still analog hole, and the MAFIAA wants to close it.


If you can play CD quality audio, it's hardly a hole. Better quality is only useful during creation/mixing. It's not like DVD audio is better, even if it has a higher sampling rate (probably worse then actually) or higher bit encoding.


There are other problems why the analog hole is hard to exploit:

1) Multi-channel streams are easy to grab in digital, but expensive to grab in analog - simple reason: six channels that have to be captured in exactly the same time, without offset. Most consumer-grade sound cards only carry one line-in, not three of them.

2) Power supplies in computing tend to be NOISY. I mean, REALLY noisy. So basically the PSU adds noise to the output DAC, and then the PSU adds noise at the ADC stage. It most definitely is a quality loss.

3) Naturally, headphone-outs and in a lot of cases line-outs tend to be engineered in a way that their output impedance can drive headphones, too. This can massively distort the signal.

4) Clipping. Hard enough to avoid when using a professional mixing table, next to impossible to avoid when ripping audio via the analog hole.


Humans can hear up to 28khz when paying close attention. "CD Quality" is slightly below the threshold of hearing, at a point where most people don't notice the difference or care to notice the difference.

It's also somewhat poorly-defined, because "CD quality" can mean lousy mid-range performance when rounding 24-bit to 16-bit, or high frequency hiss when noise-shaping 24-bit to 16-bit.

So "CD quality audio" is quite a degradation when you listen in a 100% quiet room with expensive speakers and your full attention.


28kHz is either a typo or you give too much credit to human ears. 18kHz is more likely the real figure.


That depends on the ears, that's why the ultrasonic youth drive-aways are so successful. Old people simply can't hear them due to age and external degradation (loud rock music concerts).

I, for example, can hear these ultrasonic weasel defenders, which operate between 20 and 30 kHz, again - when I used to work on outside construction works using massive jackhammers, excavators etc. I couldn't because daily stress would fuck up my ears.


I have my doubts that humans can hear above 20kHz.

It's more likely that the sound produced by those devices, even if ultrasonic, may produce intermodulations in the audible range.


28 kHz is in fact correct, although only in lab conditions:

> The commonly stated range of human hearing is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Under ideal laboratory conditions, humans can hear sound as low as 12 Hz and as high as 28 kHz, though the threshold increases sharply at 15 kHz in adults, corresponding to the last auditory channel of the cochlea.

(ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_range)


Even 18kHz is too high. Adolescents can only sometimes hear as high as 17kHz, and adults can often only hear as high as 14kHz.


Is the "analog hole" still an issue for music, now that all-you-can-eat streaming services have become the norm? Is anyone using their 3.5mm jack to capture a Spotify stream?


Every day I plug my phone (or tablet) into my kitchen DAB radio's auxiliary socket to listen to stuff I play on these devices whilst cooking, sitting round the table chatting with friends or just staring out the window watching the birds in my garden. I guess for me it's less about "capturing" streams but that every audio/amp device in my house, that's attached to speakers, has a line-in cable with 3.5mm jack on the end.

Not having an analogue hole would be a right royal pain in the arse.

[edited to fix my english]


I download songs to Spotify with premium and use the 3.5mm jack to plug it into the aux jack in my car.

I guess a lot of newer cars have bluetooth pairing, but mine doesn't.


I have a car that does. My last phone would play audio on it for about 30 seconds and then immediately disconnect. On a previous version of the firmware it would reliably panic and reboot after ~20 minutes of playing music. It worked fine with other speakers but there was something"magical" going on between it and the car.


While streaming music currently gives lots of music for cheap, it is doing because it is competing with piracy. And efforts to control piracy are a bit hampered because of the potential to use the "analog hole" (if you could only get a given song with analog recording of Spotify, then people would do it).

Further, a lot of the anti-piracy impulse is not simply a desire to charge get more money from everyone but a desire for control. Essentially, the music industry is reconciled to most people paying little for their music (or better yet, most people forced to hear advertising mixed with their music) but the industry want to have the ability to sell to people at a variety of levels. Perhaps charge more for just released music or certain artists or music connected to movie sound-tracks or for "audiophile level" audio or whatever.

For a commodity that's infinitely reproducible, the ideal position is being able to separately charge each consumer exactly what they're willing to pay. Maximum utility for the owner, which would imply minimum utility for the buyer.


Possibly, considering that the industry historically lagged significantly behind current reality when it comes to business practices and mindset.


I know you're right but at the same time I can't remember the last time I had to use the analog hole to save some kind of media.


I doubt they'll be HDCP over USB-C. There are much easier ways to rip DRM music anyway (and most of the stuff people play today isn't under DRM unless you rent your music from Spotify).


  what an annoying hassle it would be to have to pair and
  unpair the same bluetooth headphones between two devices
There are actually bluetooth headsets that can be paired to two audio sources at the same time [1] and switch between sources automatically.

That said, such headsets are pretty rare and command a surprising premium for what looks like a purely software feature.

[1] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jabra-Easygo-Bluetooth-Headset-colo...


I don't think they are that rare or expensive so long as you don't insist on hi-fi brand names. My Awei earbuds pair with two devices and they cost under NOK 150 (about USD 18) including shipping from China to Norway. They are not as good as my wired Sennheiser HD 595s but are plenty good enough for casual listening while on the move or working, considerably more portable, and about a tenth of the price!


In this case (as in many others) the standard desire of a Hacker New user may well not line up with what the rest of the population (consciously or unconsciously) desires. And as others have pointed out, these manufacturers will have data on what actually sells.


This. Exactly my take too. Manufacturers are not as tuned in to user feedback as most might think. Many think they know better. No one worth any chops in UX though sees the removal of the audio jack as good. I've read and heard all the arguments in favor of removing the 3.5mm audio jack. Everyone ignores the fundamentals of good UX principles though. Too many companies have a very narrow UX scope though.


I would like to point out that any individual's opinion is mostly likely just for him/herself. He/she might be more tech-savvy, or knows more than average consumers, but that does not translate to be more representative.

For example, I absolutely love thinner phones. I cannot revert to thicker ones after each time I switched to thinner ones. I guess my experience aligns with the majority of the consumers, but I do not know.

I totally respect Apple's (or any smart phone manufacture) decision, they certainly know much more than me on how to cater millions and billions consumers.


"...I'll then see a little video or something has been sent to me by a friend on my phone. I unplug the headphones from my macbook, plug them into my phone, watch the video..."

Why don't you just watch the video on your laptop? Even with a simple 3.5mm plug, moving the headphones over sounds like a lot of work for something that you can just do on the laptop.

Even if your friends send you an SMS with the video, there are plenty of ways to get an SMS on your laptop.


> Often I'm sitting at work with my headphones plugged into my computer to listen to music...

Perhaps the videos aren't reachable via his work network, or the OP doesn't want his "work" to know what's being viewed at the office? I'm sure there are other reasons to use a cell network (which is the assumption).


> Often I'm sitting at work with my headphones plugged into my computer to listen to music. I'll then see a little video or something has been sent to me by a friend on my phone. I unplug the headphones from my macbook, plug them into my phone, watch the video, then plug my headphones back into my macbook. Simple.

For this I just connect my phone to my computer so that all audio comes out of my laptop.


Regarding the pairing, there ARE headphones out on the market that support being paired to two devices (maybe some support more). I think this is specifically to address your concerns, and it seemed to be a pretty common feature in any $50+ Bluetooth headphone I looked at the other day while shopping.


> I'd be paranoid it's not connected to the right device and suddenly I'm blasting music to the people in my office.

This regularly happens to people who sit near me and use bluetooth headphones. It is pretty awkward when they are listening to pick-up artist tutorials on Youtube.


Modern Bluetooth headphones, like my Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless ones, pair and connect to multiple devices at the same time.

And should I exhaust their (measured, actual) 22-hour battery life, they can be used in wired mode, as well.

Apple earbuds aren't 'nice' headphones.


Can't your headphones be paired with multiple devices?

On the UI side just need the OS to present local bluetooth devices as output options, just like they switch to usb/hdmi/internal/headphones


Most bluetooth headsets that I've tried really only pair with one device at a time, and it can be cumbersome to impractical to actually switch with any convenience.


Completely agree. It feels like Apple is now focusing their features entirely on marketing alone -- "look how small it is!" -- instead of how people actually use their devices.


I find it incredible that you think a company with an installed base of hundreds of millions of devices and a ludicrously high customer satisfaction rating somehow ignore how people actually use their devices in favour of marketing.


I don't have to un-pair and re-pair my LG Tone BT headphones. It's paired to my laptop and my phone all the time


I love my bluetooth headphones at work. Sure, about once a year my co-workers get subjected to Mars Volta for about 3 seconds, but I also don't have a cord getting stuck on everything and keeping me literally tethered to my desk. An entire port just for audio out seems silly to me. But, I do seem to be in the vast minority here. haha


It's the same with ultrabook manufacturers killing the ethernet port :(


Difference is that there's huge variance in laptops, but phones are all largely similar, and build off each other. If they start swapping off 3.5, it's gone. You can still get ultrabooks with fold-out Ethernet jacks, which while a little flimsy, are still there.


Why don't you plug your nice headphones/headset into the computer and pair your phone bluetooth to the computer? That way you can listen to audio from your phone and your computer without swapping jacks.


Great, until I use my Playstation Vita to play a game on my commute home. Then open my computer at home to watch a video. Or maybe plug my headphones into the PS4 pad. I’ve got 5 different systems I regularly plug my headphones into.


I think you are overestimating how functional real world bluetooth is...


I plug my phone into my car. It as 3.5" jack and no bluetooth. I don't have to buy yet another device to plug into the jack to provide a bluetooth interface.


I installed a $10 a2dp to 3.5mm device, powered by usb into my car, works quite well. Better than bluetooth built into cars which seem to start playing music instead of the podcast I've been listening to.


I got my Bluetooth headset to pair and work with my laptop (2015 Dell) and Windows 8.1 for all of an evening before the audio stream quit. After around 4hr of troubleshooting and a few subsequent sessions in the office, gave up. That was about 6 months ago. I've reverted to a USB wired headset.


I have a bluetooth speaker and bluetooth earbuds. Both worked fine under Android 4.4, now both stutter under Android 6.

It's too bad, especially since the SRS-X3 was not a cheap purchase. And NFC speaker pairing is all sorts of cool. But music that stutters constantly? The crappiest $2.50 earbuds you can find make for better listening than that.


Both my Nexus 4 and 5 stuttered constantly when paired with a Hyundai i30's head deck. I'm of the opinion that the Android bluetooth stack is not the greatest thing ever...

Less problems with CyanogenMod 12 and 13's stack, though.


It'd be great if device and OS developers made that a thing you could do!


I'd be OK with killing the audio jack if it was replaced with a common and better standard. But right now, my laptop will have a 3.5mm jack, the iphone 7 will have a lightening port, and any other device will likely use a USB based port. I just have zero appetite to walk around with 3 different earphones or to have to carry multiple dongles in my pocket.

I am not going to follow manufacturers on this until they have a solution that is convenient. And that's just to remain at par with 3.5mm in term of convenience. Now what do I get for having to replace my headset? Am I really going to notice the difference in quality when I am travelling? Really? It looks to me that it is rather another pathetic attempt to lock people into their hardware, with only Apple approved earphones being compatible with the iphone, etc...


> it was replaced with a common and better standard.

Bluetooth.

Wireless. Allows play/pause button, forward and rewind button. Even transmits song titles to your car stereo. Exists on all PCs, Macs, iOS phones, Android phones, late-model cars, and even some home stereos.

A few people will shout loudly about this jack being gone. Everyone else will get a cheap Bluetooth, wonder why they futzed with a cord this long, remember to charge it every now and then, and otherwise not think about it much.


Wireless sucks. Connections drop, interference hampers it, it's far more costly, there's a significant delay, you're required to charge the device, it uses more battery to operate the radio.


Also there are privacy issues/tracking of hardware addresses.


Anecdotal for sure, but I've been using Bluetooth headphones with my phone for couple of years now. Wouldn't go back. The connection almost never drop and there's no interference. There's no delay because the phone syncs all audio with the bluetooth headphones. I don't see noticable drop in iPhone's battery either. The only annoying thing I've noticed is that sometimes my headphones have run out of battery, but it's not a big deal for me at least.


> remember to charge it every now and then, and otherwise not think about it much

And that, folks, is why the 3.5mm jack is still the gold standard.


...right up until they want to use their headphones with their Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and remember what a huge pain in the ass it is to pair and un-pair bluetooth devices.

Bluetooth has some compelling use cases. This isn't one of them.


Is this a bluetooth problem or shitty product problem?

Eg. my car has no problem being the 'headphone' for several different devices.


That's an excellent solution for anyone who doesn't mind carrying a car around with them.


Just park it outside as usual and let it play the music for the entire neighborhood...


And then I have to babysit even more batteries. I like my headphone, I can forget them in my pocket when I don't need them. I have already too many batteries to care for.


and it works splendidly until someone with a bluetooth enabled device like a smart tv comes along.

once that ... thing is nearby it will try to pair with any and all devices in the vicinity, making everything pretty much unusable.

i was really happy with my bluetooth headset until i moved into an apartment in a bigger city. suddenly my devices no longer pair with the headset because other devices, not owned by me, are quicker with their autodiscovery and forced 'add' behaviour.


>Bluetooth.

-more expensive, again bluetooth stack is the size of IPv4 stack

-lossy audio, or again more expensive headphones full of patented crap

->100ms latency


That is so true, its the same situation whip makers were in when car were becoming popular. Wireless is so much better especially for portables.

If I go hi-fi route I am sure theres tons of options available anyway. Lots of headphone amps do accept digital input already and headphone amplifier circuitry generally sucks, nexus and iphone being not too bad in this department.

Another thing is, makers should make digital port extra sturdy. MicroUSB and lighting is pretty good at that already IMO.


> It looks to me that it is rather another pathetic attempt to lock people into their hardware, with only Apple approved earphones being compatible with the iphone, etc...

It reminds me of a much more agressive attempt apple made way back with the ipod's headphone jack being slightly deeper (if I remember correctly) effectively making many headphones not function correctly.

Maybe back then that was more branding than control - seeing those white earbuds told everyone you owned a ipod and not one of the other brands.


Actually it was just a way to have the jack be thinner -- the usual place a lot of trouble with Apple starts.


Why did apple never put a lightning port on their Mac computers?

One more reason to get rid of the 3.5mm jack: To annoy people like Square who avoid paying the Apple tax to connect to an iOS device


The original square reader was a 3.5mm jack to save on cost, prevent an external power soirxe, and ensure compatibility with devices that were (at the time) not Bluetooth enabled. Now that you can put power off of the phone's charge port, Bluetooth peripherals are becoming increasingly more popular. It's a way better way to interface with the phone and applications.


One huge problem with wireless is that pairing and re-pairing sucks. If I want to use my wired headphones with a different device - be it an iPhone, iPad, computer, etc, all I need to do is plug in the cable. I'd really hate to have to press and hold a button on the device until a light starts blinking, then go into the Bluetooth settings on the device I want to connect it to, then pair it, like you have to do with many Bluetooth headphones and speakers today.

I'm sure that a set of Apple Bluetooth headphones connected to an Apple device could shortcut some of this, but it would still likely be a PITA on anything without an Apple logo. But maybe that's the point?


I agree, and I hope someone in the Google Nexus group recognizes the lunacy of removing such a widely accepted port. Maybe Samsung will keep the phone jack, at least; they've been pretty stubborn about keeping a microSD memory slot as well.


The microSD slot is actually why I use a Samsung tablet to watch movies. That and the 16/9 screen.


aple is testing how gullible the market is for this type of things for years.

I can plug my asus devices direct to a vga or hdmi projector. for apple I need a external plug. then the same for network. then the same for SD cards, I need a special shorter one. then for 3.5mm phone jacks, for apple I ned one with COMM in the MIC pin and vice versa. etc.

the market was always gullible to all that and they know it. so they will continue with the trend until the money flow stops.


> I can plug my asus devices direct to a vga or hdmi projector. for apple I need a external plug.

Because DisplayPort is a much better and more versatile standard than HDMI. I have no idea why projectors are switching to the shitty foosball TV standard instead of it.


How are you attributing gullibility to market demand? Maybe Apple dropped the VGA port because their customers didn't need them anymore, and HDMI is prevalent almost everywhere now, so that's suitable. Also, I have an HDMI port on my MacBook, so I don't need an external plug. On the smaller ones, sure, but maybe those users rarely, if ever, connect? I'm not a huge fan of needing a dongle to do this stuff, but for the infrequency with which I need to do it, I don't mind having the dongle if the trade off is a lighter machine the rest of the time. Maybe that makes me gullible.


I'm going to be the one to argue here that this is a good thing. The barrel jack has had a long good run, yes. There will definitely be a period of painful transition, yes. In the long run, this will be good.

The barrel jack is a hack and has a tonne of downsides. We hacked stereo into a mono plug. We then hacked a mic into the stereo plug. Hotplug detection is a patented minefield mess. It's a big plug that tends to collect cruft and makes it difficult to waterproof devices.

Eventually we'll have USB-C DACs that are cheap and small enough to keep connected to the ends of your headphones. For people that don't care about audio quality, a $5 Chinese-branded adapter from Amazon will be indistinguishable in a few years.


Honestly, I don't know why people complain about stuff like this.

Please expand upon the tonne of downsides, because in practice, none of the issues you have mentioned have ever impacted my use of the jack.

Keeping a small cable sized DAC attached to my headphones (once they finally exist) is not my concern. The concern is getting manufacturers to agree to a standard. So instead of one DAC, I'll need more than that, or some set of adapters for whatever that plug ends up being.


Jack plugs are just an awful design. If you've ever pulled a jack plug out of its socket and had the speakers make a horrible loud crack, you've experienced it: you can't unplug them without shorting the signal to ground.

Their only saving grace is how robust they are, but that's mostly thrown away by 3.5mm ones, where either the plug bends with remarkable ease, or the plug doesn't bend and the socket gets knocked out of shape with the slightest provocation.

There are better analogue standards around. There always have been. It's mostly a lost cause.


> you can't unplug them without shorting the signal to ground.

Wrong. This is evidence of a cheaply desigined output circuit. There are many jacks that include muting switches. They are spring loaded, and when contact is lost, a muting circuit is enabled.

And, if you are disconnecting the source side first, that is your problem not the jack's. Any analog connection disconnected source side first could result in this behaivor. It can be mitigated by some circiut on the amplifier side that detects a loss of connection. The technology exists, some cheaper electronics just fail to implement it.

Noise on disconnection could happen with a digital circuit too if the designer of the amplifier/speaker fails to account for that case.


> And, if you are disconnecting the source side first, that is your problem

Sadly, people don't care..

Also, my jack is connected to my speakers from behind. I don't want to bend my arm in strange positions every time I want to disconnect the jack.


True, they don't care. They do care about price, and when/if digital interconnects become the norm, don't expect the cheap implementations to handle the loud pop on disconnect situation any better.


Why do you need a DAC? Only "high end" headsets should have those.

The rest I imagine will simply be replacing the barrel connector with a USB connector and using USB-C's analog audio output over the proper conductors.

Not sure why this is that large of an issue - the only problems here I can see are of course the transitioning of the physical connector type which is truly painful - and I suppose vendors could choose to disable analog audio support on devices in favor of more lock-in.


Fine, replace one analog connection with another - that will not likely be standard on all devices. Cue plethora of easy to lose adapters taking up more space in my backpack. It's just silly.


> Why do you need a DAC?

To convert the digital signal coming from the device to an analog signal that my headphones can understand?


What's to stop Apple from setting a few pins on the Lightning port for analog audio? Or is the port exclusively digital?


I believe the Lightning port itself is digital signal and power only. There may be cables that have a small lump in them somewhere that provides an inline DAC to output to analog audio. This would be an example of a propreitary adapter though, and is not desireable.


It's not like fragmentation would be a new thing - TRRS jacks are already fragmented between CTIA and OMTP pinouts. (Is the outer-most ring a ground, or the mic signal?)

The former is terrible because the mic signal is on the outermost connection, so if your device has a metal enclosure the plug shorts the mic to ground. (Unless you have a special plug with no metal shoulder.)


They also hacked volume+pause controls onto the jack using flaky impedance tricks. I've had bad luck getting those controls working with TRRS extension cables.

People also use active noise-cancelling headphones that require their own battery.

I'm a bit nervous about the transition away from the classic 3.5 jack, especially since it looks like it'll probably be a standards war between the Apple and Android worlds. There are, however, some nice potential advantages.


> I've had bad luck getting those controls working with TRRS extension cables.

Ugh. That. A tip: always ensure that the extension cable is attached to the auxiliary device (eg headset) first.

One of those flaky impedance tricks is to try and detect the microphone through it's impedance when the TRRS jack senses a plug.

If you plug the extension cable in first, the device detects the plug in the jack, can't detect the microphone (or whatever other magical device it's looking for - like volume controls), and disables anything it doesn't detect until the plug is removed.

( At least that's how my Macbook works. )


biggest hack being credit card reading dongles


This is likely why Apple is so interested in killing the 3.5 mm jack. They want a cut of Square's business.


Comms can always be done over bluetooth or wifi. In fact, I don't get why Square didn't go this path - I know that I would break the connectors every other day.


It makes a whole lot more sense from a testing and EMF perspective. A connector is generally much more predictable than wireless- and the user interface is a lot easier to understand and troubleshoot by an everyday person. Getting bluetooth to pair or setting a phone into a hotspot and then joining the device to the wifi network would be a support call nightmare.

I think it makes infinitely more sense to give you something you plug in. Attackers can't hijack the signal in interesting ways, and nearly anyone who would use a Square device would be familiar with how to plug things into a 3.5mm jack.


> Getting bluetooth to pair or setting a phone into a hotspot and then joining the device to the wifi network would be a support call nightmare.

People are used to pair Bluetooth devices these days - cars, wireless headphones, keyboards, mice... it's incredibly easy.

As for Wifi setup, Edimax does something really clever in their Wifi smart plugs - upon first powerup, the device creates an AP. The phone app connects to this IP, transmits the Wifi connection details and then disconnects.


The new Square reader which supports contact-less payments uses Bluetooth - so they're moving in the right direction at least.


Do you think we will have USB-C ports on iPhones?


I would accept a standardized USB-C replacement for the 3.5mm jack, but I don't see any evidence of that happening.


How many waterproof devices are out there?


I see a lot of comments that say something along the lines of "Apple knows best about what its customers want. The fact that we would prefer to keep the headphone jack doesn't matter because we don't necessarily represent the average customer."

However, I think that's giving them too much credit.

It's not that Apple "knows what the people actually want", it's that Apple knows how far it can "push" the customers to extract the most amount of money possible. It is a business afterall. Also, they want to lock people into proprietary protocols. The headphone jack isn’t proprietary. Apple probably hates the fact that you can plug a pair of Sony headphones into an iPhone.

They know that they have a large enough market share to be able to “drive” things they way they want. As for the other manufacturers ditching the jack as well, they are just following Apple.

If Moto was the only company doing this, no one would care. The people who want the jack would simply buy another phone. However, in the case of the iPhone, the barriers of simply switching to another phone are much larger. It's unlikely that someone who wishes they had the headphone jack is going to switch to Android just because of that. They will probably just end up biting the bullet and buying whatever adapter is required by Apple.


My car stereo has a 3.5mm jack. My TV has a 3.5mm jack. My speaker system has a 3.5mm jack. The new chromecast has the version with a 3.5mm jack.

I just don't understand where manufactures are going with this. I recently got a small Bluetooth speaker and have problems pairing from time to time, but not when I have a 3.5mm jack. I just connect the cable and it works. Don't even get me started with battery drain.

This is really annoying. It all reminds me of when I was searching for my first cellphone and most phone didn't have the jack. In the end my first cellphone (Samsung Omnia) didn't have a 3.5mm jack and it was really annoying having to buy an adapter in order to listen to music.


In my experience, Bluetooth is just the worst. It's consistently unreliable for me. Every Bluetooth device I've ever had has been a constant headache of pairing issues and random disconnects and reconnects, sometimes getting into a loop of that every few minutes.

I don't know if that's a universal problem for everyone, but my negative experiences with it have been enough to turn me off wanting to buy anything Bluetooth and favor other solutions instead. I use a Logitech mouse with a little USB antenna instead of Bluetooth, which is consistently reliable and never has an issue, and normal headphones with a 3.5mm plug or non-Bluetooth wireless headphones which have no connectivity issues.


I've also had bad luck with Bluetooth phone stuff.

On the other hand, my Bluetooth Mac keyboard seems rock-solid (other than dying when the battery goes dead, of course). I don't recall it ever losing its pairing.

On the third hand, a Bluetooth iPad keyboard (not Apple-made) we had at a place I used to work was total crap. You could figure on having to go through the pairing process at least once a day.


I haven't used an Apple Bluetooth keyboard but did use an Apple Bluetooth mouse some years ago that had endless loss of connection issues.

Other non-Apple Bluetooth keyboards also have this issue, where I'll be typing and it randomly loses connection mid-word, then sometimes comes back after a few seconds and other times just decides it's not going to turn back on without manually turning it off and on and fiddling with Bluetooth settings on the computer before it finally returns, or not.


Sony of all companies did the same thing with their Walkman cellphone! Drove me up the wall but I loved that phone.


I would be remiss if I didn't point out a huge error in this article...

> USB-powered headphones will (in theory) run a lot like Bluetooth headphones which have their own DAC/AMP. Your phone passes the raw data through to the headphones and it does the required converting. This can be a great thing. Instead of relying on a poorly-calibrated DAC in the particular phone that you are using, you can instead move that component to a piece of hardware you can control. So if 24-bit uncompressed audio is your thing you can have it with any audio source. While this increases the cost of the headphones it will also produce better quality audio if you are willing to put some money into it, which is a win in my book.

In this scenario laid out by the author, audio from your music is passed on to a BT device untouched. This is most certainly NOT the case.

Regardless of the format of the source audio, uncompressed (WAV,AUF), lossless compressed (ALAC, FLAC, SHN), or lossy (MP3, AAC, etc.), the data is transcoded and repackaged into the Bluetooth stream. What this means is that lossless audio becomes lossy, and lossy audio gets even more lossy.

The author's assertion that if "24-bit uncompressed audio is your thing you can have it..." is pure B.S. You will be at the mercy of whatever link is between your source device (phone) and your listening device (headset/speaker) and what ever hacking of the audio signal it does.


I thought there was a way to pass an MP3 stream directly over Bluetooth without modifying (transcoding) it? I could be wrong.


This is theoretically possible. However, every discussion I could find indicates that it's most likely not implemented, as it'd require bypassing the final mixer -- and then you wouldn't get the control blips and phone rings over the A2DP link.

[1] http://forum.powerampapp.com/index.php?/topic/7586-bit-perfe... [2] https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php/topic,104654.0.html [3] http://android.stackexchange.com/questions/26410/how-do-i-de... [4] https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6654180 [5] http://www.cnet.com/news/can-aptx-give-you-better-sound-over... [6] http://stereos.about.com/od/Wireless/fl/What-You-Might-Not-K...


Maybe there is. I've seen references to the ability to encapsulate a compressed stream directly. That said, support for it varies widely. However, uncompressed 24-bit audio is not gonna happen.


I agree with some of the stuff in here but...

> So while Apple will be successfully pushing its customers towards its Lightning port powered headphones on an established (Apple) standard with readily available products, Android OEM’s that choose follow Lenovo fight a largely uphill battle and an empty ecosystem.

This is nothing short of ridiculous. iPhone users have a bit more spending power, but android still represents a huge majority of smartphone users. There is just no chance whatsoever that headphone manufacturers don't target android. We might see a very brief lag while android sort of "switches over," but in the meantime everyone else can just use 3.5mm like they always have.


That's if they all switched at the same time. Unfortunately right now only one manufacturer is willing to make the change.


I use the 3.5mm jack to send audio out to my car stereo (which is up to date enough to have a 3.5mm input but not up to date enough to have Bluetooth input), and it's a pain in the rear, and I go through five or six cables a year. I'm not sure 3.5mm audio is the hill we all need to die on in the war against the march of technology.


> I use the 3.5mm jack to send audio out to my car stereo (which is up to date enough to have a 3.5mm input but not up to date enough to have Bluetooth input), and it's a pain in the rear, and I go through five or six cables a year.

Dude, what are you doing? I've been using one cable for several years for exactly that purpose, and it was a nothing-special cable I got, IIRC, at a drug store. I go through phones more often than I go through 3.5mm cables.


Probably either parent himself or his/her s/o is a "car tidyness" fetishist, and nothing will kill a cheap cable faster than winding and unwinding it every day.


Indeed. Apple cables, micro USB cables, even HDMI cables have all failed for me more often than 3.5mm cables. Even my earphones last like 1-2 years, and they get a ton of abuse


If you actually want Bluetooth, you can buy inexpensive dongles that receive BT and output on a 3.5mm audio jack, which you could run off your 12V plug and keep permanently in the car. Just thought I'd mention it in case you weren't aware and it's something you might be interested in.


In my neighborhood leaving something visibly plugged into the cigarette lighter in your car is a sign saying "Please break my window and look for electronics to steal"


Lots of cars have a cigarette lighter in the center console away from view.


You can always hard wire it and hide it behind the dash board.


So now instead of just plugging something into the car radio, we ought to solder (!) in a bodge to listen to phone music. Doesn't that strike you as over engineering a solved problem?


That depends on how badly you want Bluetooth and how comfortable you are doing this sort of work. Nobody is saying you have to do it, just that you can if you want to.


I think the question is not how much you want bluetooth, but how much you want to play songs on your phone over your car stereo.

In the current world you can often plug your phone into your car by a 3.5mm jack and play music. In the brave new world, you can plug a bluetooth dongle into your car's cigarette lighter and 3.5mm jack, pair your phone and then listen to music. If needed, you have the "option" of hiding this awful mess under the dashboard and hard wiring it.

It sounds worse than cassette adapters to me, but I am not a phone manufacturer, so I can't do much more than bitch on the internet :)


It's presented as an option for people who want it. I can't comprehend why you'd waste any time complaining about a possibility.


It's an option, sure. It's just far less convenient or practical than my current ability to plug a simple wire into my phone and then into a jack in my car. Removing that option in favor of soldering a device into my car stereo is not desirable.


OK? Nobody is saying that it must be desirable for you. It is merely being presented as a possibility in case the tradeoffs do make sense to you.

I find this to be a very puzzling part of hacker culture. Any suggestion that doesn't fit the personal desires of the commenter must be attacked, not merely ignored or politely rejected.


I hardly think imgabe and my posts constitute an attack. I'd call them a polite rejection of an idea.

Ignoring an idea in the context of a discussion about the idea seems pretty weird. Disagreement is part of discussion, and disagreement is not, in and of itself, impolite.

Losing a universal port on one of the most common phones doesn't really seem like an "option." It hasn't happened yet, so it's still a "possibility" but it is a possibility in the sense that the future is unknowable, not in the sense that it's something you have a choice in (beyond abandoning iphones). It's something Apple wants to do, but it isn't like a person could go buy an iphone with the "backwards compatible audio" option


I do precisely this. I got a $20 BT to 3.5mm adapter on Amazon and have a 3.5mm to cassette adapter to bring BT to my old car.


Bude, buy cables that are not total crap. I DJ and I go through cables like no one's business but my home setup has had the same cables for years and they only cost me a couple more bucks than the bottom-tier stuff.


If you have a "not crap cable" recommendation I'd love to hear it, but at the same time, I suspect your home setup doesn't involve plugging something into a jack and then removing it quite as many times a day as plugging a phone into a car stereo.


TS connectors were literally designed for telephone switchboards that are connected and disconnected on a near-constant basis. Consumer audio companies happily sell plastic garbage in fancy colors without strain relief, any compensation for compression and wear on the cable itself, and with low-grade connectors... but these are solved problems in the professional world.

If you're a heavy user, buy a cable intended for professional use. As an example, look at these:

https://www.amazon.com/Mogami-Stereo-Cable-3-5mm-Neutrik/dp/...

http://www.markertek.com/product/msc1-5mzmz/mogami-audio-cab...

Mogami specializes in entertainment-grade cable which is often certified to be waterproof, crushproof, oil resistant, UV resistant, etc. The connectors used are from Neutrik, who are also highly reputable. In the event that something goes wrong the parts are usually hand-repairable, and often you can find cable/connector assemblies carrying lifetime warranties. Other reputable names to look for are Belden and Carnare on the cable side and Switchcraft on the connector side.


The trick is to pull the cable by the plug and not by the cable. I've got a few of these $5 cables for different applications and they're great. Smile link: https://smile.amazon.com/Mediabridge-3-5mm-Stereo-Audio-Cabl...


The quality of the cables you buy and how you treat them is an idependent issue from that of the 3.5mm jack.

I've had more iPod and phone charger cables (read - digital cables akin to what a new headphone jack would use) die than I've had straight analog audio cables die.


Logical conclusion, you should buy a new Apple-approved car to fit the new iphone ports.



I have a 3.5mm cable that originally came with my Sega Genesis that still works fine. I've used it for all sorts of things throughout my life.

If you are going through six cables per year, you are doing something wrong. Even the cheapest cable from eBay should last longer than that provided you aren't also using it as a jump rope.


As a borderline audiophile I have mixed feelings mostly tending towards solution in search of a problem.

The DACs in Apple products have a very good reputation going all the way back to the early iPods and supposedly they kept getting better. When I travel I bring an Objective 2 headphone amp and AKG Q701 or Beyderdynamic DT-880 600ohm and use my iPhone 6+ as a music player and DAC. I can't tell the difference between that and the Objective 2 + ODAC I have at home.

In terms of pieces of the audio chain I think DAC is one of the least important in my anecdatal experience. At least if you have a decent one like any Apple device. Onboard audio from a PC/laptop motherboard is generally awful and even dedicated sound cards are full of noise and whine. I am very glad to have HDMI audio these days. A USB sound card trivially fixes the issue though.

So yeah it's nice for high end DACs to become more common, but is it that useful over the convenience of a solid built in DAC? I don't think so. That said I suspect the market will respond with adapters and cases that resurrect the 3.5 inch jack without a huge fuss and still pass through other functionality like syncing and charging.

For myself and most of Hacker News with above average incomes this is going to be a minor speed bump in terms of cost and a larger inconvenience in terms of more kit to lug around and swap between devices.


>The DACs in Apple products have a very good reputation going all the way back to the early iPods

I do not think this is the case at all. I recall the early iPods being blasted for their sound quality. One of the huge "wins" for the Microsoft Zune over the iPod was the audio quality. Everyone I know who owned a Zune was an audiophile.

I have no idea what the sound quality on current iPods/iPhones/iWhatevers is like. Maybe the DAC on the old iPod was held back by the codecs that Apple chose to use at the time. I know Apple created ALAC, and improved the quality of the lossy codecs at some point. Regardless, the audio quality of the oldest iPods was poorly regarded in general.


I think you're misremembering or are thinking of the later models when you think of "oldest". The first iPods used Wolfson DACs and were hugely well regarded. Apple changed this for the 3rd gen iPod, which was a duffer in nearly all respects (not just audio). Things started to get better again from 4G on.


I'm definitely not misremembering anything. The original (1-3rd gen) iPods sounded horrible. Maybe the amp was to blame, instead of the DAC, but they sounded bad. If you look back at the discussions regarding portable music players from the time, the Creative ZEN series always comes out ahead of the iPod in objective and subjective testing.

I was slightly late to the MP3 player game myself, but after listening to several different MP3 players I ended up with a Dell DJ because it just sounded better than the competition. That's just my personal, non-audiophile opinion, of course.

I'm not knocking the iPod. It was a better device than the competition in a lot of ways. It just didn't have audiophile quality sound.


The audiophiles disagree on this one, I'm afraid. The iPod absolutely did have audiophile quality sound. Then it compromised on this when they were going for growth (and using cheaper parts). It returned to form by the time of the later iPod Classics.

It's difficult to find cites from that far back, but the types over at head-fi appear to broadly agree http://www.head-fi.org/t/580987/has-ipod-changed-their-sound...


Maybe audiophile quality sound when driving the high impedance input of an amplifier, but certainly not when driving headphones directly, IMO.

The best portable music players I've listened to (in terms of headphone driving capabilities) were the portable CD players from back in the day.

My experience from way back in the early iPod days was that it simply did not have the power to drive my headphones hard enough to provide good sounding bass, where as my old CD player (which could play MP3s on a CD), sounded much better.

I always thought it was a result of some law which limited the power of headphone ports to prevent hearing loss in kids, but this could be all BS.


That was my mistake. To me oldest is when I started using them which was 4G and later.


I disagree entirely. I'm not an Apple fan boy, but I've actually run my own tests on iPods as early as the 3G iPod (the 30 GB hdd based one, not the phone) and the sound quality from the electronics was excellent. The MP3s are a different story because they were selling 128 kbps files back then. But you could load full bit rate PCM audio (WAV files) on them, and they sounded just as good as any quality CD player.


You are correct about early Zune having an advantage over the iPod. As time went on though, the larger iPods, now known as the Classic, began to ship with Wolfson DACs- a well respected DAC for portable audio.

Side note: ALAC, although lossless, never upset FLAC for a reason. Primarily because FLAC was open and ALAC was closed.

EDIT: Please disregard last comment, it has been corrected by a reply below this


Re side note: back in the day, yes. ALAC went open many years ago: https://alac.macosforge.org/


Oh wow, my bad. I had no idea ALAC went open. Very interesting, thank you for bringing this up. Time to burn half the work day poking around ALAC now and learning more!


Christ, I hope it's mirrored somewhere other than macosforge. I don't think anyone's actively looking after that site any more.


Quantitative tests indicate the iPhone 5 at least is quite good. http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/iphone-5/audio-quality.htm


The Zune did sounds really good, up until the day it turned itself into a brick.

Before the cause of the one-day bricking was known, I'd already tossed it so hard against a wall it would never work again.


I wonder how many audiophiles are aware of the drawbacks of Bluetooth? The protocol only allows for lossy compressed digital formats. Even if you're starting with a lossy compressed format like mp3 anyway, the typical system flow will result in a second compression with the consequent loss in fidelity.


This boggles my mind too. I've had a few friends that are audiophiles that love to use Bluetooth headpones and will argue about the quality of the DAC in the player.

And people here talk about the 3.5mm jack being a hack or a kludge. BT was not originally intended to carry high quality digital audio - it was a friggin wireless standard for telephone headsets. Telephone audio quality isn't exactly the world standard for Hi-Fi Audio.

I guess the new aptX Lossless codec allows lossless audio - but I'm not sure how many devices support it.

All this reminds me of a friend who attended a seminar with Sennheiser for their professional wireless microphone technology. The instructor said something to the effect of, "always remember, never replace a connection with wireless technology where a $10 cable will do. Because, all $10 cables will outperform even $10,000 wireless systems."


Well, we're talking about a community which is notorious for rejecting actual science and basing their conclusions on nothing more than price.

Here's a good example, Just check out that description:

http://www.musicdirect.com/p-66187-nordost-frey-2-power-cord...


> The DACs in Apple products have a very good reputation going all the way back to the early iPods

I don't remember this being true at all. I was in the camp that bought iRiver's H3x0 series + other companies' offerings because Apple's products had comparatively worse audio quality.


Older computers are getting more valuable ever day.


I think this more and more every year. The amount of technologic obsolescenced is growing with each passing day - and some of it, for no good reason. Getting rid of analog jacks that go directly before analog devices (like headphones) is just stupid. Putting DACs and amplifier circuitry inside of cables and headphones for the purpose of listening to high quality audio is just stupid.


Dual Core Thinkpad from ebay delivered to local Argos for less than a ton. Pop Linux of your choice on it. Does 99% of what I need.

Confession: I still use my Blackberry Bold 9000 but I have to admit attempting to listen to music on the thing flattens the battery (always has done).


So when the 3.5mm jack is killed, we'll get two USB-C/Lightning ports on our phones, right?


Sounds expensive to manufacture. You sure customers won't buy a $39.95 adapter cable instead? (/s)


Hah. Not when Apple loves dongles.


I am thinking..:

- Intel is working on adding analog audio over some unused pins on USB 3.1 (sfaik)

- Even if USB gets analog audio we will probably see the DAC+amp in computers and phones go away so they have more room for a battery

- With USB 3.1 headphones there would be a DAC+amp in/on the headphones

- With a DAC+amp on the headphones we could select to use the host computers' DAC+amp or the headphones' DAC+amp. Choice between quality or battery life?

- DRM sucks dicks - but there will always be a way to get between the DAC and the speaker for recording. Let's just limit consumer choice, amirite?

- Phones and laptops are all going USB, but there aren't nearly enough ports - I thought we killed fucking docks in the 90s. They're BACK?!?!

- USB and keyboard-cases became so expensive when tablets became popular... docks for more ports and audio will similarly be $100 and above.

- We might see the DAC+amp become another accessory to interchange between the digital audio source and the speakers. Another $100 device for enthusiasts.

- Lightning seems way better than USB type-c (physically better), but no way am I buying it just to be in the Apple crowd.

- Cash grab or DRM blitz? or both?


>Intel is working on adding analog audio over some unused pins on USB 3.1.

This was some bad reporting by one of the tech blogs last week - Intel was talking this up at IDF in 2014 and the author of this article didn't fact check it (and admitted his mistake on the Reddit discussion of this article). Audio adapter mode has been part of the usb type-c connector spec since its conception. Passing analog audio out over a couple pins is part of the spec, and not in any way experimental or undefined.


I'm not sure if I'm understanding you correctly - it should already be supported by the spec, but was misreported on by this other tech blog?


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