There are so many downsides to removing the jack, specifically around connections to other devices and systems - hifi systems, car audio, external microphones, and yes, even selfie sticks.
I would consider myself an audio enthusiast (Westone W60 headphones for daily use), and I don't relish the thought of needing to have either a) a bulky and inconvenient adaptor with an external DAC, b) new headphone cable with a DAC built in, at probably considerable expense, or c) switching to a new handset manufacturer that hasn't lost their mind.
The people who want external DACs can already make use of the USB or lightning connector while the rest of us quite happily make do with the convenience of the 3.5mm jack.
Apologies for the somewhat-ranty nature of this post, it just frustrates me to see functionality taken away for no good reason. Phones are already too thin, and I constantly have issues gripping my iPhone 6 - the thicker iPhone 5 felt much more comfortable in my hand, and was far easier to grip into with the square bevelled edges. We're heading in the wrong direction with thickness at the moment - I'd rather extra battery life via a larger battery than an extra 0.6mm thinner.
That's what gets me the most. Removing the jack simply takes away a choice and doesn't introduce anything new in its place. So frustrating.
e; it occurs to me i have no idea the different impedance for usb signals and line level, so this could all be hogwash
More importantly, is this an actual solution being pursued? It sounds good, but I can see this getting out of hand with each manufacturer having a different standard. Or there could be an "analog audio over usb-c" standard that codifies which pins get which channel.
In the meantime, the 3.5mm jack actually takes up a not at all trivial volume in the handset.
I suspect that if they were to remove it, they’ll do it without trying to justify it at all. They’ll present it as the way it is. See the App Store search results Ad. announcement, which is borderline tone-deaf, for one recent example of doing something that wholly benefits Apple and no one else.
What a load of nonsense. What else of equivalent utility would be put there, a cure for cancer?
This is just a DRM play in the guise of making the phones sexier.
The "how thin can we make our phones" game is as stupid as the 3D TV game.
Granted, Lightning and USB-C have their own failure modes, but the physical construction and durability of 3.5mm plugs and jacks are a good reason to abandon TRS connectors.
They are both definitely recent enough that a use case like that must have been considered during their design.
I don’t know whether that was considered, but you seem quite sure about that and I don’t know where you get your certainty from and I would like to know.
To be equally fair, this is not a required part of the USB Type-C spec, so it's unlikely to be widely or properly adopted.
The whole thing strikes me as a net negative for the average consumer; those who want quality audio will simply continue to use high quality external DACs (assuming this isn't prevented by some convoluted DRM implementation).
On the bright side, maybe phone manufactures who don't treat the users in this way will be more competitive. Competition is good.
Regarding adapter problem, all decent headphones come with removable cable. You'll probably be able to buy OEM replacement with tiny DAC that is hidden in the cable.
People with the (perceived?) need for higher resolution audio than CD seem like the sort of people who would probably want to hand-select their own DAC anyway, which should obviate downsampling their higher sample rate tracks.
Hydrogen Audio has done some of the more accessible tests, but there are other tests in more controlled conditions which you might prefer.
Read the methodology and the statistical analyses, they are reasonably thorough and rigorous (amateur, but definitely not "quasi-scientific").
Here's another: http://soundexpert.org/encoders-192-kbps
And another: http://soundexpert.org/encoders-256-kbps
You can see that the differences at 192 Kbit/s AAC are generally beyond the capabilities of human perception, and at 256 Kbit/s, AAC has a very healthy margin.
So the argument that AAC is perceptually inferior to CD quality has little basis according to the evidence.
Think about a streaming service which would play songs but some songs could only be decoded using Beats or Skullcandy...
DRM can rarely be used as a protection against mass copying and pretty much never when you cannot control the analog output of the protected content, it's only real use it to restrict how lawfull consumers can access and use the content.
External DAC's have existed for Android devices for quite a while (BT/USB DAC's), and even for iOS (you could connect a DAC to an iPhone/iPad since they switched to the Lighting cable).
The streaming industry has almost hit a dead end with monetization, having a digital interface that can be controlled gives them a whole new avenue of value added services and while it's unlikely that they'll jump on it immediately I would bet my money on the likes of Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music capitalizing on this within the next 2 years.
At the start, you'd need to modify headphones to be able to record the signal, but I doubt this will work in the long term. At some point it's highly likely the DACs will come with DRM so that only approved headphones work with a device.
The only "DRM" I can think of with USB-C is playing impedance games. So right now you could probably get away with soldering a 1K resistor and a RCA plug in place of the headphone element and you'll have a usable signal, but if they played weird impedance games you might need a simple opamp in there to adjust the levels to normal.
Something that's annoying today is to get line level audio out of the bluetooth connection to my car stereo I need to bypass a nanny warning about blowing my ears out, but only on my phone. Apparently "line level" on my BT adapter that makes my BT volume about the same as, say, the radio or CD, would, if connected to a BT earpiece or headphones, blow someones ears out. You can safely assume the people who screwed up something so incredibly simple as setting levels, will successfully find a way to screw up usb-C headphone levels. So one brand will nanny-state and prevent anything louder than a church whisper, others will sound different levels based on what device they connect to, it'll be the predictable epic fail.
Speaking of my nice bluetooth headphones with their couple hours of battery life, since buying them many years ago I haven't plugged headphones into my phone or tablet. They're nice enough headphones. I'm just surprised the marketing push is to keep shoving audio thru legacy wired cables instead of going full on bluetooth. I suppose there's a lot of money to be made in worn out headphone cables. When I'm not listening to music, but speech instead (audio books, podcasts, etc) I'll swap my bluetooth headphones for my bluetooth earpiece thingy.
I didn't mean to imply DRM existed in USB-C today, what I was implying is that the move away from the 3.5mm jack to USB-C audio is at least partly driven by DRM (in the long run). It's like what happened with HDMI. HDMI is more or less DVI-D video + digital audio + DRM (HDCP). What was the point of adding in the DRM to HDMI? What risk was posed by unencrypted DVI video streams? In my opinion, similar arguments for adding DRM to HDMI will be given for adding DRM in future revisions of USB-C audio. Perhaps the phone manufacturers will also use the argument that dodgy USB-C cables can damage devices (due to the high power spec for USB-C). In any case, I'm fairly certain that those that seek to benefit from DRM will be looking to add it in.
DRM is not about preventing this, though. It's about making ordinary consumers surrender to whatever media dictates, not preventing absolutely everyone from ripping the content.
Mind you, you'd still be able to cannibalise an existing set for this.
The same can be the case with type-C.
Phones are getting slimmer, and the 3.5mm jack is the single thickest component in the phone. Removing it makes sense from this perspective.
Now, sure, you theoretically could use USB-C for DRM, but until someone actually implements this, I'll apply Occam's razor.
Consider that iTunes and the like have been selling DRM-free music for years now. And that, even though Blu-ray players require HDCP DRM in order to play back video, they don't require it for audio.
Since there's no way of doing authentication signaling on it in a way that can be enforced without mutual cooperation, there's no way to limit access and/or monetize the audio experience any further than it is right now.
USB-C removes those obstacles. This only lives in the land of potentiality right now, but the path is pretty clear. Once you have accessories that can mutually authenticate, you can limit access in exchange for money. This is technically a "slippery slope" argument, but I think capitalism gives us ample evidence to show that it's neither an illogical nor improbable step.
Here's the problem with that perspective...
1. The 3.5mm jack isn't the thickest part of modern smartphones. To give one example, the camera module tends to be thicker.
2. As far as I've seen pretty much nobody is looking for phones to get any slimmer, especially as slimmer phones = smaller batteries.
If you can find me any comments online from other people stating that the current top of the line smartphones are too thick, I'll be very surprised.
Phones are thin enough. Plus people buy these thin phones then slap thick $5 rubber covers on them, what is even the point anymore? If people really want a thin phone then ditch the accessories, they're thin already.
I hear it needs to lose the bezels.
I hear it needs a larger battery.
I never hear it needs to be thinner.
 Nor do I read about many people wanting it thinner.
I'm excited to relive those days.
This is good for audio-conscious consumer, since it allows greater specialization via a custom DAC. It's likely mixed for the consumer, who will end up with lower-quality (but possibly cheaper) aftermarket DAC/headphones.