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There's no good reason for Apple to kill the headphone jack (medium.com/charged-tech)
45 points by owenwil on Sept 5, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

One of the things that I like about the 3.5mm jack is that it's ubiquitous. I unplug them from my PC, plug into my phone, then into a tablet...

I have no prior experience on wireless headsets. How well does pairing work when there are multiple devices? I haven't had a good experience with other gadgets in the past; I used to dualboot my PC, but pairing my Bluetooth mouse with one OS automatically unlinked it from the other OS.

I don't know if it's just a bugged device or if that's what is supposed to happen. If it's the latter case, I wouldn't see any advantages for wireless headphones over 3.5mm, at least in my case.

EDIT: Typos.

I've been using a set of Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones for the last 9 months or so at work. I really like it but I've also Using multiple devices can be a little annoying at first, but the method I've worked out is that my Bluetooth radio on my phone is almost always turned off. It seems to have a FILO sort of pairing system, where the newest device paired is most likely to connect.

It sounds like the issue you're having with pairing is device specific, as my headphones are paired to 5 different devices with no problems.

That said a less technical user trying to pair the headphones with multiple devices may have a hard time understanding which device is connected.

As a big music listener, my biggest qualm with wireless headphones is having an RF transmitter so close to my brain for so long...

Prepared to be downvoted for this, however the cell phone studies that show possible brain impact involve a phone strapped to your head. RF of course decreases with the square of the distance. And the typical recommendations for mitigation involve using and keeping the phone away from your head (or gonads as well, for the heat and possible RF effects)

Here's a Wikipedia page that might clear some things up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-ionizing_radiation

I have 2 pairs of expensive headphones that I use on the go and in the studio. Bought the SE recently having been an iPhone user for the last 5 years. What a shame it will be my last one if they continue to not supply a headphone jack.

Although the official line is looking to be removing it for size/weight, I can't help but feel the main purpose is to sell a new generation of peripherals.

I guess it was designed and became ubiquitous before electronics makers really nailed down their built-in obsolescence.

I have never had a bad experience with Bluetooth.

I don't use wired headphones anymore, wireless is just better for running.

That said -- I oppose eliminating this jack. My hearing disabled father relies on it for his custom monaural earpiece.

Why eliminate such a functional port in the first place? As someone who took the MacBook plunge USB-C is a pain in the ass.

I've had almost nothing but bad experience using bluetooth.

Wireless headphones - disconnect after 60 seconds of no sound, which means that at the office if I stop listening to music for a little bit(or even pause because someone is talking to me), they will switch off, so I have to turn them back on and wait 20-30 seconds for them to reconnect and sound to start playing through them again.

Sony bluetooth soundbar - worse than useless. There is delay in the audio, meaning that I can't use it for videos or games, because sound plays 0.5s too late. It's ok for music I guess.

My own car - the quality through bluetooth is noticeably worse than when using a 3.5mm jack, and also stops working randomly, requiring me to switch bluetooth on and off on my phone or the car or both.

I am just curious to know why USB-C is a pain in the ass?

The connectors are sturdy with no delicate parts like micro USB, most USB-C are USB 3 (or 3.1) with faster bandwidth and it's reversible.

The problem that the grandparent has is probably not with USB-C itself, but with the Retina MacBook having only one USB port and literally nothing else.

Most USB type C connectors are on mobile phones which still use USB 2.0

Switched to Google Fi (pretty good service!) and the Nexus devices use USB-C: it's annoying having to buy ~4 new cables, but I do like the port a lot better.

I'd be totally OK with Apple producing a slightly thicker phone that is 1) Easier to hold 2) Doesn't bend in your pocket 3) Has a headphone jack 4) Has more room inside for a larger battery 5) Has more room inside for a SD reader

You just described an iPhone knockoff. Apple will never add SD cards, that's only for geeks like me and you.

A lot of people like SD cards because you can just pull them out of the phone, stick them into a PC or Smart TV or whatever, and see your vacation photos on a big screen. And without the hassle of going through some cloud provider.

(As another anecdote, I once tried to get a photo from an iPhone onto a Linux PC without having to sign up for some cloud account first. After about an hour of fiddling, I ended up e-mailing the image to myself.)

I agree with you, I like SD cards myself, but not something my parents will mess around with - it's much easier to put those pictures and videos (and shared ones from thousands of miles away) on their cloud provider's storage mechanism and have a seamless experience. And Linux boxes aren't what 99% of consumers use. What you and I tinker with is different than what the vast majority of consumers will experience. You can just plug in an iPhone on a PC and Windows Photos will just import your pictures without a second thought.

>> " a slightly thicker phone that is 1) Easier to hold"

This isn't necessarily true. You might be able to get a better grip on a bigger phone - if your hands are large enough. Personally these large screened phones (and I have the smaller of the two iPhone models) are too large for me. If I put a case on it actually makes it more difficult and impossible to use one handed. If they were to make it slightly thinner (I don't know how possible it is at this stage) it would be easier for me to hold as the difference between case/no case, despite being only a few millimetres is actually pretty significant.

Consider the SE. On the inside, it's a 6+; on the outside, it's a 5s. I'm finding it very comfortable, and perhaps you might as well.

Oh, and it has a headphone jack, too.

I have been considering it actually. I'm still not 100% decided though. I'm going to see if they continue to keep it updated and if they do I might switch when my contract runs out.

Yeah, the X Y dimensions of the phones are crazy. I'm thinking the only reasons they're making the phones thinner is 1) Engineering ego, and 2) so they don't print as bad when wearing skinny-fit jeans.

Currently, the battery is the biggest and maybe the only issue most users have. And it's easily solvable(redmi 3 with 4100mah, new lenovo with 5100mah).

But it was nice for manufacturers to toghether maintain this artificial problem.

Unfortunately, that is not what the majority of users want, because otherwise Apple would have made it like that.

Say "Think different", but give everybody the same product, that is how things work at Apple.

Someone will probably build shells and protectors with 3.5mm jack...

Which would make the phone either way taller or way fatter

Not to mention wired headphones work even if there are 200 people in the room with the same headphones.

200 is a large number, even a number as low as 10 in your immediate vicinity causes trouble. Use your microwave oven? Too bad.

(Owner of wonderful wireless qc35's - still use wires)

Yup, this. I worked in a shared office space for about a year and my bluetooth headphones were unusable for the entire time. We also had massive problems with bluetooth trackpads/keyboards disconnecting all the time.

Once we got our own office, all these problems went away.

Of course there is. They want to shove iTunes DRM down your throat. They can't do that with standard headphone jacks. But with their own solution, nothing is stopping them from allowing only headphones with built-in DRM.

How? All someone has to do is use an adapter, and now they have a standard 3.5mm jack with no DRM.

iTunes music hasn't had DRM for years.


No joke, Intel's new type-C USB Audio spec (why a new USB Audio spec is needed is beyond me) includes provisions for DRM. http://www.anandtech.com/show/10273/intel-proposes-to-use-us...

The more i look at it the more this latest generation of USB seems massively overengineered.

The initial design of the C plugs looks like it was intended as a simple mechanically reversible 3.0 plug.

But then someone decided that if they made both sides active, they could ram video data down it at 4k+ rates.

So now rather than just have pin on one side of the socket side, there are pin on both and the devices have to figure out what way is up by sending handshakes.

Never mind that the C-plug spec have their own little details about power delivery that overlap that of the Power Delivery spec.

Oh, and each OEM can decide if they want to use C ports with or without 3.x speeds and PD...

That's kind of pointless when analog adaptors are available, though, isn't it? It can only prevent copying of the digital stream, which is nothing new.

I think the expectation is that analog adapters will identify as such and programs will be able to specify that they only work with playback devices (speakers, headphones) not analog adapters.

We of course know aftermarket adapters won't care and you will always be able to hack apart headphones to extract the the analog signal.

I don't think DRM is a primary goal though it's just something you include because rights holders will occasionally demand it and if you offer it you open a few content doors for your platform. It doesn't matter if it works really.

But Bluetooth analog adapters exist as well (to retrofit wireless audio to older stereo systems etc) - I use one all the time. It's just too easy to dump audio output with minimal effort.

I suspect it's the same conspiracy theory as when they put the inline microphone and volume controls in the headphones and people ran sensationalistic articles claiming there was secret "DRM" which would cause only Apple-branded headphones to be usable with an iPhone.

It's called "plugging the analog hole," preventing people from making unauthorized recordings by controlling every part of the playback technology. While it's true purchased iTunes songs have been DRM-free for many years, subscription models have become the music listening mode of the moment and copyright holders don't want people making recordings then canceling their subscription.

I suppose another opportunity would be to block playback on louder hardware, "Public performance playback is available with a 'Pro' subscription."

But plugging the analog hole on audio, stereo even, is impossible. The only reason HDCP was even a remotely plausible idea is that it's very difficult to capture 1080p 30fps from say the column drivers of a LCD.

Capturing a 44kHz audio signal by snipping the lead off the loudspeaker and putting it into your recorder is very, very trivial. As far as RF engineers are concerned that's pretty much DC.

They want to make more money.


I bought a pair of Bluetooth headphones the other day. Was really excited to have a slick new headset to replace my $3 earbuds & mic combo that I'm using on my PS4.

Turns out PS4 doesn't support Bluetooth. Just the 3.5mm jack.

Oh well, I guess I can use them at work. I whipped em out, paired em up to the Bluetooth on my laptop, and they paired up fine.

Unfortunately, they didn't show up in the list of default devices for sound output or microphone input.

An hour of googling, a new set of driver downloads, re-pairing, this time WITH the extra settings under the advanced menu checked off...

Still don't work. I can't afford to burn any more time on this. 3.5mm at the office it is.

Maybe they work on my phone (Android) ... They do.

It's actually really nice to have no wires between me and my music while at the gym. No worries about the phone call g out of my pocket while doing decline bench press, no annoyance about the phone getting in the way during a deadlift or clean & press (because it can sit on the floor!)

They were about 2 - 3 time more expensive than my regular headphones. Are annoying to charge, and only work in 1/3 of the places I need headphones.

But for the gym, they're not horrible.

Oh! And they're too damned loud with no volume control. I have my phone volume set to 1 and these things are still louder than I'd like.

Anyways, that's a long way of saying I tend towards agreeing with the article.

PS4 works with some bluetooth headphones, but not all.

For all the other ones, apparently this is pretty good:


> Unfortunately, they didn't show up in the list of default devices for sound output or microphone input.

Window 10?

My work computer is 7, haven't tried at home

New bluetooth is great. It used to be shitty, but my galaxy s6 pairs perfectly with my car every time. no complaints

Until you try it with a device that doesn't work.

Until you do something that doesn't work? What kind of argument is that? Just 1. turn it on 2. hold down the power button to connect and 3. pair the final device up to it, no password needed. That's a 10 second process.

The example given was bluetooth being great because it works well in the OP's car car. One device.

I have tried bluetooth speakers in my flat on. Works fine on two Linux machines. Doesn't work at all on the other. Connects to the windows machine but isn't actually usable as the music skips so frequently. If I have only tried it on the first device I may have came to the same conclusion as you. Fact is bluetooth isn't especially reliable.

I have had massive fail rate with BT devices. I actively avoid them.

This sounds to be 5 years out of date.

My Plantronics bluetooth headset works and pairs fine, ten quid. I also have some Bluetooth earphones (Vansky), it has issues but for the most part works really well impressive for fifteen quid.

I got fed up with wires. My main issue is with losing the ear bud gromits, I thought this was going to be an article about the audio quality; not a dyspeptic rant.

Feel that the last sentence in the article was the main reason for writing it:

> I love my shitty Apple headphones that just plug in to anything.

Bluetooth is not ubiquitous _yet_

How do you "unplug" bluetooth headphones from one device and plug them into another?

> How do you "unplug" bluetooth headphones from one device and plug them into another?

With difficulty, hence all the stories you hear of people accidentally blasting porn audio over their living room speakers while they think they're in the privacy of their bath/bedroom.

Bluetooth is not the answer to our problems, because in my experience:

1. Streaming BT from Linux to a BT headset/speaker is a pita to set up

2. If you have 2 BT devices the same (mini-speakers for example) they have the same name/ID and BT can only attempt pairing one at a time, so a time consuming hit-or-miss lesson in patience is what this becomes.

3. Bluetooth devices need batteries. Ordinary speakers do not.

The rumors that Apple will use lightning connectors will result in a lot of phones with the connector stuck in the port because it broke off. Those things are flimsy and break easily.

It's standard to pair with NFC today. Just tap your headphones on your phone and they're paired.

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Aqr4fskGxA

What about noise cancelling earphones ? their size really benefits from an external power source - which is in a standard format - so less lock-in games we see in android), they already have a chip inside - so theoretically the new headphone connector shouldn't make them much more expensive, and maybe there's a possibility of co-processing the noise cancelling algorithm on the phone .

Couple that with ,maybe, Apple starting a technology war on that front(and we already see few rivals pre-attack, like leEco, Samsung, Sony) could be a beneficial thing for us.

Totally agree powered peripherals are an awesome improvement, but why sacrifice the universal standard at the same time? Both can co-exist, no?

They can co-exist, but this is a control issue. USB connections to external devices deprecated to rely on proprietary services; replacing non-replaceable batteries creates reliance on 3rd party services; absence of expandable storage encourages hardware deprecation and high margin internal options; lack of physical keyboard... IDK why, despite my need I am consistently reminded I don't really want it. All these improvents take control away, create future revenue streams, obfuscate the mundane and, best of all, deliver wafer-thin slabs that are a short drop away from replacent hardware. This is why I am waiting on parts to revive my nokia n900(again).

I used to hate Bluetooth as well and my prior experiences have been exactly like the author described. However a few months ago I took the bold step of buying a pair of Power Beats. And I use them with my SONY Walkman. I was pleasantly surprised when the whole setup just worked out of the box and the SONY and the Beats were able to communicate. Hooray.

However this still doesn't eliminate the wires. The beats have a cable between them which annoyingly sticks to the back of my neck when I turn my head and unplugs either ear. Almost as annoying as my original wired head plugs.

And then there's the recharging, which isn't big of a deal of itself but ofc after the recharging I have to reconnect the devices. And obv there's the occasional glitch that it doesn't work the first time and I have to redo it and then it works on the second time.

Anyway, even if Apple does in fact remove the ubiquitous 3.5 mm stereo jack I'm sure plenty of people will bitch and moan and still buy it. Such are the fanboys (;

Of course there is; so they can make a killing on the peripherals market.

Hmm this could lose them a large chunk of the audiophile/music lovers market (though they may be losing that anyway). A lot of top quality headphones don't have removable wires and carrying an adapter is a pain. Why choose Apple anymore when you've brilliant music phones like the HTC 10, LG V10 and vivo xplay 5 kicking around.

By buying Beats, they've already shown that they don't care about the audiophile market... There's not many worse sounding headphones in their price ranges.

The serious audiophile market though already has headphone amps and will just buy one that connects directly to the lightning connector.

Hmm with phones like the HTC 10 and LG V10 coming with built in amps there's a number of folk saving external amp/dac for home builds and using top music phones for on the go.

That is a tiny market. I doubt they much care.

It's certainly not huge but I don't think it's tiny either. There's a growing market of people who care deeply about audio quality. Perhaps not to 'proper audiophile' level but enough to choose a phone largely on music. Would explain why HTC, LG and several Chinese brands are specifically targeting that area.

They'll just love the excuse to buy an external DAC/amp that connects via lightning.

Apple's bluetooth has such a high failure rate on laptops, IMO, it simply doesn't work. After trying to get it to work in multiple locations with multiple laptops over multiple years, it's clear to me that Apple does not have the capability to deliver working bluetooth on its laptops (at least one that works with audio for longer than a few seconds at a time). Which makes the push that much more of an asshole move on their part. They've had years to come up with a fix for their bluetooth (and RF and WiFi) and have failed, yet now they're trying to push a technology they're not even competent in.

This is like buying blood testing kits from Theranos at this point. And that's before you start to get to the problems addressed in this article.

I have owned maybe seven bluetooth capable device and hosts of bluetooth audio devices. I have not had a single one that I would consider working. Random disconnects, issues pairing, and static interference.

I don't know how anyone uses bluetooth in any serious manner.

It's already been leaked that Apple will bundle a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter with the phone. Most users will stick it on the headphone jack and forget about it.

(PS I'm not saying removing the headphone jack is a good idea).

So right back to the days of shitty manufacturer connectors (I know USB-C isn't custom) with shitty, vastly overpriced, converters.

There's a world of difference between a 3.5 jack with about 10mm of plug sticking out the phone and 2" of dangling point of failure, sorry, adaptor snagging every single time you pull the thing from pocket.

Happy memories of Sony Ericcson and Motorola feature phones.

Also, how are you supposed to listen to music while the phone is charging?

I can only imagine the answer will be "another accessory".

Great, so after the Retina MacBook, we have the next Apple device with only one port that is to be operated with a ridiculous daisy chain of connectors.

I have a pair of nice headphones at work. (Sony mdr v6). They sound great and I don't want to replace them.

There are 2 things the plug does for me, 1) allows me to easily switch between using my computer for audio or my phone. Prevents my computer from making noise that might bother my officemates (auto play if I forget to turn the volume down)

Also isn't there a smaller/thinner 2.5mm headphone jack? I had a phone with headphones for that (Nokia?)

I haven't had significant problems with bluetooth in about four years. Also his steps:

Unbox Bluetooth headphones. Try to put them in pairing mode. Can’t figure out how to get in pairing mode. Open Settings -> Bluetooth on phone. Wait for headphones to show up.

Should have "read the instructions" at step one. I know few people believe this but the manufacturer often knows a lot about getting their product to work out of the box.

I believe the reason is so they can make them thinner.

I've heard it makes waterproofing easier.


We're a long way from Apple paying any new taxes a EU commission thinks Apple owes.

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