/ Technology

Are you coping without a headphone jack?

It’s been three years since Apple got rid of the standard headphone jack on its iPhones. Now other manufacturers are following suit, are you coping without it?

This is a guest post by Ryan Steddy. All views expressed are Ryan’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

This week, Apple refreshed its iPhone product range in an event at its California headquarters, but I don’t think there was too much to get the pulses racing.

It got me thinking about one of its recent ‘innovations’ and, I have to admit, the 2016 decision to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack and move to wireless ‘pods’ took courage.

But I do remember asking myself at the time: was the decision completely about giving users a new experience and evolving tech? Or was there a marketing aspect to the strategy – one which would force consumers to shell out for additional accessories?

After all, there are only so many things you can do to improve on a modern-day smartphone.

A minor improvement to the camera here, a tweak to the display there – where are the new features going to come from?

Following suit

Apple has always done its own thing and often shunned open standards, but in the past there were plenty of alternatives. But now other manufacturers have followed suit, what should you do when you need to buy a new pair of headphones?

Right now, the options available to me are:

🎧 New headphones with a new connection

🎧 More expensive Bluetooth headphones

🎧 3.5mm jack headphones with a new connector adaptor

All of those come with downsides, such as charging, battery life, bulk and compatibility with other devices.

There are also issues with charging and listening at the same time to contend with, as well as more general audio quality factors for enthusiasts.

The wireless option is out for me as I’d run out of battery (I’m a frequent, all-day user). I feel like I’ve got no choice now but to pay more for additional accessories I don’t really want.

Moving with the times

I accept that technology moves on and that, sometimes, we all have to move with the times. But I can’t help but feel that this particular change has been rather forced.

The industry at large does not use the new types of connectors that headphones are coming with, so the cross-device compatibility issues are a real concern for me.

Changes like this may be sold as ‘innovations’, but I’m not convinced that all innovations are good when it leaves me out of pocket!

I’ve made the decision to buy (and carry around) an adaptor for standard headphones with the ‘old’ 3.5mm jack, but you’ll have probably gathered that it wasn’t a solution I’m completely happy with.

So what do you think? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Should I move with the times and accept the changes? Or have my headphone woes struck a chord?

Either way, I’d be interested to hear how the loss of the headphone jack has affected you, and what your solutions have been.

This was a guest post by Ryan Steddy. All views expressed were Ryan’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Comments

It’s possible to argue that it was in fact consumer demand for slimmer and faster ‘phones that led to headphone jacks being dropped.

I’ve been involved with the professional music industry (albeit classical) for many years, and the single most irritating aspect has been headphones. The connectors are the weakest link in any live music staging in my experience, and I’m talking about the large, quarter inch type. The sockets become dirty, crackle, fail to operate properly and cause serious sound malfunctions, and those on mobile ‘phones are ten times worse.

Getting rid of the tiny, contamination-prone sockets was not only inevitable, in my view, but essential. The newer lightning socket has proved to be far more robust and, if we want music everywhere, that’s a price we need to pay.

Earphones tend to fall out of my ears and I’mI’ not keen on wearing headphones. My iPhone does have the old socket but I have not used it in five and a half years.

I am very grateful that most people do use earphones or headphones rather than subjecting us to their music, but I will wait until I get home.

I’ve just returned an inexpensive Bluetooth headset, after it failed to work well with a family member’s iPhone 8. Annoyingly, it seemed to work well enough on my cheapo Android phone. However, the latter is old fashioned enough to have a 3.5mm headphone jack (and a user replaceable battery) so we didn’t need to keep the headset just for that.

A headphone jack, along with NFC, is a must-have on a new phone for me. It’s very annoying that this severely reduces my range of choices and I really don’t understand why they feel they need to build phones do slim that they can’t accommodate them.

DerekP says:
15 September 2019

Having happily used the headphone jack on a nice slim Huawei P8 Lite, my cynical nature suggests the omission of headphone jacks is all about selling Bluetooth headsets and nowt to do with slimming.

You could be right but headphones and their sockets don’t seem to last for long – in my experience, anyway. Flawed design, I suspect.

The reason that standard 3.5 mm headphone sockets don’t last long is because of the leverage that can be exerted on the socket and the circuit board to which it is attached if the cable is jerked sideways. A plug that pulls out easily will reduce the risk of damage.