How to Live Without the Headphone Jack

Now that the yearly iPhone announcement has become real let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the 3.5 mm headphone jack. If we are to believe the rumors Apple will be eliminating it. Motorola did with the Moto Z and Z Force. Today I am going to give some good things and some bad about losing this ubiquitous jack.

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As a Moto Z Force user, I had to learn how to get along without the 3.5mm jack. I’ve only used one like every night for YEARS. I’ve destroyed more 3.5mm headsets than I can count. You would think that I would be bothered by losing this port. After a couple weeks I am now used to not having it.

Ironically, my first smartphone, the T-mobile G1, was equipped with the dreaded HTC USB port which is a mash of MicroUSB and their own stuff. With that phone, I had to use a dongle too. I hated it. However, the only reason I hated it was that only HTC used it. This time it’s different. USB-C is going to become ubiquitous soon enough. The big worry here, for iPhone users, is: Will Apple keep the lightning cable or switch to USB-C?

I wish Apple would make that switch but I am not holding my breath. Many iPhone users may not like having to switch out cables and what not AGAIN but if they DID go USB-C then it will not only speed up adoption of this port but make a plethora of devices available and finally make it so you only have to have one kind of charging cable in a multi-platform house such as my own. So while the writing does seem to be on the wall for the 3.5mm headphone jack, you still have to get along with it during what could be a bumpy transition period.

Bluetooth Headphones??

You can choose to use bluetooth headphones. They are wireless and if you are like me and listen to mostly podcasts or audio books they should work for most of what you do. The only problems with these are that they occasionally drop out. Even the best set of Bluetooth headphones I have had still drop out from time to time. The audio quality is also not there for the ones who are truly picky. Finally, some may just not like the fact that they have YET another thing to charge. This obviously doesn’t bother me, but it can bother others.

My headset of choice currently in the bluetooth category is the Plantronics Backbeat Go 2 Earbuds. They have been out for quite a while, but you can purchase a set on Amazon for $35 dollars AND it includes a case that will charge the buds when you are out and about and not using them. You will need to do that as the battery life on these are horrible but they sound pretty good. The price is lower than some wired headsets that have worse sound than these do!

Needless to say I am on the lookout for a newer set that supports some of the new bluetooth modes my Moto Z Force uses.

Learn to love the Dongle

Motorola has included a dongle for my Moto Z Force that has a USB-C plug on one end, 3.5 mm jack on the other. With that, it can use the standard headsets. Controls all work through the adapter so no worries on that. The downside is this dongle is terribly easy to lose. Still, this does work very well and it could just be me but I think the headphones sound better than they did plugged into my old Nexus 6.

I have not tried them yet, but a search through Amazon has turned up many USB-C devices that plug into the Macbook. One of these splits out the headphones and the microphone. The odds are high that this will work. I am just waiting until I get something that gives me the jack PLUS the capability to plug my USB-C charger into it so I can charge and listen.

For now, I just have to live with only charging or using the headphones. Fortunately the battery life on the Moto Z Force is fantastic. I can listen all day using my wired headphones through the dongle and still have plenty of juice if I need to make some evening errands. When I get home, I plug into my USB-C charger that it came with which can charge the phone in an hour. I love quick chargers! 🙂

The Future

While much is unknown, I think that eventually there will be headphones with USB-C plugs on them. Plus the headphones will allow things like noise cancelling circuits and other things built right into the device and they can run off of the phone’s power. One idea I have is that you have ONE set of headphones. When it’s plugged into the phone, they charge the headset’s battery while you listen to music. When you are ready, unplug the headset and it switches to bluetooth mode. No fuss. No muss. I also think we will start to see audiophile DAC’s (Digital to Analog Converters….basically a USB sound card) that will make the phone far more capable of delivering pristine audio. I suppose the same would happen with Lightning jacks if the Apple rumor is true.

Conclusion

Do I think it’s a good idea to eliminate the 3.5mm headphone jack? Not all at once. Samsung played it safe with the Note 7 and shipped it with USB-C AND a 3.5mm jack. When more advanced audio devices come out on USB-C, even the Note 7 can take advantage of it. For now, they can listen via the 3.5mm jack and charge at the same time. Something my Moto Z Force can’t do.

In a year or two, phones like the Moto Z and Z Force and the iPhone will drive companies to make compatible devices that Samsung can just start using. Maybe by the time the Note 8 launches it may not have a headphone jack because maybe by this time next year we won’t care, although I doubt it.

Apple has been known for jumping the gun on technologies and that actually drove adoption. Anyone remember the 3.5 inch floppy?  The Apple IIc and Mac both shipped it before IBM and the compatibles did. USB? The Mac had it first on the Bondi Blue iMac. So this kind of frontier is not new for Apple. Still with the amount of people who buy the iPhone now, we will see many unhappy iPhone users when the iPhone 7 launches. Next year? I think we won’t care.

What do you think?  Share in the comments below!


About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.