The 3.5mm Jack: Unwanted Change in the Face of Unanimous Opposition?

Every. Single. Reviewer. Slams every single phone with no headphone jack and manufacturers just aren’t listening.

You know the drill by now. In a review (or preview) of (e.g.) the (new) Pixel 2 or Essential phone or iPhone 7/8/X or HTC U11, the reviewer says something like: “Sadly” or ‘Unfortunately” or even “Unforgivably”, in the context of there being no 3.5mm headphone/audio jack. I have yet to see a single reviewer or commenter exclaiming “Hooray, the jack has gone”.

Unsurprisingly, because there is no compelling reason to get rid of the world standard 3.5mm jack – it’s used for standard headphones, for microphones, for audio out to cars, for camera control – and you can use it while charging separately.

Manufacturers sometimes state (feebly), “The jack had to go because it lets water in”. Rubbish. There are lots of IP67-rated phones with 3.5mm jacks, not least the recent Samsung Galaxy flagships.

They then state “The jack had to go because it uses up too much space”. Again, poppycock. I have an iPod Shuffle at home that’s no bigger than a coin and it has a 3.5mm jack. The componentry just isn’t that large. And besides, phones themselves are getting larger and chipsets are getting more integrated, there’s more room inside in 2017 than there used to be a few years ago. Not less.

Finally, “Oh, well, taking away the jack lets us make the phone stronger”. While there’s a tiny, tiny grain of truth in this, I’ve yet to see a single phone ever that bent around its headphone jack ‘weakness’. A 3.5mm jack is usually placed on the top or bottom of a phone, where you don’t need strength – no one bends a phone around its shortest side!

So my question to manufacturers is: do you really think that all the reviewers, all the commenters, all the users are wrong here? Are you so set on this jack-less future that you want to alienate just about everybody? For no good reason?

When the jack’s absence is always, repeat always perceived as a negative and not a positive – by everybody – please take these 100% opinions as data points and leave the 3.5mm headphone jack in. It’s what we want. Really.

PS. Thankfully, the vast majority of Android phones sold today still include the jack. So well done Samsung, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE, among others…

PPS. I can’t do a post on headphone jacks without a photo of the top of my Marshall London. Count the 3.5mm jacks. Count ’em again….! 😎

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  • Death89

    As ever Steve, spot on the money. I’ve just bought a Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 and you know what?

    All my old headphones sound even better than before with the ‘Hi-Res’ audio as advertised, even my £9 Sony emergency set sound great.

    If I can’t buy a new phone with a 3.5mm jack then I simply won’t. My iPod Shuffle has even been through the washing machine and is fine. Not even labelled as water resistant…

  • extremo777

    Everything is just a method for making the user pay more for useless adapters. The only way to show the companies our opinion about that is to punish them by not buying those products. Alas, Apple fans make that process really difficult, since they are the first one that accept those kind of drastic changes without a doubt.

  • Kraken

    Removing the headphone jack made a ton of sense for Apple. They had just acquired Beats, which meant that they now had a line of premium headphones with huge profit margins. Removing the headphone jack not only saved them ~$26 per phone, it was also an excuse to sell new $200+ headphones and/or expensive adapters. The only downside was the potential for lost sales, and that didn’t happen. The iPhone 7 added nothing compared to the iPhone 6 to even remotely make up for the removal of the headphone jack, and yet it broke sales records. Apple fanboys will buy anything that’s shiny and has an Apple logo.

    Meanwhile Android OEMs want to be Apple. Everyone in the industry wants those kind of profit margins. So they copy everything Apple does even if it’s a bad idea. They too save $26 per phone and probably make a few bucks on adapters, but the question remains, are Android users dumb enough to buy an inferior phone for more money just because it’s shiny and new? Or alternately, are Android users so smart that they realize that a flagship from 4 years ago is just fine and they really don’t need to buy the new shiny at all, regardless of headphone jack?

  • Craig Carroll

    Removing the headphone jack was never courageous it was silly. Like Steve said there a lot of devices that are IP67 with the headphone jack. In my experience all I wanted to do was charge my phone whilst playing music. The iphone 8+ cured that with wireless charging but the iphone 7+ was a nightmare and consisted of me trying up to £60 of third party cables that enabled this, I tried 2 types of BT to headphone adaptors (£40) on my Bose QC25 to convert them to bluetooth, purchased a pair of airpods at £150 and then finally a pair of plantronic backbeat pro 2 at £180. I then lost my airpods and subsequently purchased 2 backup bluetooth headphones (cheaper) at £30 each. Overall I’ve spent £500+ just to find the perfect solution and just because there was no headphone jack. It may sounds extreme but I just wanted something that works where my QC25 worked fine on a wire but I could never charge them. I wasn’t interested in paying for the QC35 albeit it might have been cheaper. What happens next when they remove the lightning port next thinking we can do everything without wires……

  • Straximus

    I wouldn’t be congratulating Xiaomi considering their flagship Mi 6 has no headphone jack, and they’ve been vocal defenders of the practice – on the side of “it takes up too much space”. I’d replace them in that sentence with OnePlus.

  • I think an analogy for the manufacturers excuses is “We removed your driveway so you have a bigger lawn, but now please park on the street”. Sure it’s possible to park on the street, but sometimes it can take some effort/searching to find a spot *cough Bluetooth cough dongles cough*. Isn’t it just easier to park in a dedicated spot right by the house (3.5mm jack)? It makes no sense to me.

    Sadly, this is the way things are going and we’re all going to look like crazed lunatics for complaining about it in 3 to 5 years time.