The headphone jack issue is only getting worse

Apple iPhone 7

It’s been an exciting week for the mobile industry. On Tuesday, Apple released not one, not two, but three new iPhones: the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X, making the iPhone the talk of the town. Determined not to be forgotten, Google also released a teaser page for its Pixel 2 event on October 4th, which sparked some conversation regarding the upcoming Pixel as well. Unfortunately, the conversation steers in an unpleasant direction as it becomes increasingly evident that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL won’t feature the headphone jack.

It’s fascinating how a feature as seemingly insignificant as the headphone jack has become such a hot topic over the past year, but it has. As small as it is, it’s really not an insignificant feature at all. It’s a standard that has always been so common that nobody needed to mention it aside from where it was placed on a device. “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone,” becomes more relevant by the month as users are forced to purchase dongles, a wired headset with different connectivity, invest in a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones, or consider another phone entirely.

It feels like beating a dead horse as often as it’s brought up, but it needs to be talked about because it’s becoming an exacerbated issue. When Apple removed the headphone jack in last year’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, it was all anybody could talk about. Last year, however, there were plenty of alternative solutions. Less phones had omitted the headphone jack, and if a user had to have iOS then the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, or SE were still perfectly viable options. This year, more phones are curiously getting rid of the headphone jack including HTC U11 and Essential Phone. Lenovo and Apple are sticking to their guns regarding the decision, and there’s a good chance that Google is about to join them with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, even though keeping the headphone jack was one of their marketing strategies for the original Pixel.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel like this prospect is getting any easier just because more manufacturers are getting on board with the idea.

I think it would have been easier if it was switching to just one proprietary method, like USB-C. I switch between iPhone and Android often enough to where I have a steady collection of Lightning and USB-C/micro USB cables laying around, but my ever-growing collection of headphones were the one thing I didn’t have to worry about having the “right” cable for. But now it looks as if in a few years’ time – assuming things don’t straighten out – I’m going to have to make sure I either have the right wired headset with me, the right dongle, or a charged Bluetooth headset.

I would probably be okay with this prospect if I ever felt like the 3.5mm headphone jack wasn’t cutting it for me, but I’ve never felt that way about the actual port itself. The only time I’ve ever felt like my wired headphones sucked is when I bought a pair of $0.99 headphones, which sucked. But that wasn’t the headphone jack’s fault. Aside from that time, I can't recall any instance where I thought my wired headset experience was bad.

I’m surprised that it has become such an ordeal. I expected this from Apple because this is the type of thing Apple does – they rip off the bandage and tell you it’s better for you. Sometimes they’ll replace it with something, like the CD-ROM for the floppy disk. Sometimes they won’t, like the headphone jack with the not-headphone-jack. Either way, none of those changes seem to matter enough to rattle Apple’s loyal fan base as iPhone 7 sales soared, and iPhone X sales are expected to greatly exceed inventory available well into next year.

But this is not something I expected of Google. Google is equally as influential as Apple as a company, but when it comes to smartphone hardware, Google just isn't on the same level yet. The Pixel was only released last year, and although the phone was heavily marketed and is more recognized than Nexus ever was, it’s still a newcomer and doesn’t have near the loyalty that Apple does in regard to hardware. For this reason, I think that removing the headphone jack in the Pixel 2 – if true – would be a big setback for Pixel, and possibly sets a stronger precedent throughout the industry as well.

Regardless, things aren’t looking good for people who still appreciate the headphone jack, which there seems to be more of than not. I understand that change in the industry is inevitable, but this is one change that I just don’t understand. Hopefully it's just one of things that has to get worse before it gets better.