When reflecting on smartphones that were released over the year, I feel that things went pretty well. I was impressed with both of LG’s flagships, the G6 and the V30; the Galaxy Note’s reputation didn’t suffer irreparable damage and seems to be doing well; Apple knocked it out of the park with the iPhone X; I could spend all day talking about if I were to list them all, but I can’t, so overall I’d say things were good this year.
But despite all the good that came of this year, there were some downsides that occurred, one of the worst being that companies haven’t figured out that headphone jacks are still a useful feature and continue to inexplicably strip them from new smartphones.
I’m going to start off by using Apple as an example. They weren’t the first to do it, but I think they were the most influential by doing so. The thing is, it’s easy for Apple to do things because they control the entirety of iOS. If you don’t like the changes they make, tough cookies. You take it or leave it. If you’re heavily invested in iOS already, or simply prefer iOS to Android, then you have to decide whether a headphone jack is really worth leaving an entire platform for. Will people do that? Sometimes. But I think the majority of people are just going to learn to live without it, even if it’s not necessarily as convenient as simply having a headphone jack.
I’m more concerned about Android devices. Although not all of them have nixed the headphone jack, I am surprised at the amount of manufacturers who quickly followed suit. HTC, Razer, Essential and Google are all the brands I can think of off the top of my head that followed Apple and Moto, who omitted the feature last year. While the list may not be that long, it worries me that more joined this year – especially Google, who made it a very specific point to keep the headphone jack last year. Suddenly the headphone jack totally sucks, but oh, look! Pixel Buds have come to save the day! How convenient.
As 2017 comes to an end and CES is only a month away, I wonder whether 2018 will continue the trend, or if the headphone jack will make a comeback like the microSD card did.
Either scenario seems possible. I could see it making a comeback because many of the phones who omitted it aren’t doing so great. The Pixel 2 XL keeps making headlines, and usually not in a great way. HTC is still having trouble finding its mojo. Although the HTC U 11 had decent days after its release, long-term market shares for the company continue to decline. Essential Phone was unfortunately a flop, although it seems worth checking out now that the price is $499, and Razer Phone seems like a very niche device directed towards a very specific subset of smartphone users. In the end, none of the phones are exactly flying off the shelves (save for the Pixel 2 XL, though they are experiencing a high rate of return for unrelated reasons).
On the other hand, maybe headphone jacks will continue to fade year over year. As much as I personally appreciate headphone jacks, the future of smartphones appears to be as wireless as possible, so why prolong the inevitable? Wireless charging and wireless headsets very well might be the norm eventually, but the problem right now is that phones are prematurely trying to replace the solid state of the headphone jack with the not-very-solid Bluetooth, or worse, trying to make it seem as if USB-C or Lightning offer significantly higher quality audio. If they do, I can’t tell. I’d argue that most people can’t. What people do notice, however, is that their once convenient headphone jack is now missing, and although it’s probably not annoying enough to completely replace the phone the first, second, or even third time they realize they forgot their dongle/special headphones at home, it might be annoying enough to consider a smartphone with a headphone jack the next time they upgrade.
It’s hard to say what next year will bring, but I do hope that it brings more headphone jacks and not less.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the headphone jack? We’ve had a little over a year to warm up to the idea now – have you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!