Once a upon a time in a land far away, whiny tech bloggers decided they would take a stand. A new wave of smartphones from companies like HTC and newcomer Apple were being introduced, and they were missing a feature that had until then been a staple on all handsets: a physical keyboard. How on Earth were people supposed to type comfortably and efficiently on a smartphone without a keypad? Nokia phones had numbered keypads and advanced predictive text technology, BlackBerry phones had full QWERTY keypads, and either option was far better than fumbling around with a virtual keyboard on a touchscreen. Right? Right!?
Fast-forward to today, and no companies make smartphones with physical keyboards anymore. No notable companies, at least. Smartphone makers didn’t eliminate the keyboard out of spite or because they were bored, they did it because it needed to be done. The space on phones that had been occupied by keyboards could be better utilized by enlarging the display. More display equals more content, and more content equals a better user experience. And so physical keyboards disappeared from smartphones.
Now, let’s have a quick chat about the headphone jack.
Five days from now on October 4th, Google will unveil its next-generation flagship smartphones. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, if that is indeed what Google ends up calling them, are shaping up to be fantastic updates to last year’s Pixel lineup. Leaks suggest they’ll sport the cutting-edge specs we would expect from a 2017 flagship phone, and they’ll also pack some nifty new features.
You know what they won’t have? 3.5mm headphone jacks. You know why? Because dedicated headphone jacks are dead. People, I implore you… it’s time to move on. This is happening. Get over it.
A bit of commentary posted Thursday on CNET makes the case for skipping Google’s Pixel 2 phones solely because they don’t have headphone jacks. It goes into great detail on the logic behind this decision, laying out four main reasons why the author refuses to purchase a Pixel without a 3.5mm audio port. Not surprisingly, each point is more shortsighted and laughable than the last.
I’m not going to pick apart the post piece by piece. You can read it and pick it apart yourself. What I am going to do, however, is briefly explain why fighting for the headphone jack in 2017 is akin to fighting for the physical keyboard in 2007.
No, the answer isn’t “courage.” It’s a bit more complicated than that, but not much. Smartphones pack a tremendous amount of tech into a tiny amount of space, and every single fraction of a millimeter counts. A 3.5mm headphone jack serves one purpose and one purpose alone: audio output. Of course, every smartphone already has another port capable of outputting audio. So, by shifting audio to the USB-C or Lightning port, the 3.5mm jack can be eliminated and that space can be better utilized. It’s that simple.
Now, people who had been accustomed to using wired headphones — i.e. everyone — have a few different options when it comes to adapting to this scary new world without headphone jacks
The most common solution is to switch to wireless headphones. In this day and age with the quality of the technology and options out there, only a handful of people can tell the difference in sound quality between a good pair of wired headphones and a good pair of wireless headphones. You’re not one of them. This is a bad argument.
Other people complain that using wireless headphones means having yet another device to charge. This is a better argument, though it’s rooted in Ludditism. In the not so distant future, just about everything around us will be powered by batteries. Charging a pair of headphones every few days isn’t exactly a hardship.
But hey, not everyone can be bothered to plug in a pair of headphones to charge them from time to time. Luckily, there’s another good option: A dongle.
There are about a million different adapters out there that allow users to connect wired headphones to a smartphone without a 3.5mm audio port. Here’s a two-pack of USB-C adapters on Amazon for $7. Here’s another option that lets you listen to music and charge your phone at the same time. Pick one and be done with it.
I’ve seen people make the argument that using a dongle means carrying yet another cable that can easily be lost. The CNET post that I mentioned earlier makes the same argument. Sorry, but this logic is flawed and, quite frankly, stupid. Always keep the adapter connected to the end of the cable on your headphones. Then it’s like it’s not even there. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
There are plenty of valid reasons not to buy a new Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL from Google. Maybe you just won’t like the phone. Maybe it won’t be available from your wireless carrier. Maybe you prefer Samsung phones or iPhones. Maybe you don’t want to spend $650 or more on a smartphone. There’s nothing wrong with any of that logic. But if you plan to avoid Google’s next-generation flagship smartphones because neither one has a 3.5mm headphone jack, you’re being ridiculous.