In the pursuit of phones that are as thin as the glass that powers your screen, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are insisting on removing a timeless classic, a standard of audio: the 3.5 mm jack. The little spiky thing (as some may call it) that you plug in and gives you audio. Sweet, sweet audio while you charge your phone.
Nigh are the days of the 3.5 mm jack’s extinction (thanks Apple), but what do we even gain from doing this? Not much.
As it turns out, the only things we gain are two things. First, we gain freaking dongles; which you will lose. The reason for this is that not everyone has a pair of headphones that work through USB-C, and picking up a decent pair can run you some decent cash money.
The second thing we gain are a few millimeters of thinness. But aren’t phones already thin enough? The only thing this obsession with thinness is still doing is killing battery life expectations.
So what makes USB-C audio better? Well, not much really. Instead of sending audio signals in analog, it will transmit in digital, which means your headphones have to then convert that signal back to analog. Likely by using an in-line DAC somewhere. In other words, if your headphones have a cheap DAC, your music will never actually sound any better.
But what are we giving up for this glamorous future of dongles and thinner batteries? A lot.
You can’t charge your phone and listen to music at the same time—not every OEM has implemented wireless charging, so that option is hit-or-miss. Older accessories are essentially obsolete. High quality DACs will make headphones bulkier (since the analog signal has to be converted somewhere along the way to the headphones).
For those heavy audiophiles, you’re likely already carrying around an extra DAC to squeeze every bit of power out of those cans, or perhaps you carry an amp. Either way, the average consumer isn’t going to do that.
If you want one port to rule them all, then you should make it as seamless as possible for the end user. Dongles and the inability to charge and listen to music at the same time are huge drawbacks to $1,000 devices that have already done that for 10 years.
If you haven’t done wireless charging on your device — at the very least — then you should do the honorable thing and bundle in some decent bluetooth headphones until this transition happens all the way.
After all, we sure as hell didn’t ask for any of this. We’ve all been asking for front-facing stereo speakers, and instead we get this? Awesome.
Props to Samsung for leaving the 3.5 mm jack on their latest flagship, even with wireless charging.