It’s been a year since Apple famously removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and called it “courage.”
The headphone jack, Apple reasoned, was obsolete and unnecessary. Wireless was the way to go, and the iPhone’s Lightning port was better for audio anyway. Soon, the company implied, you’ll forget that the 3.5mm jack had ever existed.
Never mind the fact that the vast majority of headphones on the market came with a 3.5mm plug. Never mind the fact that people hated dongles. Never mind that wired sounded better than wireless. Never mind the fact that the Lightning port didn’t exist on any other gadget outside of Apple’s iDevices.
A year later, absolutely nothing has changed.
There were some minor steps forward. With its W1 wireless chip, Apple has made progress by making it easier to wirelessly pair your headphones with an iPhone. And since the iPhone 7 came out, wireless headphones became far more common in stores.
But wired still sounds better than wireless. Wireless can still be a hassle, especially if you juggle connections between several gadgets. Wired headphones never run out of battery. I use headphones a lot, and frankly, I find the wired connection more practical. Well, except when I need a dongle. Those are still annoying, and incredibly easy to lose.
And when it comes to wired connections, Apple’s vision of the future hasn’t happened. Headphones still come with the good, old 3.5mm jack.
I received dozens of pitches for headphones during the last year, and all of them were for headphones with a 3.5mm cable. True Lightning headphones, which take advantage of the digital connection, were few and far between. Same goes for USB-C.
If there were one unified standard, perhaps headphone makers would be less reluctant to get rid of the 3.5mm connector. But since Apple is pushing Lightning on the iPhone and iPad, and most Android phones come with a USB-C connector, the easiest thing for headphone manufacturers to do is to provide a cable with the 3.5mm jack.
This is despite the fact that far fewer smartphones support that standard these days. We’ve just been shown three new 3.5mm jack-less iPhones, and rumors say that two of the most anticipated Android phones of the year, Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, won’t have the classic headphone jack, either. Many other Android phones, like the Mi Mix 2 or the HTC U11, have gone the same route.
But it still doesn’t make sense.
If you don’t believe me that the 3.5mm headphone jack is still the best headphone jack, just ask Apple.
I get the phone manufacturers’ desire to simplify the design of their smartphones and make them easier to waterproof. But phones can be waterproofed even if they have a 3.5mm jack — check Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8, for example. And they really don’t need to be thinner than they are now.
If you don’t believe that the 3.5mm headphone jack is still the best headphone jack, just ask Apple. Even Apple’s own Beats Studio3 headphones, the latest and greatest from the brand, come with a 3.5mm cable. Yes, they’re primarily wireless, but if the battery runs out, or you simply want a wired connection, guess what: You’ll need a dongle to connect them to an iPhone 7 or 8. And a different dongle to connect them to a Pixel 2.
Thanks for the “courage,” Apple, but this isn’t working. And I really, really wish smartphone makers would wise up and bring back the headphone jack.