No, it is not acceptable for smartphones to drop the 3.5mm headphone jack
Still, the big news this week is that the LeEco Le 2, Le 2 Pro, and Le Max 2 have opted to ditch that universal standard in favor of transmitting audio through the USB Type-C connector and port instead. JBL has already announced the Reflect Aware C, which is one of the first headphones to use the new Type-C format for audio transmission. Other manufacturers should also follow suit. And how could we forget Apple, which is rumored to be ditching the 3.5mm jack from the iPhone 7.
To be clear, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen modern Android smartphones ditch the audio jack. The Oppo R5 (Review) was the first to do this, but the company said it was necessary to achieve its 4.85mm thickness and offered a 3.5mm to Micro-USB adapter in the box as a form of compensation. Of course, this is not an ideal solution, because then you had to think about taking the adapter with you and your headphones. Shortly after came the Vivo X5Max (Review), which was not only slimmer than the Oppo R5, but also managed to incorporate a 3.5mm jack. This leads us to the conclusion that Oppo was either making things up or just being too lazy to try hard enough to integrate the socket, and anyone claiming to do so for design reasons is untrustworthy.
All of this means you’ll either have to rely on headphones with the Type-C or Lightning connector, or switch to wireless headphones that use standards like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to transmit audio. This is a troublesome trend that I believe needs to be stopped immediately.
Why do you ask? Because you’re starting over. You are limiting your options for no good reason. Because by buying a phone that doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack, you immediately disqualify the vast majority of headphone options available to you and are forced to settle for one of a small set of options. And last but not least, you rob yourself of the ability to listen to your headphones and charge your phone at the same time, which is even more irritating to me than having to choose between a second SIM card and expandable storage.
Using the Type-C or Lightning connector as the audio transmission mode has some advantages. Chief among them is that the headphones can be powered directly from your smartphone, meaning you won’t need to charge your active or self-amplified noise canceling headphones. Likewise, the headphones will be able to draw more power than through the 3.5mm connector, which means you can potentially use more power-hungry types of headphones (such as planar magnetic and electrostatic) with your smartphone without an amplifier. between.
I’m not against using these new options as audio transmission modes for these reasons. I’m just saying there’s no need to rule out the 3.5mm jack and force users to use Type-C or Lightning. It is entirely possible to have both in place, thus giving users the freedom to choose, and not forcing them into any options. Other Type-C smartphones such as the HTC 10 and Xiaomi Mi 5 (test) offer both, and the new LeEco range could have done that quite easily as well.
While there are some technical reasons to consider moving away from 3.5mm, the abrupt abandonment of a tested and successful form of technology is difficult to justify, especially since there is a vast ecosystem of devices available. The headsets that make the change will only work with specific devices, and those devices will only work with a small range of headsets. And while larger manufacturers will no doubt be able to offer multiple SKUs, including those supporting USB Type-C audio, smaller manufacturers might struggle to do so. And none of this is beneficial to users in the short or long term.
So do yourself a favor and don’t buy a smartphone that robs you of your right to choose. Don’t go for something that eliminates something so fundamental and universal for reasons that don’t make sense.
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