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Posted on 12 September, 2016 in Blog

Headphone Jack: Reliable Technology or a “Wired” Alien in the World of Wireless Technology?

People who are used to hooking headphones up to their smartphones could soon find themselves searching for a non-existent connector. Rumour had it for more than 6 months now, and finally it was confirmed to be true: Apple presented an all-new iPhone 7 last week, and guess what? Engineers from Apple’s home in Cupertino said “Fare thee well!” to the 3.5 mm audio jack connector.

 

"We believe in wireless future" - Apple says
“We believe in wireless future” – Apple says

 

Now, since Apple is undoubtedly the world’s leading smartphone manufacturer, all the other market players will follow this example and soon the era of wired headphones may be over (just like recent end of VHS tapes era).

However, the sad thing is, the headphone jack – is a very good connector. It’s a universal interface that can be still plugged into your smartphone, your tablet and computer, your TV, hi-fi, radio, Game Boy or console. And it has been used widely for decades, more or less replacing the larger 1/4-inch jacks (which dated from the 1870s, originally used for manual telephone exchange) since the 1960s for all but specialist applications, such as electric guitars and some more powerful amps.

 

Originally jack was developed for manual telephone exchange systems back in 1870s
Originally jack was developed for manual telephone exchange systems back in 1870s

 

As smartphones have become the primary music device for a whole generation and more, most headphones spend the majority of their time plugged into these pocket computers. But now the jack’s dominance is being contested.

Several smartphone manufacturers have started shipping handsets without 3.5 mm sockets even before Apple’s move with iPhone 7 last Wednesday. For example, Lenovo’s new modular Moto Z shrinks the headphone socket for a dongle that’s plugged into the relatively new USB-type C socket in the bottom. China’s LeEco also dumped the socket, while chip giant Intel is actively encouraging others to kill off the analogue 3.5mm socket in favour of USB-type C.

 

Most of the smartphone manufacturers are likely to follow Apple's move
Most of the smartphone manufacturers are likely to follow Apple’s move

 

According to Android Authority Blog, moving from analogue to digital connector may be both positive and negative in certain aspects. Moreover, the article published on the news portal states that it is expected that both options will sit side by side in the market for the foreseeable future and it is still too early to say that 3.5 mm jack will be fully dumped as a technology.

Why would Apple and other smartphone manufacturers dump the handy, helpful, user-friendly headphone jack? There are several reasons. The Lightning port in the bottom of an iPhone is already capable of outputting audio, and is needed for power, so if one of the two has to go to save a little bit of space, the 3.5mm jack gets the boot.

Chief marketing officer of Jaybird (wireless headphones manufacturer), Rene Oehlerking is sure that the days of the analog headphone jack are over. He believes that this technology has always been like a ghost from the analogue past in the world of digital technology and it is exactly the same interface that used to be plugged into with famous Walkman players, that were first introduced back in 1979.

 

Walkman changed the way we listen music long before iPod took the stage.
Walkman changed the way we listen music long before iPod took the stage.

 

Even though there are different, sometimes even opposite opinions on the future of 3.5 mm audio jack interface, it is obvious that this technology will eventually reduce its presence on the mass market over the next 5 years. But there is absolutely no doubt, that it’s authority will stay untouched in music-recording and movie-production industries, where quality of sound monitoring and mastering is essential.

Very similar situation is with optical media. Realistically speaking, CDs and DVDs are gradually moving from mass-market to niche-industries, such as data archiving, sound and video production, etc. These industries still preserve commonly-considered “outdated” formats, since their reliability is under no question.

 

FalconMedia Premium line - reliable storage solution for music and video production studios
FalconMedia Premium line – reliable storage solution for music and video production studios

 

For example, video-production and music recording studios still tend to use high-end optical media, such as FalconMedia Premium Line, to store big volumes of sound and video materials. It is cheaper and safe, since optical media does not require any constant electricity supply and has a way more extended lifespan.

As a conclusion, it is not necessary to run after latest inventions and get the new technologies implemented immediately after their introduction. Sometimes old, but tried-and-true things happen to be way more reliable and safe.