The 3.5mm Jack: Unwanted Change in the Face of Unanimous Opposition?

BY Steve Litchfield

Published 5 Oct 2017

Every. Single. Reviewer. Slams every single phone with no headphone jack and manufacturers just aren’t listening.

You know the drill by now. In a review (or preview) of (e.g.) the (new) Pixel 2 or Essential phone or iPhone 7/8/X or HTC U11, the reviewer says something like: “Sadly” or ‘Unfortunately” or even “Unforgivably”, in the context of there being no 3.5mm headphone/audio jack. I have yet to see a single reviewer or commenter exclaiming “Hooray, the jack has gone”.

Unsurprisingly, because there is no compelling reason to get rid of the world standard 3.5mm jack – it’s used for standard headphones, for microphones, for audio out to cars, for camera control – and you can use it while charging separately.

Manufacturers sometimes state (feebly), “The jack had to go because it lets water in”. Rubbish. There are lots of IP67-rated phones with 3.5mm jacks, not least the recent Samsung Galaxy flagships.

They then state “The jack had to go because it uses up too much space”. Again, poppycock. I have an iPod Shuffle at home that’s no bigger than a coin and it has a 3.5mm jack. The componentry just isn’t that large. And besides, phones themselves are getting larger and chipsets are getting more integrated, there’s more room inside in 2017 than there used to be a few years ago. Not less.

Finally, “Oh, well, taking away the jack lets us make the phone stronger”. While there’s a tiny, tiny grain of truth in this, I’ve yet to see a single phone ever that bent around its headphone jack ‘weakness’. A 3.5mm jack is usually placed on the top or bottom of a phone, where you don’t need strength – no one bends a phone around its shortest side!

So my question to manufacturers is: do you really think that all the reviewers, all the commenters, all the users are wrong here? Are you so set on this jack-less future that you want to alienate just about everybody? For no good reason?

When the jack’s absence is always, repeat always perceived as a negative and not a positive – by everybody – please take these 100% opinions as data points and leave the 3.5mm headphone jack in. It’s what we want. Really.

PS. Thankfully, the vast majority of Android phones sold today still include the jack. So well done Samsung, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE, among others…

PPS. I can’t do a post on headphone jacks without a photo of the top of my Marshall London. Count the 3.5mm jacks. Count ’em again….! 😎