The Real Reason Why Headphone Jacks Are History…

Why Headphone Jacks Are HIstory
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“June [2016] was the first month in which Bluetooth headphone dollar sales overtook non-Bluetooth sales in the U.S., a strong indicator that wireless listening is poised to become the leading way consumers experience music on the go.”

NPD Group Study on Wireless Headphones, Headphone Jacks.

What’s the real reason for Apple’s decision to dump the headphone jack in its upcoming iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus?  Increased battery life and more processing power are often cited as leading reasons, thanks to the freed up space.  Jack-less phones can also be thinner phones are another advantage, though the 7 will be just as thick as the iPhone 6.

But a dramatic shift towards wireless headphones is already underway, with cumbersome, wired headphones potentially gone in 5-10 years.  And, that will wipe away the headphone jacks that support them.  But is this the start of an inevitable tide of headphone jackless phones?

Currently, wired headphones with 3.5mm jacks still make up a vast majority of headphone sales in 2016, according to data released by NPD Group, but that is already starting to shift rapidly.  According to NPD, June was the first month in which Bluetooth-enabled, wireless headphone revenues exceeded those of wired, more traditional headphones.

That figure also includes earbuds, with are also starting to go wireless as well.  Indeed, Apple is likely to jumpstart the wireless earbud market in a major way, with AirPods hitting the market within weeks.

Guess Ben Stiller was ahead of this time…


But lest I digress.  More telling is the rate of growth between wired and wireless, with Bluetooth-enabled devices surging ahead.  “While the headphone category saw a 7 percent year-over-year increase in dollar sales for the first half of 2016, Bluetooth headphones saw double-digit growth with a 42 percent year-over-year increase in dollar sales for the first half of the year,” the NPD report continues.

All of which suggests that within just a few years, traditional, wired headphones will start to disappear. Accordingly, headphone jacks on mobile phones will also start to recede, with Apple’s iPhone 7 potentially the first of a slew of phones that skip the traditional jack.

That includes Samsung, LG, and other smartphone giants.  Already, we’re seeing a few Android models completely ditching headphone jacks, with USB-C ports playing a dual role.  USB-C could become Android’s equivalent of the Lightning jack, with a headphone jack-free mobile world emerging in just a few years.

Those left clinging to the past will be forced to use a confusing mix of different adapters, though one question is whether laptops will soon follow suit.

One last point not covered by the research report: wireless headphones currently suck!  Bluetooth is great a failing, though an updated Bluetooth protocol, not to mention Apple’s upcoming W1 wireless chip architecture are hitting the market this fall.  So, when it comes to purchasing a new pair of wireless headphones, the best advice it to wait a bit.


15 Responses

    • Anselm

      I plug my iPhone into the aux port of my car.
      I plug my iPhone into the aux port of my Bose system.
      I plug my iPhone into the computer speakers at work.
      I charge my iPhone while also listening to music.

      All of these activities are no longer possible.
      When my iPhone 6 dies, they will be losing a customer that has been with them since the first iPhone.

      • Stu

        It comes with a fucking adapter IN THE FUCKING box! Do you understand that?

        • Anselm

          I understand that Apple is supposed to be about simplicity of design. Carrying an adapter with me everywhere, or owning one each for my car home and work, does not fix the issue. Oh, and adding fuck to you comments doesn’t make your point more valid.

          • Anselm

            Also, how does adding an adapter in the box allow me to continue playing music on my speakers while charging my phone? You can’t. Maybe try understanding the whole post before lashing out next time.

  1. Versus

    What’s the bandwidth of these headphones?
    Can they really handle full-quality digital audio (24-bit 44kHz or higher)?

    • Brandon

      44 kHz?? You can’t even HEAR ABOVE 20 KHZ. That’s the limit of the human ear dude.

    • danwriter

      You’re confusing the sampling rate (actually 44.1 kHz) with playback fidelity. And if you’re hoping to get anywhere near 20 kHz I suggest you invest in a very good pair of speakers. Worrying about sonic quality over earbuds is a waste of time.

  2. Paul Resnikoff

    There’s another giant issue with the Air Pods. They’re going to be really, really easy to misplace. It’s almost like any pair, there’s a huge problem with loss. Like socks, you always lose one.

    What if it falls out of your ear while you’re biking? Or, you fall asleep on a plane and one of them is suddenly buried in row 36 somewhere?

    The only problem with a lost Air Pod, is that is requires $100+, maybe $200+ to replace.

  3. Singer

    Wired earphones will disappear? Really? They’re vital for recording. There’s latency with Blutooth. There will always be a need for studio monitor headphones.

  4. David Farrell

    The argument favouring the increase in Bluetooth versus wired is flawed. Because the former is cheap to buy, the actual dollars sales are lower than the higher-priced Bluetooth models. It’s one big marketing ploy, and Bluetooth as far I know is a battery guzzler. The switch may be inevitable, but having the facts stated in an unbiased fashion might be in order. Hawking goods is not what I expect to read here.

  5. Anonymous

    Any company that forces it’s consumers to use bluetooth headsets is all about profit over people. Earphones are the safest way to use your cell phone. If Apple abandons headphone jacks. For your own safety don’t buy phones that have no headphone jacks.

    Cell phones emit RF radiations. These radiations can be categorized as thermal, non-thermal and genotoxical. Researchers have found that high exposure to RF radiations can cause brain tumor and problems like headache, fatigue & difficulty in concentration. Bringing cell phones close to head causes more exposure to RF radiation. Thus, it is advisable to use earphones. When you use earphones you are less exposed to such radiations as direct radiations from the mobile phone antenna get reduced.

    Devices such as Bluetooth headsets emit wireless microwave radiation. Microwave signals have shorter wavelengths and a rapid rate of oscillation which enables them to carry information over long distances without wires. Their short wavelength and rapid oscillation also helps them to penetrate living tissues down to the cellular level. Soviet Russia used this characteristic of microwave signals against U.S. when it developed dangerous weapons in 1950s. These weapons caused leukemia in people. This indicates that even microwave radiations used in wireless communication can cause severe health damages. Microwave radiations from Bluetooth devices cause biological changes in body. These biological changes take place at cellular level and can transmit to offspring via DNA and RNA.

  6. anon

    The US market isn’t the entire world.
    Two towers weren’t enough.