Google is Turning the Headphone Jack Into a Luxury Feature For Second-Tier Phones
Expensive phones may have ditched it, but for more affordable phones, the headphone jack is indispensable
In the long and stories history of hardware features that have been deprecated to loud public outcry — the floppy disk, the CD drive, and a parade of various ports — few have stuck around as long as the headphone jack. The last iPhone to feature a headphone jack launched in 2015, and in 2016 Google took a shot at Apple for removing it.
It’s a move Google repeated last week with an entire Jony Ive-style ad. Not only did this ad parody Apple’s penchant for hyping up specific design features, but it implied, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, that having a headphone jack is a luxury feature.
Except…it sort of is? But not for actual luxury phones.
The joke that a headphone jack could ever be considered a luxury feature is a bit of an ironic sore spot. Most major high-end phones like the Galaxy S21 or Google’s own Pixel 5 don’t have headphone jacks, and for their part, most phone reviewers couldn’t be happier about it. Editorials celebrating the death of the headphone jack abound, even as readers of tech blogs seem to be pretty into keeping the feature around.
For years, it was treated as common sense that the headphone jack had to go to make room for important features like water resistance or…um…smaller bezels? No, seriously, Google claimed that the first Pixel lacked a headphone jack because the next Pixel would have smaller bezels. Leaving room for the headphone jack, it seemed, just made it impossible to build a phone with small bezels and water resistance.
Of course, with the Pixel 5a, this seems to no longer be the case (if it ever was.) This new phone has IP67 water resistance — meaning it can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes — and perfectly adequate minimal bezels.
And it still has a headphone jack.
So, if there’s not actually some magic technical barrier preventing headphone jacks from being in otherwise feature-rich phones, and if there’s at least some demand from consumers who still want the feature five…