On September 16, 2016, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller took to the stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to help launch the iPhone 7, as shown in the picture above. The iPhone 7 looked remarkably similar to its predecessor, the iPhone 6S, albeit for one major difference: the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were the first phones from Apple to not feature the popular port. During the launch event, Schiller made a typically grandiose statement to explain why Apple was ditching the headphone jack: “The reason to move on: courage. The courage to move on and do something new that betters all of us,” he said onstage.
Despite Schiller’s affirmations, people were pretty upset about the removal of the headphone jack. That “courage” line has since been used to mock not only Apple but any company that removes or alters a seemingly standard feature in a product with little reason to do so.
Now, it’s been over three years since that day. Since then, we’ve seen nearly every major smartphone manufacturer follow suit and release one or multiple Android phones without the much-loved 3.5mm port. One would think by now people would be over it — the jack is gone, let’s just move on with our lives.
But that is not the case. Not at all.
People fervently love the headphone jack
A few months ago, information leaked that the then-upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 10 would not feature a headphone jack. If it ended up being true, it would be the first bonafide flagship from Samsung without the port.
When we posted an article about the rumor on May 30, the comments section quickly filled up with incredibly upset people airing their dissatisfaction with this decision. “I’m really hoping this is just rumor,” one commenter said. “If no headphone jack, goodbye Samsung!” Another commenter said, “Note series will be dead to me if this happens.” One commenter summed it up quite nicely by saying, “No 3.5, no sale. Period.” Of course, one person even chimed in with a joking reference to Phil Schiller: “That’s a lot of courage.”
As you probably know by now, the rumors were true and the Note 10 family officially landed on August 7, 2019, without headphone jacks.
It seems not a day goes by without some headphone jack-related comments here at Android Authority.
It seems ridiculous to admit, but OEMs are ignoring this outrage and continuing to push out devices missing the 3.5mm port at a staggering pace. Between the launch of the iPhone 7 and the launch of the Note 10, dozens of flagship smartphones arrived without a 3.5mm port. OnePlus abandoned the jack entirely starting with the OnePlus 6T in 2018 (which also created a slew of outrage in our comments sections). Google abandoned the headphone jack with the launch of the Google Pixel 2 in 2017, and Huawei ditched the port for its flagship Mate 10 Pro that same year.
In fact, the only major smartphone maker to keep the port on every flagship its launched thus far is LG.
The 3.5mm port has become so rare of a feature for major smartphones over the past three years that it’s become more newsworthy if it’s included rather than excluded. That’s what happened when Google included a 3.5mm port on the 2019 Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. Interestingly, this is why Google made that decision, according to Sonyia Jobanputra, a Google product manager:
“…a lot of people have headphones, and we didn’t need to create anymore e-waste in the world so we’ve decided to put a 3.5mm headset jack in so that people could use the accessories that they already had available to them.”
One could easily argue that this same logic could be applied to flagship smartphones, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead, Android OEMs continue to give pretty weak arguments such as these as to why they are removing the jack.
Regardless, the industry is in a weird place right now: a very vocal customer base who say they want headphone jacks in their flagship smartphones and OEMs refusing to deliver.
Are OEMs simply hoping that we’ll eventually not care anymore?
How much time needs to pass?
I started working for Android Authority towards the tail end of 2017, right as the removal of the headphone jack was gaining full steam. Since then, I feel like not a month has gone by without a new smartphone launching and the comments sections of our articles on that device getting filled with negative comments about how it doesn’t have a headphone jack.
It’s been three years since this trend started. How long do we need to go before people simply don’t care anymore?
There will likely be comments on this article from people saying they won’t ever stop. They’ll say the headphone jack is an essential feature to any smartphone and they simply won’t buy one without it. Under normal circumstances, I would laugh that off, but now I’m not so sure. If in three years a large subset of smartphone consumers still haven’t moved on — and, in fact, seem to be just as strong as they were in 2016 — maybe they really won’t ever move on.
If the outrage hasn't died down in three years' time, how long will we actually need to go before the outrage is gone?
That brings up an interesting question: will smartphone OEMs continue to ignore these protests and release flagships without 3.5mm ports, or will they eventually roll back on the decision when they realize the criticism just won’t go away?
With even longstanding holdout Samsung dropping the jack this year, I feel like the answer to that question is OEMs will just keep ignoring consumers. Does that mean I have another three years ahead of me of writing about the headphone jack? Another three years of moderating comments where people spit vitriolic about how “No 3.5mm = No sale?” I’m already exhausted.