Update (5/29): HTC has reached out to us to confirm that the free headphone jack adapter included with European orders is only a limited-time promotion. HTC Europe likely won’t include a free adapter with U12 Plus purchases for much longer, so we’d suggest purchasing your device sooner rather than later if you can.
Original article (5/28): Our HTC U12 Plus hands-on confirmed the lack of a headphone adapter in the device’s box, meaning users would have to buy one elsewhere. However, it seems like U.S. fans have gotten the raw end of the deal, as European buyers can pick up a free dongle with U12 Plus purchases.
The HTC USA Twitter channel told a user that the U12 Plus wouldn’t feature a headphone adapter. The user then checked the European website, noticing a headphone adapter was included when the device was added to their cart.
See for yourself: Placing the phone in your cart automatically adds an adapter. Not in the US store nor amazon though… pic.twitter.com/iW1e8UNRvn
— Aaroni Grantoni (@KarthXLR) May 26, 2018
We’ve tried it for ourselves, noticing that the U.K. and German websites included the headphone adapter for free in our cart. Meanwhile, the U.S. store indeed misses the headphone adapter addition. So what could be the reason for the discrepancy?
One possibility is HTC is conducting a trial run for removing the headphone adapter from all future flagships. After all, it might be difficult for HTC to make a firm decision without trying it in a few markets first. And who knows, the backlash might be so severe that it tanks the company’s already lackluster sales.
We’ve contacted HTC for clarity around the regional discrepancy and will update the article accordingly when we receive a response.
The demise of headphone adapters
It feels almost inevitable that flagship phones will eventually ditch the adapter in the box. But the million dollar question is just when is the right time to do so? U.K. retail chain the Argos Group reported a 300% increase in Bluetooth headphone sales in the 12 months since the iPhone 7’s release.
Now, that jump in sales could be due to necessity, as the iPhone 7 lacks a headphone jack, forcing owners to either use the mildly inconvenient adapter or seek Lightning/Bluetooth alternatives. But before Apple even dropped the headphone jack, the NPD Group reported wireless headphone sales revenue surpassed non-Bluetooth sales for the first time back in June 2016. At first glance, it looks like a damning bit of news for wired headphone enthusiasts.
Read more: Why having no headphone jack is a bad idea
However, the NPD report was talking about dollars spent as opposed to actual units sold. It added that Bluetooth headphones only accounted for 17 percent in terms of actual numbers sold. The sheer premium compared to wired headphones could be the reason, rather than most consumers actually ditching wired headsets.
Then there’s a Gartner report from August 2017, which suggests that all “premium mobile phones” will ditch the headphone jack by 2021 — hardly around the corner, to be fair. So while the market is evidently moving in a wireless direction, it seems like a very bold move to ditch the headphone adapter right now. Fortunately, HTC includes a pair of USB Type-C headphones in their packaging anyway, helping to soften the blow.
Will Apple follow HTC’s lead and simply ditch the adapter too? It wouldn’t be the first time that Android OEMs beat Apple to dropping a standard. Back in 2016, Lenovo and Chinese brand LeEco beat Apple to ditching the 3.5mm jack.