LG V50 ThinQ Review in hand profile

Opinion post by
C. Scott Brown

It’s no secret that the headphone jack is dying. Ever since Apple jettisoned the port in 2016 with the release of the iPhone 7, Android OEMs have slowly followed suit. At this point, there are very few flagships from the top Android manufacturers with the 3.5mm port on board.

That is, except for the ones from LG, as headphone jacks are still a staple of all its launches. In only a few weeks, we expect to see LG announce the latest in its flagship G series, the LG G9 ThinQ. Leaked renders suggest that even this 2020 device will keep the headphone jack.

Meanwhile, Samsung will launch the new entries in its insanely popular Galaxy S series soon. For the first time ever, these Galaxy S devices won’t have headphone jacks. This follows the Galaxy Note 10 line, which was the first in the Note series to abandon the port.

For further proof, flagships from Google, Huawei, OnePlus, Sony, and more haven’t had headphone jacks in years.

LG is still holding firm to the headphone jack, but how long will that last?

With fewer and fewer places to turn for flagship specs combined with a headphone jack, LG’s commitment to the feature should be commended. However, the company is struggling. LG’s smartphone division has been losing money for years now, and LG phones rarely go on to be best-sellers. As a guy who is constantly scoping out the phones I see on the street, I barely ever see people rocking an LG anymore.

It’s time for headphone jack fanatics to put their money where their mouth is and start supporting LG. While there might be a few reasons to not like LG devices, the company is your last beacon of hope when it comes to 3.5mm ports on flagships. If you want LG to continue to offer the feature on its devices — and show other companies just how important the headphone jack really is to consumers — voting with your wallet is probably the best way to do that.

LG makes smartphones for audiophiles

LG V40 and LG V30 pictures of headphone jack in black and white

LG doesn’t just stop at including a headphone jack on all its devices. Over the past few years, it’s also included a Quad DAC — which stands for “Digital-to-Analog Converter.” This fancy bit of tech takes the digital signal from your MP3 files (or FLAC files, if you’re hardcore) and essentially “upscales” it to give it more of that analog warmth you hear from LPs.

Granted, you likely won’t notice much of a difference in audio quality between a “normal” headphone jack and one powered by LG’s Quad DAC unless you’re using a premium set of headphones. If you primarily use $5 earbuds, your listening experience will be pretty much the same.

Related: What is the LG V20’s Quad DAC, and how does it affect audio quality?

The Quad DAC also does something else, which is boost signal. With the right set of headphones, you can get much more volume and overall power from LG’s Quad DAC then you would from a typical 3.5mm port on a smartphone.

The essential takeaway here is that LG isn’t just including headphone jacks in its phones and calling it a day. The company is committed to making LG flagships the best smartphones for audiophiles, period. In a world where even Samsung is abandoning the headphone jack, LG is holding strong — and then some.

Unfortunately, LG tends to shoot itself in the foot

LG G8 ThinQ with a headphone jack

Despite how vocal headphone jack fanatics might be, even the most devoted audiophiles will admit that there’s more to making a great smartphone than just including a 3.5mm port. Unfortunately, LG has three consistent issues that deter consumers from buying its phones.

The first issue is that LG’s flagships tend to be, well, boring. With a quick glance, there’s not much about an LG device that gives it any kind of “sexiness” that you’ll find on other phones. Granted, there’s nothing inherently wrong with LG’s phones, they just don’t inspire people to line up around the block on launch day.

LG makes great phones, but there are a few reasons people aren't too keen on buying them.

The second issue is LG’s poor history of Android updates. Right now, in January 2020, LG is still pushing out Android 9 Pie to some of its devices, which is just abysmal. Only a few days ago did it even commit to a timeline for rolling out Android 10, whereas many other manufacturers have already delivered it to their flagships. LG has promised multiple times to clean up its act when it comes to updates, but we’ve yet to see much progress.

Finally, LG’s biggest problem is pricing. For some reason, the company still thinks its flagships are competing with the latest iPhones or the various Samsung Galaxy flagships. It tries to price its devices in that tier but that strategy simply isn’t working. If the company really wants to compete, it needs to understand that it’s competing with the upper mid-range, not ultra-premium phones.

These reasons, or maybe even some others, might be what deter you from wanting to buy an LG phone, regardless if there’s a headphone jack onboard or not. I would argue, though, that your decision to not buy an LG flagship could work against your own headphone jack-related interests.

It’s not just about the phone, it’s about sending a message

Realme X2 Pro headphone port with headphones

Many headphone jack fanatics out there have no interest in LG’s phones. Instead, they’ll take a different route: they’ll buy a mid-ranger, hold onto their current device longer, or even accept their fate and simply buy a phone without a headphone jack.

This isn’t the best idea, though. Eventually, LG is going to look at the inclusion of the headphone jack on its flagships in one of two ways: its existence is either helping it sell more phones or not helping it sell more phones. If LG figures out that it will sell the same number of smartphones regardless of the inclusion of a 3.5mm port, why would it continue to include it?

Related: LG in 2020: Time for a turnaround

With LG the final holdout, that realization could mark the official death of the headphone jack in premium smartphones. Audiophiles will be stuck buying mid-rangers that compromise specs and features to keep the price down or simply force themselves to accept that a USB-C dongle might not be that bad.

Judging from the fervor for the headphone jack we see in our comments sections at Android Authority, both of those outcomes aren’t ideal. Audiophiles might need to vote with their wallet and commit to LG if simply out of principle.

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