UPDATE, AUGUST 2020: I still REALLY miss the headphone jack. And unfortunately, only a few smartphone manufacturers are still shipping the beloved jack on flagships.
Way back December 2018, I brought a OnePlus 6T as an upgrade to my ancient iPhone 4S. Ever since that purchase, I have come to love every aspect of this device. The display is gorgeous, the camera is enough for my daily needs, and the battery lasts a day.
Purchasing the OnePlus 6T also means adjusting to the notable omission of the beloved 3.5mm headphone jack. At first, I thought it was going to be an easy adjustment to make — after all, I already have a wireless headphone lying around. And, there is a provided dongle if I ever need to connect to my old speakers.
Fast forward to 2019, and I can say that I still MISS the headphone jack. There is nothing that can beat the versatility and straightforwardness of that almost-universal jack. But beyond that, there are two major personal reasons why I miss it, and why it is superior to Bluetooth headphones (for the moment).
#1: One Jack to Rule ’Em All — No Fiddling Required
The headphone jack has become too universal that its omission by Apple in late 2016 garnered negative criticisms toward the company. There is no blame here — it has become the de facto standard for connecting audio peripherals to any device. The reason is dead simple: just connect any AUX cable to the 3.5mm headphone jack and hit “play”.
The lack of the jack seemed a minor annoyance to me when I first purchased the OnePlus because of the reason I gave in the beginning of the article. Months later, I MISS the jack — simply because I was bereft of a straightforward, no-fuss option to connect to my audio peripherals. Perhaps, my personal example would illuminate you:
During my first few months of using my phone, I would fiddle around the settings to connect to my Pioneer wireless headphone. By that point, I’m thinking to myself that I can live with this minor annoyance of going to the Settings app to connect to my headphone.
What was a minor scuff soon turned into a headache. I have to spend 3–5 minutes in the settings just to connect to my headphone because it won’t happen automatically. When I watch YouTube videos or stream music from Spotify, I would pause the video and head over to settings just to connect and listen. This is the kind of inconvenience that grows on you on the long run.
Having a dongle is also a headache as it is easy to lose sight. On top of that, I have to disconnect the dongle from the cable I’ve attached to it when I would use it on devices that still have the headphone jack (laptops for example; it really surprises me that no company has ever bothered to remove it from their laptops given the trend of killing it on smartphones.) Dongles provide a temporary relief but also present a major sore point especially when connecting with multiple devices.
#2: Connection Problems
Perhaps the biggest problem I have using wireless headphones and audio peripherals is connectivity problem. Sometimes, the connection would suddenly drop, and I have to turn off Bluetooth for both devices to makes sure they connect again. Sometimes, I would experience a “choppy” connection where the audio is chopped off.
From what I’ve read, connectivity problems remain to be a huge issue for wireless headphones. They have been improved over the years, but there remains to be creases that need to be ironed out. Unfortunately, the creases manifest themselves to give an unfavorable listening experience. For me, I have experienced my headphones drop connection while listening to the Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, or Sheppard’s Keep Me Crazy. The result? Sometimes, I would look over my phone and wonder where did the audio went. Sometimes, the audio would be “chopped” off— think phone call over someone who went over a low signal area.
Audio “chopping” off is also more pronounced especially when there are a lot of interference around the area. In my experience, I have the audio chopped off several times during commute — unfortunately, it is during commute that I need to listen to a headphone the most.
I have also tried connecting my Bluetooth audio receiver to test if the problem is isolated to my Pioneer wireless headphones. Nope, the problem would also appear on my Bluetooth audio receiver. The thing is, Bluetooth audio still has a long way to go before it can achieve the smooth, stable listening experience that the jack provides.
Other users have also pointed out the latency problems that come with using Bluetooth headphones and peripherals. I have not personally experienced them (yet), but I know it is a problem that needs to be fixed moving forward.
After listening mostly over Bluetooth, I have come to the point where I miss the jack. Granted, wireless headphones frees me from the cable hell that comes with tangled and broken cables. It also frees me from the limited mobility issue that having a wired audio peripheral imposes. However, nothing beats the straightforwardness that comes with the jack, signified by its dead-simple setup experience and reliability. The minor inconveniences in my wireless headphones and audio peripherals turn into major headaches that calls me back into the old-fashioned but tried and tested 3.5mm headphone jack. In the end, I’m like Rose calling Jack back to life (yes, that Titanic movie reference!)