Intel wants to replace the 3.5mm headphone jack with USB Type-C connector

By Shawn Knight · 36 replies
Apr 27, 2016
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  1. There’s no two ways about it – the 3.5mm headphone jack as we know it today is going away (and not just because Apple says so).

    During a talk at its recent developer conference in Shenzhen, Intel proposed replacing the 3.5mm audio jack – the last remaining analog interface on most modern devices – with USB Type-C. As AnandTech notes, the change could lead to multiple improvements that may be too good to pass up.

    This isn’t the first time a company has proposed a replacement for the 3.5mm connector but because it’s such a common standard, initiatives have never gained much traction. These days, however, with smartphones and tablets having reached such widespread levels of adoption, the time may be right to finally put the 3.5mm jack out to pasture.

    By switching to USB Type-C and digital audio, components such as amplifiers and DACs could be relocated from smartphones – where real estate is incredibly limited – to headsets. Intel also suggests installing special multi-function processing units (MPUs) which, among other operations, would be software upgradable meaning new functionality could be added over time.

    Some companies, like LeEco, have already made the switch to USB Type-C. Earlier this month, the Chinese smartphone maker introduced a trio of new smartphones that shed the traditional audio jack in favor of a USB Type-C port.

    Conversely, Apple is largely expected to drop the 3.5mm audio jack on its next iPhone and replace it with a Lightning connector. Competing standards rarely last in the consumer electronics space (HD DVD vs Blu-ray, for example) and with USB Type-C already finding a home on several new gadgets (even some from Apple like the MacBook), it’s easy to see how Apple could lose this battle if it sticks to its Lightning port guns.

    Anand says Intel is finalizing its USB Type-C Digital Audio technology and aims to release its specification in the coming months.

    Permalink to story.

  2. We've been here before - with a single port used for charging and headphones/earpiece. I'll pass.
    While my phone is charging, I'd like to also have my headphone/earpiece (mic) plugged in to listen/talk and NOT be a proprietary jack.

    they can do whatever they want. As always, people can vote with their wallets; and I have this feeling that the overwhelming inconvenience that this will be, will cause people to refrain from purchase.

    Now, if they decided to make the major change and switch to the 2.5 mm jack (which I believe is the standard open source??) that will be totally fine with me.
  3. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +902

    I would rather we end up moving to CABLE-LESS TECH ALREADY!!

    I mean come on... bluetooth is more used nowadays but we should let go of cables all together. Wireless charger are becomming a thing, why not wireless audio?

    Instead making it more complicated and keep the cord even when it's not analog... lets not talk about "audiophiles"... "we are loooooosing sooooo much by going digital" and what-not.

    Bluetooth 3.0 is good to keep sync and quality, we should aim to have everything on BT4 and not cost an eye to get a decent pair of headphones. All the notebooks/phones/tablets come with BT technology, why not use it? You know how many notebooks have USB C? Not that many. You know how many phones and tablets have USB C?? The only ones mentioned on this article (No tablets).
  4. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,728   +3,701

    Be fine with me if they would just go ahead and make USB C the only standard for devices that can operate under USB C standards.
    trgz likes this.
  5. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,665   +1,949

    I don't like re-posting my own comments, but here it was:
    Either nobody agrees or nobody cares?
  6. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,347   +1,990

    I'm wondering "where is the need", other than for them to eliminate one more port and sell more connectors. Personally, I often have my phone charging while I'm using it. Not a fan of wireless because of some interference issues I've experienced and frankly I see little to any advantage to the consumer .... what am I missing?
  7. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 860   +874

    The industry would then move to single port devices, which would become a pain in the rear.

    Unless they are going to give us two type c connectors, one on top and bottom of the phone, this idea will not work. Especially as phone makers continue to not offer removable batteries or phones with more than 4-5 hours SoT per charge.
    trgz likes this.
  8. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +902

    There is no such thing as immediate adoption.

    I think my phone might be unique cause it can last more than 5 hours on a single charge with heavy usage. Removable batteries are a waste of time -you have to shutdown your phone, open it, put it, charge it turn it off, then put the other one, charge it and if you need to replace it you need to turn it off-, external batteries on the other hand are awesome, just plug it in and charge it or give charge while having the phone in your pocket, purse or backpack and they could also charge other usb devices you have if needed, the best part if you change your phone model you don't need to buy another expensive battery, you want to help a friend in need? check, he has another brand of phone? check, he has an iphone?? check.

    Get on the modern wagon.
  9. You may have missed something important - after a certain period of time the batter will stop holding a charge. The question is, buy a new battery ($40) or by a new phone ($800).
    and THAT is why companies are removing the option of the replaceable battery - they would rather get the $800 instead of $40.
  10. DrKrypton

    DrKrypton TS Rookie

    So what about my phones jack then? Am I going to need another adapter??
  11. Larious

    Larious TS Rookie

    The problem with this idea is that some of the best headphones such as Bose has not adopted to this c type wonder Intel is going down and laying off people....if Apple adds this to their next iPhone 7 then this will be "the final nail" in their coffin...
    MonsterZero and trgz like this.
  12. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 390   +668

    That's about the 16th time over the past 30 years I've read about the "death" of the headphone socket in another click-bait tech "article". Like the annual "death of the PC", you can virtually set your watch by them...

    Streamlining the complex mish-mash of parallel ports, RS232 serial, PS/2, old discrete sound card "gameport" (joystick) & early proprietary CD-ROM interface ("Mitsumi vs Panasonic vs Sony"), P-ATA 40/80 pin "master/slave/cable-select" IDE ribbon cables & jumper pins + separate 34 pin floppy ribbon cables + floppy power connector + separate mobile 40-44pin IDE adaptors + SCSI, etc, into forwards compatible USB & SATA was serious progress.

    "Streamlining" a simple, reliable and universal 3.5mm audio jack which works on everything from your TV to hi-fi to car stereo to MP3 player with a flimsy high bandwidth charging port that only exists on your phone, and that removes the ability to listen and charge at the same time is a cute marketing gimmick.

    A lot of people are figuring out that every time a commonly used feature gets removed there are two reasons - 1. The official one parroted by tech sites "It's because we ran out of room on an $500 8" tablet, please ignore the fact your former $50 tiny 2" screen dumb flip phone with dedicated volume buttons, joypad and 0-9 keypad managed it just fine". And then there's the real one - once a market reaches saturation point, from then on it's about getting you to spend more to maintain the same functionality - either buying extra cables & headphones (3.5mm) or trying to encourage rental plans (no SD cards means you'll have to start streaming). I honestly think we're past the peak where each annual iteration of "smart" devices actually benefits the consumer more than the salesman.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2016
    Gurubaz and trgz like this.
  13. Nitrotoxin

    Nitrotoxin TS Addict Posts: 114   +67

    I agree completely have they actually used a C connector? The cables pop right out all the damn time without wanting to there is literally nothing holding them in... *sigh* MORONS ARE DEISGNING THIS ****!!!
    VitalyT likes this.
  14. Godel

    Godel TS Booster Posts: 76   +27

    I wonder if this is just a prelude to some sneaky way to implement DRM on the audio output?
    CURLUCKY and trgz like this.
  15. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,166   +986

    Lots of issues with a seemingly simple change
    • the 3.5mm is the last analogue interface in a digital world
    • deletion means all our existing headsets be come useless (in regard to Apple hardware).
    Using the Lightening cable already shook-up USB users and chargers some time back. Hopefully, both headset and charging support will not be merged into one slot as many want to use-while-charging.

    Going to a third cable (usb, lightening and now type-c) would be a mistake - - pick two and move on IMO.
    trgz likes this.
  16. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,828   +633

    USB Type C has to be one of the jankiest as phuck connectors ever created, it's lose, falls out, doesn't make great contact, truly a terrible solution to headphones that need a constant connection so you don't get static or buzzing. They took something that worked and worked well and ruined it in the name of making things cheaper, what a surprise and now they want it to do everything so they can reduce production cost, thank you big industry for not actually give a flying phuck about the consumer, but does this really surprise anyone these days? We just keep buying this crap because what the hell else are we going to do?
    Gurubaz and trgz like this.
  17. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,310   +651

    The biggest problem I have with this, is, the headphone jack is a very STRONG connection point. previous cell phone from 2012 to 14, the battery would not last an entire day, requiring
    charging 2-3 times a day. So much so, I flat wore out the usb jack 3 times. I replaced it myself, only took about 20 minutes. The phone I have now, the battery will last 2 days easy.
    Now, if kids are going to be using this to charge AND for their ear buds, that constant use will most likely impact the life of the jack. What will happen when consumers start to balk at the idea of replacing that jack 2-3 times when it gets damaged from over use?
    trgz likes this.
  18. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +902

    I've never had a phone battery die on me, nor loose enough charge for me to notice it. Unless you get a bad unit, it's pretty difficult for a phone to outlive the battery. And even then, it should be pretty simple to change the attached battery for a phone anyhow, you go into a specialized shop where they open it and change it.
  19. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 2,665   +1,097

    Less ports = less things you can do simultaneously - you can't charge it and listen to music at the same time.
    USB ports get damaged really easily - a simple slip out of your pockets while listening to music can ruin your phone.
    you lose support for some of the best headphones on the market
    etc etc etc
    the many many cons far outweigh the few pros or using just a single usb port.
  20. Gurubaz

    Gurubaz TS Rookie

    I agree , and wont join in ...I got hit by apple firewire .... and all the mixing decks I have are jack input output . USB c is terribly fragile, the car leads are replaced every 6 months .
  21. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Probably both.
  22. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 860   +874

    Removable batteries are far from a waste of time. First, they prevent perfectly good phones from becoming waste. A $40 battery replacement produces much less waste then replacing a phone every 2 years. Much cheaper as well. Especially as phones are getting good enough to not need replaced, sealing the batteries in puts a timer on their life until the battery can no longer hold a charge, which if you have to charge every day, isnt going to make it two years.

    Also, you dont seem to realize that replaceable batteries can be replaced with extended batteries. The 10000MaH battery in my note 4 says hello.

    I mean, I COULD get a battery pack, duck tape it to my phone, and look like a total dumb@$$ walking around with this thing attached to my phone, OR, OR, I could get a phone with a removable battery, put a bigger battery in it, and not have to worry about a portable charger since I get 16 hours of SoT on a single charge. It is so much simpler than carrying around a portable charger.

    Of course, OEMs dont want you to do that, they want you to buy another $800 phone.
    SirGCal likes this.
  23. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Evangelist Posts: 925   +284

    You either upgrade your phone often or don't pay attention because battery charge goes down over time in all batteries. That is something you really can't get away from unless you change them or get a new phone often. As for the outliving, well not everyone upgrades every year some keep a phone for many years because it does what they need and see no reason to spend money on an expensive phone that does what the one they have already does. See, another problem with your solution is having to go to a specialized shop and pay more than needed to get the battery changed when you can get a second battery and keep that charged for usually much less than half the price of that shop. You see all that as not a problem while a lot of people (me included) see it all as a waste of money for no real reason.
  24. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +902

    Say hello to it from me!

    The idea of an external pack is to use it when needed, not duck tape it over... but if you want to look like a dumbarse feel free to do so! :)

    Sure... again, whatever works for you. The main complaint is that batteries end up dying, if they do, you CAN replace them. The most time I've had a phone is a year and a half, and that was a high end phone and I understand why you wouldn't want to replace an expensive phone for one that is a bit better, then again, if the battery dies on you after a year or more, you can have the battery replaced or your phone replaced (They normally come with warranty).

    I've had my G2 for over a year and a half, of course I've noticed some diminished on-time which goes away when I uninstall battery draining crap from it, which for the most time works like a charm. Again, that being the case and not wanting to change a phone, you can easily ask the company or go to a specialized shop to replace the battery for a new one, normally under warranty it shouldn't be a problem.

    Now if you stick with your phone for 3 years that's something totally different... 3-4 years ago I had an Optimus One and single core was all the blast, 1-2 years later dual cores and almost a year ago the first gen Moto G showed up and delivered awesome entry level quad core performance and blew away the competition. Before that the only way to get a quad core phone was having a flag ship.

    A year later, performance hasn't improved noticeably to change phones, still, having one for over 2 years is either you don't really need more in which case is perfectly fine or you are on a budget or simply don't see a reason to change it, either way a small fee to replace it doesn't seem that bad.
  25. Mandark

    Mandark TS Booster Posts: 76   +22

    It's just Intel trying to set the standard.

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