Skip to main content

Fine, let 2021 be the year the headphone jack dies on phones

Mobile Phone and headphones
Emilija Manevska/Getty Images

I hate to break it to you, but the headphone jack is going away. On phones, at least. A trend that started in 2018 picked up steam in 2019 and has nearly come to a close this year.

People who have been using high-end phones for the past couple of years are wondering what I’m talking about. They came to terms with this long ago. Apple removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 8, and even Samsung removed it starting with the Galaxy Note 10. Companies making phones that cost more than $500 have realized they can remove a headphone jack and nobody will complain enough to not buy the phone. Now, heading into 2021, that trend is poised to head downmarket, too.

I’m fine saying goodbye to the headphone jack on phones entirely.

I actually can’t remember the last time I plugged an audio cable into one of my phones. Be it a pair of headphones, a speaker, or a car audio system. And not because my phones just … don’t have the port. I have adapters I can use, I just don’t bother — everything is Bluetooth now.

I actually can’t remember the last time I plugged an audio cable into a phone.

A tech we love to hate

Bluetooth is the technology we all love to hate. It can be randomly buggy, with frustrating disconnections and cutting out. Switching devices can also be a pain, and audiophiles will always remind us that the quality isn’t nearly as good as a wired connection. But, we all use it anyway. People are clearly willing to deal with these pain points — just look at the incredible explosion of popularity of true wireless earbuds. All of the hottest audio products in the consumer space are Bluetooth, not wired.

People obviously complained about the loss of the headphone jack at first, but they don’t seem to care anymore — at least, not in large numbers. Bluetooth audio products are numerous, covering an incredible range of uses, styles, qualities, and prices. That wasn’t the case in 2017 (Apple definitely jumped the gun there), but it sure is now. Even people who have a less expensive phone that retains the headphone jack aren’t using it as much — they’re just pairing up to an inexpensive pair of Bluetooth headphones, because they’re actually quite good for the money nowadays and it turns out being wireless has its advantages.

Apple AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

A few companies have dipped their toe into offering headphones with a direct USB-C or Lightning connector, but I don’t see this as being particularly necessary to this transition. It’s going to take a very long time for the 3.5 mm headphone plug to disappear across the technology industry (it’s likely here to stay on computers, at least), so even if phones eliminate the port, there will still be considerable demand for standard wired headphones.

This transition is going just fine, and we’re further along than you’d think.

Use an adapter

In the meantime, there’s always an adapter! Let’s remember, the death of the headphone jack does not mean the death of wired audio. It’s dead simple to get a USB-C adapter or Lightning adapter to plug in your wired headphones. No batteries required, and it’s cheap. It also provides an interesting opportunity for audiophiles, because you can now choose your DAC (digital-to-analog converter), rather than be stuck with the likely low-quality DAC in the phone.

If there’s anything that the transition of computers, phones, and tablets from USB-A to USB-C has shown us, it’s that people have a high tolerance for short-term inconvenience while a new standard is rolling out. The headphone transition with phones is going much smoother, and we’re much further along. It looks like 2021 is the year where I stop caring about that little 3.5 mm plug.

Editors' Recommendations

Andrew Martonik
Andrew Martonik is the Editor in Chief at Digital Trends, leading a diverse team of authoritative tech journalists.
There’s only one reason I’m still using an iPhone in 2023
A green iPhone 15 lock screen.

It's not an understatement to say I am an Android smartphone fan, as an Android phone has been my faithful companion ever since I started using the HTC Desire in 2010. I've bounced from phone to phone in the 13 years since, and I've experienced good and bad phones alike. But in all that time, I've never spent much time with an Apple iPhone. I'm obviously not unfamiliar with iPhones, having used them during my time as a tech writer grabbing screenshots, downloading apps, and testing games — but never having used one as my primary smartphone is something of a blind spot.

The Apple iPhone 15 is a good reason to end that. After all, if I'm going to use an iPhone, it might as well be Apple's latest. Two weeks after booting it up and transferring my data to it, it's been ... a journey. While I can see the iPhone 15 is an excellent smartphone, too many of iOS's idiosyncracies rub me the wrong way. However, there's one feature I've grown to really love, and I'm going to struggle to live without it.
The iPhone 15 is a mixed bag

Read more
Google Maps got a major update, and people hate it
Google Maps running on a Pixel 8 Pro, showing the new colors as of November 2023.

Over the past few weeks, Google has been quietly rolling out a fresh coat of paint for its popular Google Maps app — and it’s been creating havoc over the holiday travel season.

While some people may understandably be frustrated at any changes made to such an established and widely used app, there seems to be more to this than just people being put off by unfamiliar colors. The many folks taking to social media to voice their displeasure with the redesign have been joined by professional user interface (UI) designers expressing similar, but more nuanced observations. Even a designer who once worked on Google Maps is pillorying the new design as a backward step for the service’s usability.

Read more
I found the perfect Android tablet to buy this year
Man holds Blackview Active 8 Pro rugged Android tablet in black color with a leather strap.

The iPad primarily dominates the market for tablets despite an exceptionally powerful battalion of great Android tablets. In the lower price ranges, however, Android dominates with countless offerings — often from lesser-known brands. With Google's reignited interest in the tablet segment, brands like OnePlus put up great competition -- even challenging the iPad -- in the sub-$500 segment. But as you go lower in price, you may find brands cutting costs to stay profitable in the competitive market.

The Blackview Active 8 Pro feels like an exception, with solid and reliable hardware, an everlasting battery, and a desktop-like experience that isn't seen on tablets higher up the price ladder. For just $360 (and potentially even cheaper during the holiday shopping season), this tablet feels appropriate whether you have an active lifestyle, are just looking for a secondary device to feed your appetite for sofa-tainment, or dedicate a device for your kids.

Read more