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Google shows ‘courage’ by ditching headphone jack in the Pixel 6a

The newly announced Google Pixel 6a doesn’t have a headphone jack. Instead, you’ll have to rely on your favorite Bluetooth headphones — say, the also newly announced Pixel Buds Pro.

That’s convenient, no doubt. And, according to your favorite Apple blog, it’s a humorous bit of hypocrisy, given that Google a mere nine months ago released a promo video for the Pixel 5a that trumpeted the brilliance of design found in a circle while also heralding the phone’s inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack. (And all while mocking the overly serious tone of Apple’s promo videos from back when Sir Jony Ive was making a big deal out of things like shapes your toddler would recognize.)

Three Pixel 6As lined up, one black, one white, and one green.

It’s hard not to watch Google’s video from August 2021 and not chuckle a little. It’s a fun watch. It’s most certainly tongue-in-cheek, in the same way that you could see Apple taking a swipe at Google for things like a lack of focus, or killing popular (though not revenue-generating) products — or, ya know, tablets.

The Circle Comes Full Circle, with the new Google Pixel 5a with 5G

You also can’t help but laugh at the headlines from a smattering of Apple-friendly blogs noting that Google got rid of the headphone jack in the Pixel 6a in the immediate follow-up from said smarmy video. “Google Kills Headphone Jack in Latest Pixel 6A Just Months After Parodying Apple,” reads one headline. “Google’s Pixel 6a drops headphone jack, despite mocking Apple over it,” reads another.

Never mind that there’s absolutely no reason for either Google or Apple to apologize for a design choice. Or to defend it, for that matter. These things are done for a reason. They’re not accidental. There’s also absolutely no reason for a blog to feel the need to white knight itself for Apple — the company is doing just fine, even without headphone jacks. (And, one could easily argue, it’s doing just fine because it got rid of the headphone jack; the AirPods business is huge and, along with watches and other accessories, bought in $8.8 billion in the first three months of 2022 — more than the iPad.)

Back in 2016, when Apple got rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 line, marketing head Phil Schiller described the impetus for the change as “courage.” “The courage to move on and do something that betters all of us.”

It was a curious phrase, and one easily mocked at the time, and in the years since. I’ve certainly done my fair share of it. But I’d actually argue that while it sounds silly and overly serious (which basically is the Apple DNA, and it can well afford to be mocked at this point), it’s also not incorrect. Apple ripped off a Band-Aid. It almost certainly wasn’t an easy choice. “Courageous?” That maybe is a bit much. A little too self-aware.

And perhaps it’s not quite as “courageous” a move some five-and-a-half years later in the Pixel 6a, never mind that it’s not the first in the Pixel line to eschew the headphone jack — not by a long shot. That goes back to the Pixel 2 in 2017. But we’ve long argued that ditching the headphone jack is the right move.

So, sure. Maybe Google showed the same courage a year after Apple got rid of the headphone jack across all its phones. Maybe it showed it again this week in the Pixel 6a. And maybe it continues to show it when it’s unafraid to punch up at Apple from time to time.

The whataboutism of pointing back to an obviously satirical video from the fall of 2021, however? There’s no courage in that.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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