I can’t help but miss the headphone jack, Bluetooth is not a worthy successor

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Whatever we think we gained from losing the 3.5mm headphone jack on modern smartphones is not worth it.

The main reason (or excuse) we were given for why we lost the useful jack was “it creates space inside the phone that could be used for all sorts of cool stuff.” It’s possible, we’ll give them that, and the promise of bigger batteries sounded like it could be a good trade.

It’s been years now and smartphone battery sizes and battery lives have hardly changed, despite the space created by removing the headphone jack. So, what did we actually gain from losing it? We are still waiting for the “cool stuff” we were promised.

We gained expensive Bluetooth earbuds though. Are they as good as their wired counterparts? – no, but they are serviceable. These expensive Bluetooth earbuds are why we lost the headphone jack.

The 3 camps

I know there are 3 main camps when it comes to the use of Bluetooth earbuds.

The first says “Ya’ll connect earphones to your phones?” These people couldn’t care less about audio output options if the earpiece works and they can make calls in loudspeaker mode. What’s there to say about this camp? Do you, I guess.

The second camp says, “Bluetooth is convenient, man. I don’t have to deal with tangled cables anymore, life couldn’t be sweeter.” To which I say, we didn’t need to lose the headphone jack for that. Bluetooth coexisted with the headphone jack for decades before Apple’s “courage”.

The third camp will tell you about HD audio, lossless audio etc. and how wired is the way to go. To this camp’s argument, I’ll add the following:

What you’re looking at in the screenshot above are the ‘Sound quality and effects settings’ on an LG V50. LG, rest their sweet souls, tried to carve out a niche for themselves in catering to the audiophiles and the DACs like the one in the V50 were really great.

As you can see though, you need to be wired to enjoy the Hi-Fi Quad DAC. Trust me, you don’t need to be an audiophile to appreciate the better sound quality. It kind of is like walking around thinking you see well enough and then getting glasses and realising you saw in 360p.

If that’s not a big deal for you. If you don’t mind missing out on stereo separation that sounds like it were angels surrounding you singing their hearts out, then at least bear with me as I lay out one other niche use case that has people like me in fits.

Lag

If you play around in Digital Audio Workstations like FL Studio (previously Frooty Loops) you will be hit with lag. You cannot use Bluetooth headsets to create music because it takes a few milliseconds for you to get feedback on your key presses.

That delay is enough to throw you off. The same applies when you want to sing to a backtrack. You will hear your own voice coming through milliseconds after you sing, as you’re trying to sing the next line. It can’t be done.

Gamers will tell you about this lag too. If you’re deep in a battle royale and on the lookout for footsteps behind you or any rustling, you don’t want to get that information milliseconds late because that ends with a bullet in your head every single time in highly competitive games.

Courage

I know it took “courage” for phone manufacturers to ditch the headphone jack. It’s just a happy coincidence that that courage led to fatter purses for them.

How can we not applaud the courage that led to new flagships coming with USB-C and Lightning earbuds at first and then dropping wired earbuds completely?

Maybe I’m salty over nothing. Maybe ya’ll are happy with how things turned out. We could always turn to the trusty dongle to alleviate the above, after all. For our sanity, we better accept the dongle life.

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38 comments

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  1. The Last Don

    Well said Lenso. The headphone 🎧 jack is needed now than ever especially with these hi-res audio formats

    1. Leonard Sengere

      It is ridiculous that Apple tries to sell us on Apple Music using high res audio and yet they shove Bluetooth down our throats.

  2. Juno

    That’s why I stick with the M series of Samsung phones. They still have an earphone/ headphne jack. Earbuds charge doesn’t last long enough for my uee

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I keep my old LG V50 for that reason. I’d have sold it if my new phone had a jack.

    2. Flysiddthesoulutionexe

      Moda pleasure waya waya here😂🤣

    3. Tadex.com,

      You are right . Some of these Bluetooth device have a weak battery. It’s like you are watching a 3 hr movie and it shuts down in just about 1 hr . Its boring man,
      😡😡😡

  3. Always Off topic

    The courage comes from the fact that Apple spent billions buying Beats. They needed to create the demand. And they knew , that everyone else would follow. The stuff about space in the phone, is nonsense.

    Also they know a good quality pair of wired head phones can pretty much last forever, whereas those battery powered h/phones will not last long on account of the limited shelf life of them lithium ions.

    Repeat customers, gotta love capitalism. All electronics retailers are greatful, from the biggest all the way down to the small time hustlers in the streets.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      It’s a business decision that is sold as “for the customer” when it’s anything but. Planned obsolescence at its finest.

      I think I agree it had everything to do with making the Beats purchase make sense.

    2. Leonard Sengere

      I believe that to be the case too, Apple were looking for a way to make the Beats purchase make sense. Sold it as customer focus.

      With wired headphones you often have to replace the Aux cable if it’s detachable but the expensive bit, the headphones themselves last forever. They couldn’t have that.

      1. Anonymous

        I agree

    3. Choice Pick

      Not the same use case, but I have a 15+ year old pair of wired headphones that finally gave in a little while ago. And it’s not that they don’t work anymore, it’s just that the joints finally fatigued from being put on and off of my fat head. They still sound great if you are willing to hold them onto your head😂 They are decidedly for home use, being open back and rather heavy, but when I tell you I shed tears when I listened to them for the first time with an amp that could let them stretch their legs, it ain’t a joke! So far, of all the BT headphones I’ve tried and the couple I’ve owned, nothing comes close. They each had a good aspect like inner ear destabilising bass or nice soundstage, but I think I’d have to go into the $500 SRP range to get something BT that’s on-par with my old midrange wired headphones.

  4. Santiago

    Techzim channel yakazodii on WhatsApp

  5. Ted Farai Mandoreba

    Yaaa the lag is real.. it so boring when … You are doing a coding tutorial… Listening(watching) music (videos). But wen it comes to listening to (David Guetta)music whilst coding… It’s perfect coz wired headphones would interfere with your hands….

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Exactly. When on the move and also when typing furiously with music just in the background, wired gets in the way.

      1. Farai Ted Mandoreba

        True

  6. Choice Pick

    Lol, that feeling when it’s Christmas Day and you are asked to hook up honoured cousin’s phone to the radio, only to realise after you spent 30 minutes rummaging for a 3.5mm cable that they have an iPhone😭 True story!

    Anywho, if you hang around certain corners of YouTube, you would have come across the ‘courageous’ few who managed to put headphone jacks back in (and the guys who managed to convince a surprising number of people to drill their brand new iPhones😂)! That quickly debunked the whole ‘we needed the space’ nonsense across so many brands, at least for the first couple of headphone jack free generations.

    Personally, I think bluetooth has its place wherever a customer sees the need. I just resent manufactures for trying to funnel us into a cycle of buying what are essentially consumables by taking away the most accessible option! even so, I have dabbled into bluetooth and the one USP that got me hooked was active noise cancellation. Living in a shared space, I can’t cope without it now! Helps keep my BP down while the neighbours kids noisily trash the yard from 7am to 7pm😂

  7. JC

    I am a fan of wired earphones and m still using my original ones which have a lightning connector. If i am not mistaken earphones with a C Type connector are out there too so wired ear or headphones are here to stay. After all all new phone are now coming with a c type connector

    1. Farai Ted Mandoreba

      American versions no longer have the jack… It’s Africa that is always last to shift… But the jack disappearing is inevitable..

    2. Also JC

      One of the biggest points of utility of the headphone jack was the ability to charge and listen to music at the same time. I think Zimbabweans have a special appreciation for that 😂 Technically possible with wireless chargers, but wired headphones do it without extra hardware and without you having to pause your jam session.

      1. BeIT

        True story JC. And I still love listening to the gold old radio…all less battery consuming

  8. AK

    Firstly nice article Mr Sengere. I have projected that manufacturers are trying to create port-free devices so that they can sell services at higher prices. Future laptops,tvs and smartphones will have no port ,not even a charging port as they will use magnetic chargers. As for Bluetooth earphones, they are good for special occasions .I use the tozo ear buds , the lag is minimal but I don’t like to constantly charge them.the lag you have discussed above is a genuine concern however it’s worse on substandard devices we (the majority) pre-dominantly use in Zim. The wireless add ONS we are seeing popping on the market are a signal of what’s coming in future.

    1. Farai Ted Mandoreba

      Most things are going the wireless route… Back to the regional standards (apple once hinted that it was considering to remove the charging socket and charge wirelessly…)…look at the HDMI cables…. There is are WIRELESS HDMI cables… They are like dongles you plug one on another device and one on the other and walaaaaa…..

  9. XxX

    Hi Leonard

    Interesting piece. l am with you on that one, nothing beats wired. l had two sets of very simple earphones which changed my mind in this. One was an AKG/JBL and the other was one of not the other of those two, which has now taken permanent residence in the office.

    The sounds which came from those two really opened my eyes or should that be ears? To how good sound could be and mind you l do not own any special phones or amps. l use a bog standard note 8 and l use the Sony my music app. I like to hear vocals and instruments so the treble and mids are reasonably high where l put the bass on more or less 0. This profile is not for everyone but it works for me.

    Anyway from those two l really could appreciate the sound. As for the wireless variety, l have mostly been exposed to the cheap end of the spectrum from no name brands to the cheap soundcore versions to Apple clones. Other than the Apple most have been forgettable but the ones l have l high grade clones or so l think, l mean they even register as Apple products on the phones.

    As for headphones l have used the Sony XM4s which l love but l still think wired is best.

    As a result l am hoping when either l learn of my family relationship to Bezos, Gates and Buffet or l win the next +2Billion US lotto, l will then get the Sony phones which still have the headphone jack. l would like to buy those but if you think Apple is expensive try some of the Sony phones, l think there is one currently selling for more than $1 600 but at least they also have cheaper versions. Anyway hope l will get there but as someone who cycles routinely l cannot justify investing in such an expensive phone. My current phone is the type you never take out in polite company or amongst respectable people thanks to the bike and l remember damaging a refurbished iphone which was meant for sale courtesy of cycling, so until l either get a cheaper phone which has one, l am not investing a lot of money into phones.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see when visiting one of the Xioami outlets a few versions with headphone jacks but as a lifelong Samsung user l am not sure l want to make the switch and given the issues with bloatware and adware which come preinstalled l doubt it would work for me but at least it is an option.

    By the way l am curious about the sweet sounds which have you reminiscing over the wired earphones.

    May you share your playlists? Mine is basically 90s to 2000s and earlier. l hardly listen to any of the new stuff but l would like to add to what l listen to…

  10. Ka-blam

    Great article, I would love to see headphone jacks again.

    My one thought is about spatial audio. Wireless headphones can detect head movement and send that information back to the phone for processing. Wired headphones are not equipped with these gyros, nor the extra wire needed for this information. The headphone plug would need an extra contact too.

    So if we are to go back to wired headphones, we will either need to give up on spatial, or buy redesigned headphones with redesigned cables and jacks.

    Could there be an alternative to Bluetooth, with better resolution and less lag?

    1. Ka-ching

      I don’t think the Idea is to give up on Bluetooth. It’s more that there was no real customer advantage in getting rid of the headphone jack to begin with.

      Spacial audio is still just a nebulous concept to me since I haven’t tried it. I think the Idea is that no matter where you are looking, the sound will seem as though it’s coming from a fixed spot in space like actual speakers or a performer on stage? Or maybe it’s more like surround sound where each instrument seems to come from its own spot or a combination of the two? I guess it’s kinda cool, but I’d have to try it to see the value.

      A similar effect could be achieved by wired headphones with the right sensors and the ability to switch to a secondary USBC or lightning port for power delivery, audio and positional data transfer withan app phone side for the computation. But once you are tethered to the phone, you’ll be limited in your range of motion, potentially reducing the effect. I believe there were rumours that apple would firmware patch the air pods max to do something similar, but I think they only ever made a lightning to 3.5mm cable. Either way, it’s not an ideal compromise.

      Ultimately, with the jack, you’d have the freedom to choose the experience you want, when you want it. Bluetooth audio and codecs are regularly iterating on their standards so it doesn’t have to go anywhere either.

      Other standards can join the party too. I wouldn’t be surprised if some high bandwidth WiFi audio protocol exists out there for discerning nerds with deep pockets and golden ears.

  11. Flysiddthesoulutionexe

    Come rain come thunder, whether i am blind i make sure i purchase a fon with 3.5mm jack. Concerning testing btween wired nd wireless i previously used a realme 9 pro plus that allowed me to connect both wired and wireless (bluetooth) sound output and i was blown. BT was behind by a few seconds as yet wired was on track whether you opened multiple apps giving out sound. Removing jack is a useless move. Device manufacturers should just put both then you as an individual play “sarura wako” 🤝🏾🤝🏾🤝🏾🤝🏾

  12. Andrew

    Thanks for this article.I used my Bluetooth headphones without the cable yesterday and FL Studio was lagging.I thought maybe my laptop was the one that was becoming slow.I even wanted to go to FL Studio settings to see if I had changed something.Now I realise its bluetooth.I will now go back to using them with the aux cable.These people need to Improve Bluetooth before forcibly removing our 3.5mm Jacks haha.

  13. Andew

    I think they are doing this to make sure that everyone repeatedly buys headphones/earphones because these wireless ones never last

  14. jacked up

    using Poco f5 in 2024 with headphone jack
    you forgot to mention that battery dragging Bluetooth plus the convenience of not charging the dam thing

  15. material_alm

    On phones there was no difference since there are wired earphones which use c-type and in case for iphones i noticed also they have their own which use lightining

  16. T.C.

    I personally hate the fact that, wireless headphones need to be charged,if I’m traveling they cannot be relied upon as they can run out of power before I get to the next charger.Also Bluetooth shortens the time between charges which kinda sucks.I will forever be in support of wired headphones.

  17. Me

    Wired headphones bring in the beast quality in music.

  18. Tmoyo@gmail.com

    I appreciate the consensus here,But I appreciate Bluetooth earphones,I mean the convenience for me is way more valuable than anything I could gain from Wired earphones, about juice,there are pretty great ones that can do 6 hours on a single charge, about Hi-res audio formats come on guy we are in Zimbabwe where over 90% of “our” music is from YouTube via Vidmate or SnapTube or some free online provider,Not many really use Paid services like Spotify or Apple Music.If you’re a true audiophile then you wouldn’t expect to get that under these circumstances of our majority.For those who wish,yes go ahead for those expensive wired headphones, Whilst the lag issue is real,I think Im willing to pay that price for the convenience U get with my wireless earbuds,no tangled cables, fiddling with Jacks,poor build quality….

  19. 💓 beats solo bumpkin

    Your phone transmits voice calls wirelessly is there lag between sender and receiver well yah its unnoticable there are headphones onnthe market that use wifi instead of bluetooth am yet to sample them probably most havent heard of them … lastly wired products are here to stay they are just changing the format by which you use them still a big deal…. well ya just an inconvenience rather … bluetooth is a versatile technology but it has its limits that only the cable will fix … physical connections cannot be eradicated completely…they are here to stay …we just have to figure out how to regain access to them … as for me i pay no thought to the lag i mean seriously its not laser precision per se but it does the trick in a way… im sure these guys can make a dedicated output with much reduced lag using the same proprietary tech weve been using … but to make that rewuires too much investment in to it that is not cost effective … at the end of the day consumerism will lead the way … we fall to it and rise to it …. its the wise buyer thats missing …. be wise and enjoy the benefits of our illfated tech ….

  20. Nissy

    I don’t know the potatoes you are using but the sound quality of iPhones over Bluetooth is superb especially paired with Sony wh1000m headphones

  21. Tadex.com🇿🇼🇿🇼

    You are right . Some of these Bluetooth device have a weak battery. It’s like you are watching a 3 hr movie and it shuts down in just about 1 hr . Its boring man,
    😡😡😡

  22. BeIT

    I still wanna listen to Star FM on the go. Wired for life

    1. BeIT

      Does the Itel P55 5G have a headphone jack? Anyone?

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