It’s been 150 years since engineers first developed a system for allowing electronic devices to output sound to a pair of headphones via a plug-in lead.
Developed in the 1870s for switchboard operators in the fledgling telephone network, phone connectors – also known as audio jacks and headphone jacks – gradually became ubiquitous.
The original quarter-inch connector evolved into the more space-efficient 3.5mm socket, popularised by the Sony Walkman and its many cassette and CD-based imitators.
This ‘mini’ connector also enabled owners of early mobile phones to avoid subjecting everyone within earshot to their choice of music while out and about.
Since the Samsung SPH-M100 debuted in 2000 and gave handset owners MP3 music capabilities for the first time, phones with a headphone jack have been the norm.
Yet today, they’re under threat.
Off with their heads?
Led by Apple, smartphone manufacturers have begun removing phones with a headphone jack from their inventories.
They use various arguments to justify this, including the challenge of ensuring headphone sockets meet IP68 standards, and the physical limitations of incorporating them into slimline handsets.
In truth, the push to abolish the headphone jack is being driven in part by manufacturers trying to boost their profits by selling proprietary (and pricey) wireless headphones.
Few people would dispute that wireless headphones are stylish. They’re compact, and the lack of wires makes them practical while exercising – if you can get them to stay in place.
However, they’re expensive (especially if you already have a perfectly good set of wired headphones), and wireless in-ear buds aren’t always comfortable.
They have an annoying habit of needing to be recharged at inopportune moments, like at the start of a park run.
For these reasons, many people are still inclined to spend their hard-earned cash on phones with a headphone jack.
These are among the smartphones still on sale in the UK in June 2020 that allow wired headphones to continue doing what they do best…
- Samsung Galaxy S10 series, S9 series and A50.
- Google Pixel 3A series.
- Huawei P30.
- LG G8/G8X ThinQ, V40 ThinQ and V50 ThinQ.
- Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Pro, 9T and 9T Pro.
- Asus ROG Phone 2.
- Motorola Moto G7 series, One Zoom and One Vision.
A number of budget phones also provide 3.5mm headphone jacks, including the Nokia 8110, the Doro 8035 and the Alcatel 3V.
Old is the new new
It might also be worth trying to extend the lifespan of your existing handset.
This is particularly pertinent for owners of older Apple iPhone models. Unless they invest in wireless buds, upgrading will necessitate a choice between charging or using headphones.
Ways to prolong the life of your handset include deleting apps and software, gentle and regular cleaning, diligent battery charging, and even a full factory reset.
We wrote about these techniques earlier this year.