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Why Google Ditched the 3.5mm Headphone Jack on the Pixel 2

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Number of smartphones are ditching the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, and the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL follow this trend. While it is something of an inevitability that the old-style jack will be completely replaced, there are still plenty of people who mourn its loss.

Google last year mocked Apple for removing 3.5mm audio jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. At its first Pixel launch event, Google insisted the audio connector was very much in fashion. It even went on to take a dig at Apple in one of its promo videos, stating “3.5mm headphone jack satisfyingly not new.” Cut to 2017, Google has removed the audio jack from its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, which launched on October 4.

While there is a move towards more widespread use of Bluetooth headphones and other alternatives, many people still question why the 3.5mm has to go. Now Google has offered something of an explanation, putting it down — at least in part — to the “bezel-less future” of phones.

The Pixel 2, in particular, thoroughly contradicts the notion that Google is “moving towards a bezel-less future”, and also that killing off the 3.5mm headphone jack was in any way necessary to advance their current design goals. It has a similar frame than the Galaxy S8, for example, but features comically large bezels, a smaller battery, and it also lacks storage expandability and proper water and dust resistance.

Tear downs will reveal just what Google is doing with all that space, but Samsung demonstrates that you can, in fact, maximize screen-to-body ratio while offering a headphone jack (at least at this point in time).

Google, Pixel 2 Headphone Jack

Google didn’t really touch upon this missing feature during its Pixel 2 launch. Soon after the specifications were revealed, the internet was abuzz with Google’s move to skip the feature. Almost a week later, we finally have an explanation, well sort of, from Google on the matter.



Read: Pixel 2 owners will be able to store on Google Photos, but only until 2020

As phone bezels gradually shrink further and further, and ultimately vanish altogether, the scope for including extra ports also diminishes — it will reach the point where it’s just not physically possible. While we already have a handful of phones with very tiny bezels — and even a smaller number that could be truly classed as bezel-free — numbers are still fairly limited.

Still, it makes sense to encourage the switch to alternatives so the ecosystem is in place when the time comes that 3.5mm jacks are dropped by every phone manufacturer.

Of course — as Google has demonstrated with the Pixel 2 phones — there will always be adaptors available for those who are just not ready to move on. These solutions may not be entirely elegant, but they help to provide the best of both worlds.

“We want to provide a little more information about headphone options for the Pixel 2. The Pixel 2 still comes with a headphone jack but we have moved to USB-C, a standard that is becoming commonplace in the best phones and laptops of today. Moving to the USB-C audio port with Pixel 2 allows us to provide a better audio and digital experience, as we move towards a bezel-less future,” wrote a Google employee on a support page.

“We realize that some of you might be looking for USB-C headphones, and we want to provide some guidance around headphone compatibility with Pixel 2 devices. The main thing to keep in mind is that Pixel 2 devices are compatible with USB-C headphones that support digital audio,” he added.

The company has also listed a set of compatible headphones(List Below), and points out “if you are looking to buy another pair of USB-C headphones that isn’t on the list, please make sure they are compatible with digital audio and other standards.”

Google is bundling an adapter in with the box that allows people to connect their existing headphones. The company has also launched wireless Bluetooth headphones, Pixel Buds, which unsurprisingly seem inspired by Apple’s AirPods.



Google, Headphone Jack Pixel 2

Separately, Google’s VP of product management Mario Queiroz told TechCrunch that the decision was made in order to make an all-screen device. “The primary reason [for dropping the jack] is establishing a mechanical design path for the future,” Queiroz said.

“We want the display to go closer and closer to the edge. Our team said, ‘if we’re going to make the shift, let’s make it sooner, rather than later.’ Last year may have been too early. Now there are more phones on the market.”

Google said, they wanted to provide a better audio and digital experience or an all-screen phone is something not very different from what Apple had said last year.

Apple’s senior executive Greg Joswiak said that the 3.5mm audio connector was archaic and even compared it with a “dinosaur.”

“The audio connector is more than 100 years old,” Joswiak told 9to5mac. “It had its last big innovation about 50 years ago. You know what that was? They made it smaller. It hasn’t been touched since then. It’s a dinosaur. It’s time to move on.”

Another Apple executive Dan Riccio said that removing the audio connector helped the company add IP7 water resistance, which had been missing on the iPhones for years. “It was holding us back from a number of things we wanted to put into the iPhone,” Riccio said.

Google Pixel 2 : It’s the first phone built with eSIM (Sim Free) technology

It may be recalled that Motorola had become one of the first players to kill 3.5mm audio jack with its Moto Z, a few months before Apple introduced the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.



As the technology improves, hopefully Bluetooth headphones will be able to go days to weeks without needing a charge and that will ease the transition for those who enjoy the 3.5mm headphones because they need to be charged.

We should also see the price go down as the competition of Bluetooth headphones goes up and that will help ease the transition for those who prefer affordable headphones without giving up audio quality. But until then, the 3.5mm headphone jack will remain a debated topic.

 

Here is a list of Made By Google or Made For Google headphones that have been verified to be compatible with the Pixel 2:

Google Pixel Buds

Libratone QAdapt In-Ear USB-C – Storm/Cloud

Libratone QAdapt Over-Ear BT – Storm/Cloud

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular MFG1 Preset (USB-C)

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular MFG2 Preset (USB-C)

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular MFG3 Preset (USB-C)

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular MFG4 Preset (USB-C)

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular MFG5 Preset (USB-C)

AiAiAi H60 – Bluetooth headband MFG

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular Wireless MFG6 Preset (Bluetooth)

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular Wireless MFG7 Preset (Bluetooth)

AiAiAi TMA-2 Modular Wireless MFG8 Preset (Bluetooth)

Master & Dynamic ME05 Earphones brass with black chrome finish (USB-C) – Coming soon

Master & Dynamic ME05 Earphones brass with Palladium finish (USB-C) – Coming soon

Master & Dynamic MH30 Earphones Black Or Silver (USB-C) – Coming soon

Master & Dynamic MH40 Earphones Black Or Silver (USB-C) – Coming soon

Master & Dynamic MH50 Earphones Black Or  Silver (USB-C/Bluetooth) – Coming soon

Master & Dynamic MH60 Earphones Black Or  Silver (USB-C/Bluetooth) – Coming soon

We highly recommend sticking to the list above, but if you are looking to buy another pair of USB-C headphones that isn’t on the list, please make sure they are compatible with digital audio and other standards.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • To give people a choice of audio options, we’ve included an adapter in the box which can be used with existing 3.5mm headphones

  • Other USB-C to 3.5mm adapters/splitters should work, but please be sure they are compatible with digital audio and support the proper audio standards

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