By Ben Luty
Earlier this month, Google unveiled the new model of their Pixel phone. While beautiful screens and many cool new features were presented, the devices lack a feature advertised pretty heavily on the previous model: The 3.5 mm headphone port.
Obviously, Google isn’t the first to do this. Apple shocked the world with the iPhone 7, which dropped the port with little-to-no explanation beyond claims that it was impossible to waterproof the phone without doing so. Samsung and Sony phones manage to do it, so that’s a ridiculous claim. Several smartphone makers have shown the “courage” it takes to remove the jack, with companies such as Apple, HTC, Motorola and Google all making the drop on their newest flagships.
Apple’s decision to announce a set of ($160) wireless earbuds alongside their new phones looked like a shameless cash grab, forcing the consumer away from their standard headphones. Google did the same thing this month, with the “Pixel Buds” releasing at the same price point. Sure, they include dongles in the box, but how do you expect to charge your phone and listen to music at the same time? Oh right, you’ll need to shell out another $45. On top of that flaw, nobody enjoys the unclean look of a dongle sticking out of their phone, and dongles are just another thing you’ll have to remember when you head out for the day.
I believe smartphone makers are designing these products specifically for wealthy businessmen with a wireless fetish. Wireless headphones (at the time of writing) are much more inconvenient to use for students, due to the annoyances of bluetooth connection and having to remember to charge them, and that’s without even mentioning the significantly steeper price for a quality pair of wireless headphones! The Airpods (in all their tiny, wireless glory) sound about as good as a $30 pair of Sony Earbuds – at more than five times the price!
Smartphone companies seem to think wired headphones are on the way out, but my personal experiences on Mizzou’s campus reveals that simply isn’t the case yet. While I’m positive wireless headphones will eventually be the standard for audio quality and convenience, right now the vast majority of people I see still walk to class with a cord dangling down the front of them. You don’t have to charge your three-year-old pair of Skullcandys during class to make sure you’ll have juice for the walk home. They are extremely easy to swap between devices, too – just unplug from your phone and plug into your laptop. Sit in the student union for 10 minutes and you’ll find that just about everyone is still doing this move instead of connecting bluetooth to multiple devices.
Look, smartphone makers. We’re all a bunch of poor college students here. You simply cannot expect us to pay around $1,000 for a smartphone and turn around to drop another $160 for your special earbuds. As long as it’s possible to pick up a cheap pair of wired buds from Wal-Mart, you won’t be able to get my money. There is not a more convenient way to listen to music right now than through the 3.5 mm headphone jack, and until the price, audio quality and convenience of wireless earbuds catches up, I’m afraid they won’t catch on.
Edited by Owen Brock, Elena Cruz and Elorm Nutakor