Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 (and likely all its other devices in the near future) is clearly about control. They want to own the headphone market and don’t really care if it upsets consumers in the short term. And it looks as though this may not be the last upset because Samsung is apparently now considering doing the same thing.
Instead of having to carry one adapter with your headphones, you could soon have to carry two. That’s because if Samsung does ditch the headphone jack it will replace it with a proprietary port. Right now, Samsung is thought to be at the exploratory stage to see how viable it would be.
By introducing another port, Samsung would control licensing of that port meaning it could undercut Apple’s licensing fee for headphone manufacturers. It could also offer the port to other Android handset makers cheaply, or even for free, as a way of expanding its use quickly and therefore being a stronger competitor to Apple’s Lightning port.
Headphone manufacturers will be watching what happens in the coming months with interest and some concern. Each headphone jack replacement means licensing deals need to be struck in order to support the new ports. Then there’s a manufacturing problem because they’ll need to decide how many of each type to produce based on demand (assuming a fixed cable solution).
It seems likely, especially if there’s three competing standards, that headphones will start shipping with three cables you can switch out depending on the device you use. That takes the hassle out of the equation for consumers and allows manufacturers to ship one version of each type of headphones/earbuds that support all devices. It would mean the price of headphones increasing slightly, though, mainly due to the extra cables in the box.
If there’s an upside to the coming confusion over ports and headphone compatibility I don’t see it yet, although there could be some positives. Maybe it will push manufacturers to look more closely at wireless audio and start producing a greater range of completely wireless products that have all-day battery. Maybe they can even achieve that without their products needing a safety strap.
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