In 2018 the headphone jack is a rare beast

The wireless industry is currently rolling out the latest and greatest at Mobile World Congress. Nineteen phones were announced around this industry event including the latest from Samsung, Sony, Nokia and LG. These are the phones that the manufacturers will push on consumers in 2018. The 3.5mm jack is available on the vast majority of the phones though the 3.5mm jack should only be considered standard equipment on mid-to-entry level phones — it’s disappearing from flagship phones at a rapid pace.

Out of the 19 phones announced at MWC 2018, 17 sport the classic 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s missing from these three models: Sony XZ2, Sony XZ2 Compact and the Nokia 8 Sirocco. Interestingly, these three phone’s predecessors included a 3.5mm jack.

Out of the flagship phones announced at MWC 2018, half include the 3.5mm headphone jack including the Samsung Galaxy S9 and LG V30s ThinQ. Samsung even went as far as making a joke about the port during the S9’s unveiling saying the phone is innovative because the 3.5mm port means Bluetooth is not required.

The 3.5mm jack has slowly disappeared from phones since 2016. In April of that year, LeEco announced a series of phones that dropped the jack in favor of audio over USB-C. Slowly other manufacturers followed the same trend including Apple in September 2016 with the iPhone 7. Since then several flagship phones have ditched the jack including the Google Pixel line, Moto Z, HTC U11 and Xiaomi Mi 6 line.

The line is becoming more defined between phones that have a headphone jack and phones that do not.

Most of the phones announced at MWC 2018 are low-cost, mid-range phones and all of those have a 3.5mm jack. Several flagship phones were announced at the show, too, and only half include a headphone jack if specialty phones like the Land Rover Explore and Cat Rugged S61 are excluded from the dataset (those models have a headphone jack but will only sell in limited amounts).

Several manufacturers failed to announce new products at MWC 2018 including Motorola, HTC, Xiaomi, and Huawei. It’s highly unlikely these makers will include a 3.5mm jack on future flagship phones after excluding it from previous models.

It’s hard to see phone makers dropping the 3.5mm jack from low-cost phones until the price of Bluetooth headsets drops substantially. Some phones cost less than the price of mid-range Bluetooth headset.

At this point, in early 2018, the headphone jack is only standard on mid-range to entry-level phones. On flagship phones, more often than not, the 3.5mm is becoming harder to find and could be an excellent way for manufactures to stand apart from others in the coming years.


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