Intel is pushing for the mass adoption of USB Type-C port in place of the now ubiquitous 3.5mm audio jack. Making its point at IDF Shenzhen, Intel cited several benefits that the USB-C port has over its 3.5mm audio port counterpart, primary among which is the fact that such a move will herald the transition from analog to digital audio.
Also with digital headphones, users can look forward to better quality audio compared to the analog audio that the 3.5mm jack is able to output. That apart, with USB-C port on tap, manufacturers have the option of putting in stuff such as a digital-to-analog converter and amplifier within the earpiece itself, which in turn will allow for a more consistent quality of audio irrespective of the device.
These apart, USB-C also allow the headphones to have direct communication with and hence draw power from the device thereby negating the need for having powered headphones. While that, in turn, will lead to lighter earpieces, this also opens up the possibility of endowing the same with ‘smart’ attributes. As AnandTech points out, headphone manufacturers might attempt integrating the headphones with appropriate sensors to pick up on key health attributes of the user, which then can be transmitted directly to the device or a dedicated fitness tracker it is attached to.
Among the other benefits with USB-C port is its multi-functionality; supporting both high volume data transfers to charging devices as big as a laptop beside smartphones and tablets. In contrast, the 3.5mm audio port of yore serves the single purpose of outputting analog audio.
However, so much for all the benefits that USB-C ports have over the 3.5mm audio jack, what is obvious is that the move can’t be achieved overnight. The 3.5mm audio isn’t just dying all of the sudden what with the huge collection of digital devices produced in the last few decades the majority of which sport such an audio jack specification. Add to that the equally fascinating collection of headphones produced during the period to match those devices.
Apple is already believed to be contemplating doing away with the audio port altogether though what remains to be seen is whether it is their own lightning connector or a USB-C that makes the cut. Chinese manufacturer LeEco has also come out with a new smartphone range where the USB-C replaces the 3.5mm audio jack.
What is clear is that more manufacturers will have to join the USB-C bandwagon before the 3.5mm audio port can be considered on its way out.