We see MicroUSB turning into USB Type-C, and that wasn’t an easy transformation initially. The brands that thought of taking the early-bird advantage received a flak from users because it wasn’t the regular stuff, and everyone had to carry a separate cable to charge their devices. It still seems quite okay today because most of the flagships have adopted the new USB connectivity.
Now, enter 2016. There’s the other port that companies have started experimenting with. The 3.5mm headset jack. What’s happening with it? Simple – it is being removed from the phones! A couple of brands have done that now and there is enough criticism they are receiving. But will the scene change with the user’s feedback? Certainly not, just like how it is with the other features.
Some of the recent developments that happened in this space are as follows.
1. LeEco has announced the new audio standard – CDLA (Continual Digital Lossless Audio) that uses the USB Type-C port, and so, there is no need of that 3.5mm jack that has been on phones for over a decade now.
2. Moto by Lenovo has launched two phones, the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. Both of them don’t have the standard headset jack as the company wanted the esthetics of the phone to be better, and thus, it is the Type-C port that will send the audio out to the headphones.
3. Apple – It is not confirmed, but there are several rumors already saying that Apple is planning to ditch the 3.5mm jack and there will be headphones with lightning pin for the audio output. We still need to wait for a few months to know if this is true.
What’s good about CDLA, and what’s the downside of it?
According to LeEco, the good thing about their CDLA technology is that you will get a better lossless audio, which they demoed at the launch events. It does seem to be promising and have a better result than the standard audio output.
The downside of CDLA? Of course, not only you are going to either only charge the phone or only listen to the music at one time, but based on what was explained, CDLA uses a encoder chip on the Audio headset for the enhanced audio. Yes, you need the dedicated headphones made only for this technology to work. That is an extra investment because even the Le Max 2, the best phone from the company isn’t coming with the headphone in the package. It is just the Type-C to 3.5mm jack converter that you will find in the box.
Also, if you are using any other headphone with that adapter / converter, you won’t get that audio experience that CDLA offers. Either pay the extra money and get the headphones that support the new standard, or compromise with the quality – which still doesn’t make sense because it was almost always that the audio has been good. For example, HTC does so well with the headphone audio and Lenovo recently has been doing so, with the Dolby Atmos.
What about Moto Z and Moto Z Force?
A 5.2mm thickness is what Moto by Lenovo achieved by taking out the pin completely and offering the same port for charging and audio output. Does that make any sense? Reducing the thickness of the device comes with the compromise with quite a few things. You see the camera popping out on the back, the battery capacity takes a hit and now, even the audio output source takes a beating.
I’m not convinced, but do I have an option?
Just like how reactions were when the USB standards started changing, the reactions are not going to be good for the change from the current one to the Type-C output.
Of course, you could use Bluetooth headphones until the Type-C based headsets become common but then that isn’t a solution for always. Of course, you can use a simple converter to use your current high-end headphone that you had bought after much of a thought, but then, how will one listen to the music when the device is on low battery?
Still, safe to say that “this too shall pass” and there will be some compromise to achieve something better in terms of experience. LeEco’s president of R&D, Liang Jun said that the removal of 3.5mm headset jack wasn’t for any space saving or so, but it was purely for a better digital audio experience. If that comes at a cost and some other compromise, people who are very much into audio will be very okay with this change.
Also, it isn’t only the smartphone companies working on it. Intel has also promoted the idea of using USB Type-C connectivity for the audio output and a chipset manufacturer wouldn’t say so if it didn’t make any sense. After all, it isn’t only about the design but a lot more in the future. Let us hope it doesn’t just ruin the experience.