The omission of the 3.5mm audio jack from many of 2017’s flagship phones is possibly the most contested hardware choice since handset makers chose to leave replaceable batteries behind. For some, it’s a deal breaker, and a way for some manufacturers to differentiate their phones, other consumers just don’t care and have moved on to using wireless headphones. The audio jack would appear to have an unlikely ally, though, in the form of Microsoft who patented a method for somehow fitting a 3.5mm audio jack into a lesser space.
Whether the audio jack is being ditched to enable phones to be thinner, or simply to allow for a larger battery to be used, it’s clear that it is living on borrowed time. The cynic would think that the move is simply to force users to buy more Bluetooth headphones. We all saw the big deal that Google made last year with the inclusion of the audio jack on the original Pixel phones, which was strangely missing from this year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Strange.
Anyway, as you can see from the image above, Microsoft has come up with a few ways to allow a 3.5mm audio jack to be inserted into a space that technically, at least when empty, is thinner than the jack’s pointy end. The premise is that a flexible membrane will expand as you insert the audio jack, and then contract as it is removed.
The patent was filed back in August 2016, and well, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting to see one of the methods implemented on a smartphone anytime soon. For one, how long would the flexible material stay flexible? As elastic loses its elasticity, so would the flexible material over time. And then, well, the audio jack would slip out. Another reason would be that manufacturers probably wouldn’t see any monetary profit from implementing a complicated design. Anything with moving parts is susceptible to damage.
It’s a great premise, but I think at this point, we should courageously resign ourselves to the headphone slot’s total demise within the next couple of years.