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I won't buy a Pixel 2 without a headphone jack

Four reasons why the 3.5mm jack is my linchpin.


This March, I declared I wouldn't buy a Samsung Galaxy S8. I'd pick a Pixel instead.

But there was one thing I wasn't counting on, one possibility I hadn't even considered: Google's new phone, expected to be unveiled next week, might ditch the headphone jack.

Yeah, it'd be pretty weird. After all, wasn't Google the one who made fun of Apple for doing that exact thing last year?

I hope it isn't true. 

Because here's the thing, Google: If you kill my headphone jack, I won't buy your phone either.

Update, October 4: It doesn't have one. I won't buy it. I'm sorry.

Wireless headphones aren't ready

"Who needs a headphone jack," you might be thinking. "Why don't you just use Bluetooth headphones instead?"

I could. Bluetooth audio isn't bad these days -- until you forget to charge your headphones. Or lose them. Or run into wireless interference, which rarely does happen. And that assumes you're willing to pay extra for a Bluetooth headset to begin with.

Me? I bought a pricey pair of awesome Bose QC25 noise-canceling headphones, with a wired 3.5mm cable, less than two years ago -- thinking I'd be set for years to come. That's not to mention my Grados and several sets of wired earbuds. 

I've invested a decent amount of money in traditional headphones, and I'd really like to use them.


The wired Bose QuietComfort 25 was CNET's top pick for noise-canceling headphones until its successor, the QC35, added Bluetooth as well.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I've sometimes toyed with the idea of trying truly wireless earbuds, but I hear that only Apple's AirPods are worth a damn. Unless you're willing to fork over hundreds more, that is -- though we'll be testing new Bose and Samsung wireless sets soon.

Aside from the fact that I wouldn't be caught dead with Apple's dangling eartubes, I'm primarily an Android and Windows guy. Apple's wireless 'buds would technically work, but I wouldn't get all their features.

More universal than USB

Besides, there's a good reason for me to keep on trucking with wired 3.5mm headphones -- the jacks are everywhere. They're in my Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game controllers, my laptop (even MacBooks, I might add), my desktop, and every flight I take. They're in quite a few of the cars on the road.

CNET's Scott Stein shot to the top of Reddit in this Apple AirPods meme. I've gotta agree with Leo here.

Reddit user mcdswimr

Seriously: The 3.5mm audio jack is more universal than the USB port itself. After all, there are at least six different USB ports still in use. (The "U" in USB stands for "Universal," in case you didn't know.)

Yes, Bluetooth is becoming nearly as ubiquitous -- but when we're talking about the breadth of devices on the market, Bluetooth isn't not nearly as simple as plugging in a solid, mechanical jack. 

Pairing and unpairing Bluetooth devices is still generally a pain in the ass -- particularly in cars -- and not all Bluetooth devices offer the same wireless range. (It's way easier and more reliable to plug wired headphones into my PS4 controller than use a Bluetooth set.)

#donglelife is not for me

So what about the dongle, Sean? I'm so glad you asked -- "dongle" is definitely one of my favorite words in the English language. Practically every headphone-jack-less phone technically does come with a 3.5mm headphone jack -- on the end of a inch-long converter cable that uses USB or Lightning to plug it into your phone.

(Such dongles even have tiny digital-to-analog converters -- DACs -- inside which could theoretically make my wired headphones sound better someday.)


No thanks.

Josh Miller/CNET

But I've lived the #donglelife, and it's not for me. When I reviewed the Essential Phone and inevitably needed to plug in a pair of headphones, I found I'd absentmindedly left the dongle in a drawer at home. And when I bought Google's very first Android phone from 2008 -- which, coincidentally, didn't have a headphone jack -- I completely lost its crazy 3.5mm-to-ExtUSB dongle. I still don't know where or how.

I suppose I could just leave a dongle connected to my Bose cans 24/7. But the first time I try to plug those headphones into something else, I'll have to remove that dongle, and I don't necessarily trust myself to put it back again. And I chafe at the idea of just buying a half-dozen dongles (roughly $7 a pop) and leaving them in all my bags, my desk at work, and at home.

A matter of principle

None of these reasons are truly why I'd abandon my dreams of Pixel-y goodness, though.

My real reason is a matter of principle. There's simply no good reason for Google to abandon the headphone jack. Nobody's asking for it to go away.

The T-Mobile G1 (aka HTC Dream), the first Android phone. Hardware keyboard. 3.5-inch screen. No headphone jack -- which was unusual back then. Plus that crazy chin.


The loss of the headphone jack feels like yet another choice that's being forced on smartphone owners -- another way phones are being hammered into forms that are roughly indistinguishable from each other.

Remember when hardware QWERTY keyboards were an option? Remember when flagship phones with small screens were, too?

Those things went away not because phone buyers were asking for bigger screens and software keyboards, but because phone makers and cellular carriers needed big, bold features to drive a new upgrade cycle. Big screens trumped everything else.

Killing off the headphone jack is arguably even worse, because we're seemingly getting nothing in return. We lose guaranteed compatibility with countless millions of audio devices for what, exactly?

It doesn't make a phone much thinner to remove it, and phones are thin enough anyhow. Show me a brick with a three-day battery and an indestructible case, and I'll show you a happy camper. (Literally -- I'll take it camping.) Maybe if a company was getting rid of all its ports -- a wirelessly charging phone with wireless USB -- I could understand it. But that's not a reality yet.

The Google Pixel XL. We'd like quite a few things from its successor -- the 3.5mm jack is just one of them.

Josh Miller

Yes, I know I'm painting myself into a corner here. I've rejected Samsung, and now I'm rejecting phones sans headphone jack as well. But I've stuck to my guns before, and I'll stick to them again. I'd love a Pixel 2, but I'll buy an LG V30, a OnePlus 5 or a Moto Z2 Play -- all of which have standard headphone jacks -- if I really have to.

Call me when Bluetooth headphones are just as good -- hell, better -- than wired ones. Call me when they're so affordable manufacturers throw them in the box at no extra charge, and when they're just as easy to "plug in". Call me when phone manufacturers use the space they save on a headphone jack for something meaningful.

But if you call me after Oct. 4, you may not reach me on a Google Pixel.

I refuse to be complicit in the headphone's jack's death for no good reason at all. 

5 new Google gadgets the internet just spoiled: Hey Google, your devices are showing.

What I want in the Google Pixel 2: CNET's Lynn La weighs in.