The headphone jack dies not with a bang, but a Note

Next month marks three years since Apple unceremoniously murdered the headphone jack. Courage. The company was roundly mocked for its own hype, and the intervening product cycles have been marked by several companies proudly showcasing their staunch refusal to cave.

None were more vocal about clinging to the 3.5mm jack than Samsung. And the company certainly deserves kudos for turning the once ubiquitous port into a distinguishing feature. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, if nothing else, Samsung ought to get a bit of credit for the continuing high quality of the headphones it bundles in with its flagships. It’s been an Apple blindspot, while Samsung has continued with comfortable, quality, AKG-branded headphones.

Never forget where you were at 4PM ET on August 7, 2019. That’s when the torch carrier finally extinguished the flame at the tail end of the dongle decade. The Note 10 is here and the headphone jack is gone.

You already know the whys. Apple discussed them three years ago. So did Google after quickly reversing its own foot dragging on the Pixel line. But Samsung has had well over three years to prepare for this inevitable moment. The company knew there would be a little egg on its face after a few years of talking up the port. But when you’ve been through a Galaxy Fold relaunch and two Note recalls, this is a veritable cakewalk.

Samsung’s primary driver here is the same as everyone else: space. The Note 10 and Note 10+ are big phones with big batteries (3,500mAh and 4,300mAh, respectively). For reasons that are clear for anyone who’s been following the line for some time, the company hit pause on the battery race for a while there, focusing instead on safety issues.

With that particular crisis well in the past now, however, battery life is once again central — as it should be. In order to make more room for mAhs, the company dropped the port and picked up the dongle. The tipping point, it says, came when its internal metrics showed that a majority of users on its flagship devices (the S and Note lines) moved to Bluetooth streaming. The company says the number is now in excess of 70% of users.

I’ll be honest, that surprises me a bit, even now that Bluetooth headphones are far cheaper and more plentiful than just three years ago. And no doubt the number changes fairly dramatically when you start talking about entry-level and mid-tier devices. The company wouldn’t come out and say it, but it seems this dramatic shift also marks the end of the jack for S series devices when the S11 starts shipping next year.

As for the dongle… turns out it won’t ship in-box. That’ll cost you extra. But the good news is that the Note will ship with a USB-C version of its excellent (by free in-box standards) AKG headphones. Also, Samsung is one of eight million or so companies currently making Bluetooth headphones.

And theirs are actually pretty good, it turns out.