Intel promotes the 3.5mm jack's doom, bets on USB Type-C as the new audio standard

Intel's recent presentation at its developer forum in China made it clear that the mobile technology industry at large – and not just Apple – really wants to get rid of the 3.5mm audio jack. The silicon slinger and its customers argue that the ubiquitous tiny hole represents one of the last remnants of analog signal paths in a world that, bar from electrical and optic fiber networks, is very much digital. Thus, Intel is driving the development of USB Type-C Digital Audio by updating the USB Audio Device 2.0 protocol's specifications with recent audio specs and features, a simplified discovery and configuration model, and improved power management. The new specification will be released later in the second quarter, which means more all-digital audio devices like the new LeEco smartphones could appear this year.

Intel is promoting the move from analog to digital audio with the arguments that the latter will be quicker and cheaper to integrate while digital headsets will offer valuable features to customers. Moreover, the elimination of analog audio circuits will give engineers and product designers more creative space. Intel acknowledged that digital audio has to offer "significant value" if it's to be picked up by customers, recognizing that the initial reception of the new standard will be problematic. Then again, using traditional 3.5mm earphones over USB is no problem if a discrete USB-to-3.5mm adapter is provided. And although high-end devices will be the first to make the jump, Intel anticipates that budget ones will also turn to digital audio when its ratio of cost and value is right for device makers.

Apple's upcoming iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are expected to be the first high-profile, globally sold smartphone that will cut the 3.5mm jack in favor of all-digital audio transmitted through the Lighting port. A recent patent gave us a glimpse at the potential benefits, showing a digital headset that's able to transmit audio via both wireless and wired connections simultaneously, while being charged through the cable. Users can switch between analog and wireless audio without experiencing dropouts.

source: AnandTech via TechnoBuffalo



1. MartinR

Posts: 67; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Say goodbye to charging and listening music or watching video's at the same time!

6. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Also, 3.5mm jack looks physically much sturdier than Type-C or Lightning. I can imagine broken Type-Cs everywhere when this happens

18. TA700

Posts: 83; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

It's the biggest fear of going USB for me, broken cables or ports. Currently cables are designed to fail before the port on the phone, what happens when this USB audio is introduced. Both are going to be expensive to replace.

8. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Or you could just have two USB c ports because they still save space. I think a Huawei phone already has that. They had it for super charging the phone real fast so instead you can do that or use the other port for audio.

9. sgodsell

Posts: 7610; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Although I love the idea of two ports, and would love more ports on every device. However I can see you never read the specs on USB-C. It can support up to 10 amp on a single USB-C port. So a single port is more than efficient for quick charging. In fact a number of USB-C devices already support quick charging.

16. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

That could work beneficially while ditching a standard for another standard. We could also have USB Type C to AUX cables without needing an adapter. However, it's gonna take a while before it's acceptable...I think at least 3 years. The first transition is having both 3.5mm headphone jack + USB Type C, which at the moment still brings more issues than benefits for Android devices ( ). While those are being ironed out, we'll be getting more USB type C accessories and cables everywhere. Once those inconveniences are ironed out, accessories will be well available, then it makes sense to ditch the 3.5 mm audio Jack for a second USB Type C port.

7. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

why bother using type-C if 3.5mm is working perfectly? and other audio oriented brand also stick with 3.5mm.. and headphones cant process digital signal, it need external DAC to process that digital to analog, which is stupid since they can just put some nice DAC inside phone, like V10... here is the first digital headphones (at least thats what they claimed "the 1st") yes it have small DAC compared to other external DAC, but will it produce great sound? how long it will last? and how many devices you can use it with? lol

10. jove39

Posts: 2149; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

usb-c and Bluetooth audio together replace 3.5 mm jack.

11. mixedfish

Posts: 1570; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

...and then they replace USB type C I'll stick with 3.5mm jacks.

12. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Well USB-C does allow two way transfer, of both power and signal last I checked, that said, it does introduce more points of failure, moving the DAC from phone / computer to the speakers. So yeah is that a good thing? maybe for some brands it can be a good thing, but for others I don't think it is, involving them costing more, so headsets will become more expensive initially, and there are still a ton of exceptionally great headphones out there that rely on mini-jack and suddenly those people are forced to change?

14. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

So Intel, you're saying Apple is simply rushing again to be first to do what everyone was palnning to do in the first place? Sounds so familiar. Oh yea, same thing happen with 64Bit on mobile, Fingerprint readers and force touch. Why am I not surprised. Thanks Intel , for sharing the truth it us. I will add that I have no issue with the jack going away. But instead of plugging headphones into the charging port, why can't we have the Bluetooth standard revised to offer better audio? Why not make AirPlay/Wifi Direct based headphones where the headphones have a direct faster wireless path to each other where audio capabilities could be improved? Or why not give the phone a separate digital port for audio, so that I don't have to unplug the headphones while charging. After all. I am sure many people listen to music why laying in bed as they go to sleep. Considering the fact some phones still take nearly 3 hours to fully charge, It would suck to have to unplug your charger to listen to music and have your phone die while you're sleeping and it not be charged up. Now it means the headphones will need some stupid adapter so you can both charge and listen to audio. That means stupid and backwards. If that is the path we are taking, lets keep the jack.

15. 0kax0el0

Posts: 238; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

Could we get one week battery life? Don't really care about digital audio.

17. curiousDillan

Posts: 46; Member since: May 26, 2015

3.5mm jacks work just fine. Why complicate things? I'll have to buy new headphones or adapters. What a pain. As another poster mentioned, sooner than we'll like, USB C will be replaced, and the cycle starts again. I don't want another set of gadgets to be routinely made obsolete.

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