Bits And Bytes (week of 12/11)



  • "As long as people have the security blanket of the 3.5mm jack..."  you are so right.  Remove the security of what is tested tried and true and push them to unproven inconvenient tech.  Don't give consumers a choice and have the best win by vote of the wallet.  Force it on them.  They will like it even if it hurts a little.  Phone makers need to win us over and not force this on us.  Apples accessory sales make them feel good.  Their customers are not getting much if any pleasure.  It is painful and awkward for some of them.  No still means no apple.

  • razor512razor512 United StatesPosts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Apple largely did it because it is a move that is 100% pure profit for them. Since they developed a proprietary connector for their devices, they are able to charge a license feed per device for use of the connector, thus any company that wants to make legitimate accessories for the iphone, will have to pay a ~$5 fee per device, and since apple does not have to really do much for that money, it is basically a 100% profit passive stream of income for the company. Overall, for apple, it was in their best interest to get rid of the jack, because they will now make more money from the users who are locked into that ecosystem, as they will almost be certain to purchase 1 or more additional lightning accessories on top of their original purchase of a smartphone with a massive price markup.

    What I find strange is the Android device makers that have followed apple, and got rid of the headphone jack. On the android platform, there is no special ecosystem to keep a user locked into. If one company gets rid of the jack, users can easily buy a different phone from another company, and still keep all of their apps. Furthermore, USB-C does not generate a passive income for an android device maker.

  • hollaphollap United StatesPosts: 8,377 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    There are pros and cons, as there were to my other examples.  On the pro side:

    At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco yesterday, Intel architects Brad Saunders and Rahman Ismail explained how improvements to the USB-C standard, slated to arrive later this year, could make it a far better port for the modern-day smartphone, according to CNET. The most obvious advantage, at least to devices manufacturers, is slimmer phones. Without needing to route analog circuitry, a phone maker could switch to digital audio and shave off precious millimeters from the device's body. With digital audio, Saunders added, software and device makers could help cheaper earbuds take advantage of features reserved for more expensive headphones, like noise cancelling and bass boosting. USB-C can handle multiple connections at once, so you'd be able to use a USB hub to transmit video or mirror a display from a single port while at the same time charging the device and connecting a separate cable for peripherals. These changes collectively "will really make USB Type-C the right connector for audio," Saunders concluded.

    On the Cons side is the resistance to change and the possibility of USB being battery hungry compared to 3.5mm.

    It's all in how you look at the future, and the pluses that USB-C could have that we have not the knowledge to conceive.

  • razor512razor512 United StatesPosts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    There is an issue with their article, beyond noise canceling without having to have battery powered headphones, all of the other functions they described for headphones can work over standard analog headphones, in fact, many of those DSP functions have been available in smartphones and tablets for the past 5+ years.

    For active noise canceling, you need to have the microphones close to your ears, and always at a known distance so that the proper calculations can be performed, thus that will require audio being captured at the headphones. Though in that one exception, the user can either use headphones with a battery powered noise canceler, or they can use the USB-C port that is already available on many smartphones today.

    All of the other audio effects or changes, are DSP functions which can be located anywhere along the signal path. Moving the DSP chip a few inches down the line will not make for an improvement.

    The major downside with relying on headphones to come with their own DAC and amp, is that if it is something that is built down to a specific price point, then in order to maintain a price point, you will end up with the lowest end DAC + amp, as well as cheaper than normal speakers in order to balance the BOM cost to allow the same price point. On the other hand, the audio chipset built into many higher end phones, will cost more than many budget headphones.

    For their licensing argument, there is nothing stopping phone makers from designing their own DSP software in-house, the issue is that the process can cost more than developing a new smartphone. If a headphone maker wants to include special DSP effects with their device, they will likely license it from a company like dolby, and pass those costs onto the consumer. The only difference is that it will cost the customer more a the end of the day, as if we look at smartphones which got rid of the headphone jack, they did not pass any of those savings onto the consumer, but many USB-C headphones can carry a price premium over the more common analog headphones.

    Another issue is less efficient use of space due to less integration. When you have the audio chipset inside of the phone, you already have access to all of the power rails that the chip needs, thus to power it, they can top right into the various power wails, and probably add in a few bypass capacitors. On the other hand, when powering that hardware externally, you now have to power a boost regulator to output 5V to the USB-C device, then that device will take one or more switching buck regulator, as well as a number of linear regulators in order to get the voltages back in line with that the audio chipset needs. They will also need to include all of the passives that all of those components need, as well as maintain the proper board layout. The end result are bulky designs like this for more lower cost devices and beyond that, you still run into mane more quality control issues since these companies are still trying to keep costs down.

    The only benefit it offers to headphones, is being able to route power to the headphones in order to run other active components.

    Another issue is that a USB-C port is not as durable as a headphone jack. USB-C has many small contacts which have a far lower connect/disconnect rating than the traditional headphone jack, which has far larger contacts, with a more secure spring design to maintain contact. A quality USB-C jack may be rated for about 10,000 mating cycles, while a quality TRS jack connector will carry a minimum rating of 20,000 mating cycles.

    The headphone jack may not be as versatile as the USB -C, but for the limited functionality that it offers, it has high reliability as the industry has had nearly 100 years to perfect it.

    Overall, the current solution works best, where we have devices with both a USB-C port, as well as a headphone jack. Users can freely use either port for their audio, thus they gain all o the claimed benefits of USB-C audio, and none of the cons since they have both options.

  • copoliicopolii Vancouver, BCPosts: 18 ✭✭✭✭

    I don't want dongles or adapters to connect the headphones that I have, love, and enjoy to a phone by a manufacturer that decided to be 'bold'. Proprietary connectors offer the consumer nothing. Apple couldn't stand headphones that weren't Apple, so this way you either have to buy their disposable 'Air Pods' (which are easy to lose) or buy an adapter ... it's a tax, really.

  • maineferraromaineferraro MainePosts: 240 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My kids love apple and my wife & i hate it , i do agree that changing is a bad move , i like being able to use my buds with all my devices

  • hollaphollap United StatesPosts: 8,377 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree that where we are currently works best.  Which is why I voted bold but premature.  I also think dust proofing and waterproofing becomes much easier without a 3.5mm port. In actuality I can see in the future a device with no ports whatsoever. Wireless charge, wireless headphones, and the device is sealed tight. That is where they are headed in my opinion. But you do make great points for the current ​, no doubt about that.

  • razor512razor512 United StatesPosts: 2,683 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    If we get a good breakthrough in battery technology, (significantly increase the capacity and endurance, or offer similar capacity but with super capacitors, then I feel this could be an interesting possibility though it would break compatibility with most headphones unless they make some a wireless receiver for them.

    We already have the Wireless technology for a pretty robust wireless sync. Imagine a wireless charger that also implemented 802.11ad. You could basically get close to USB 3 performance without needing any wires. If we could get something close to super capacitors but with a higher energy density, we could have a phone and accessories which can be recharges within a few seconds, e.g., taking your headphones off, and within 5 seconds of placing them down on a table with built in wireless charging area, or a wireless charging pad, and it would be fully charged since super capacitors can be charges at an extremely high amperage without any special charging technology like quick charge 3.0.

    Though for compatibility, I would give up the USB C port before I give up the headphone jack.

  • The cnet article that you quoted is dated August 16, 2016.  The article stated that the improvements are slated to arrive later this year.  As of today December 28, the "improvements" are not to be found.  Yes we have a few days left, but I am not holding my breath. You guys want us to unnecessarily give up our "security blankets" in exchange for what is maybe definitely possibly hopefully going to be here by the end of this year or next year or whenever.  Give us the improvements along with the 3.5mm jack.  Let us try it and decide if it is better.  If it is that much better we will ask for it.  We will demand it.  The thinner phone thing is getting ridiculous.  Fatten my phone a mm or two and give me a bigger, longer lasting battery. Give us 8 hours of SOT per day and only charge once or twice a week.  Make that happen and then we can talk about the magical wonders that will come to pass by removing the terrible anchor on progress that we call the 3.5mm audio jack.  Phone makers please focus your attention on something high on most phone users wish list.

  • vanguyvanguy USAPosts: 597 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In all truthfulness, Apple seems to be a real innovator and many other mfg's follow their lead. I voted premature simply because Im not sure the technology is mature enough yet.

    How well do the ear pods reproduce sound ? What is the cost to mfg.? One thing is for certain the ear pods are priced ridiculously. Only a person with the mentality to buy Apple would pay this kind of price.

    In reference to the price of the ear pods, Is this a normal Apple sales tactic to charge four times what a product is really worth? Or is this what it really costs to mfg this technology?

    If it's the latter, this technology will not be adopted by the mainstream public for some time.

  • musicdjmmusicdjm United StatesPosts: 3,126 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I dont see any reason to remove that 3.5 mm head phone jack

    *OEMS say it helps with water resistance (Galaxy 5 and Galaxy 7) as well as others have already been water resistant without removing the headphone.

    *They save space, really cause some of the thinnest phones on earth still have the 3.5mm jack and I dont need a phone under 7mm just so they can claim the thinnest phone title (give me a huge battery and make the phone not so thin)

    *USB-C can deliver Audio just as well, well unless your adding a second USB-C Port I dont care nor do I want it removed

    Then there is the use of adapters and many other things that are annoying about loosing the 3.5mm jack like loss of use of 3rd party accessories without additional things to care around. 

  • nthall350nthall350 Kansas City, MissouriPosts: 505 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think it's a dumb move. Everyone has headphones and cables with the standard 3.5mm jack around. Cabled headphones never run out of batteries.

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