By now, the Pixel 3a has sunk into most mobile-focused people’s consciousness. It has been praised for a lot of things but one understated feature is perhaps the return of the headphone jack. If you were hoping that Google has finally reconsidered its decision to banish the venerable port. Not exactly and product manager Soniya Jobanputra briefly explains the thinking behind that decision. Suffice it to say, it’s not going to sit well with some people.
Jobanputra admits that the decision was a contentious one but they decided that “consumer at this price point” needed the flexibility that a headphone jack gives. The implication of that statement is that customers aiming for mid-range phones are really the only ones that need headphone jacks. That’s despite the clamor among professionals that had to wean themselves away from accessories that utilized that port.
The manager also made mention of reducing waste, letting users keep and use the headphones they already have. That seems to disregard the waste that was produced by Pixel owners moving to Bluetooth headphones, away from their existing wired pair, or by the adapters that Google had to ship. Again, the implication is that consumers at this price tier won’t have to spend more by having to buy new accessories.
Whether you buy Google’s rationalization or not probably matters little to the company. The underlying message here, however, is that the headphone jack is a mid-tier thing, limited to the “a” series. Considering expectations of more mid-range Pixels in the future, however, that doesn’t so bad after all.
Google still firmly believes that digital audio is the future, be it via Bluetooth or via direct USB-C cables. It doesn’t seem to be backing down from that position, especially after its partnership with Qualcomm to put Google Assistant in the chip maker’s latest Bluetooth Audio Developer Kit. So don’t expect the return of the headphone jack on the Pixels, at least not on the more expensive ones.