Intel pushes USB-C as headphone jack's successor

Posted:
in iPhone
The technology world has a seething hatred of the traditional 3.5-millimeter headphone jack -- or so it seems, given that chip giant Intel is the latest company to propose replacing the aging plug with a digital alternative.


via AnandTech


Intel would prefer that future devices, including smartphones and tablets, eschew the stalwart headphone jack for USB-C. The firm made its case at a recent development conference with the unveiling of USB Type-C Digital Audio, as noted by AnandTech.

In the near term, Intel would simply like to replace the jack with USB-C's analog audio specification. This would be "basically a connector replacement," Intel said.

Looking toward the future, they hope that adopting USB-C will help catalyze the movement from analog to digital audio.

From a user's perspective, the move to digital headphones could be a good one. Improved audio quality is one obvious plus; the ability to communicate directly with -- and draw power from -- a mobile device means that headphones could become smarter and in some cases lighter, since powered models would no longer require built-in batteries.

This shift would also benefit Intel, the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer by a country mile, in obvious ways.

There is mounting evidence that Apple is contemplating a similar move, though most people believe the iPhone maker would choose its own Lightning connector over USB-C. If Intel's proposal moves forward, the battle between USB-C and Lightning will be an interesting -- and likely expensive -- one waged on the battlefield of the world's most popular consumer device.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,869member
    Just waiting for giants like Apple,Samsung to adopt. It's inevitable. Only, concern is one port used for multiple insertion per day by wired audio jack into the same port use for charging. Within few months of usage, phone will still be perfect but the port went bad. Solution is BT earbuds, wireless charging.
    baconstangrevenant
  • Reply 2 of 57
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    In before all the people claiming Apple is going to replace Lightning with USB-C. Nope.
    jbdragontmaypscooter63
  • Reply 3 of 57
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Smoke and mirrors.  Moving the the D/A and amplification circuitry a couple centimeters physically will not lead to any sonic improvement or greater utility, it will just drive up costs for consumers and line Intel's pocket.  It's completely pointless from a consumers perspective.
    hodarjbdragoncalisingularitylord amhranbaconstangSnRafoljswetlanderzoetmb
  • Reply 4 of 57
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,349member
    All other phone manufacturers replace the headphone jack, few people complain, many people say it's a good idea, not head line news.
    Apple replaces the headphone jack and provides an adapter, world explodes, Apple is ridiculous, trending topic on most websites.
    stevehchianolamacguywonkothesane1983
  • Reply 5 of 57
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,869member
    pmz said:
    In before all the people claiming Apple is going to replace Lightning with USB-C. Nope.
    Claim is Apple not adopting USB Type-C to replace current lightening port but might ditch 3.5mm audio jack and move that function to single port lightening port. Many of us may not know but there are produces in pipeline that uses single port lightening or usb type-c for power, plus bi-directional data for gadgets like earbuds with sensors for body temperature, heart beat, blood pressure, etc. Single port to provide platform to develop many gadgets including audio jack.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 6 of 57
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Standards are good. Whatever. Is Apple listening?
    1983kermit4krazy
  • Reply 7 of 57
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    wood1208 said:
    pmz said:
    In before all the people claiming Apple is going to replace Lightning with USB-C. Nope.
    Claim is not Apple adopting USB Type-C to replace current lightening port but might ditch 3.5mm audio jack and move that function to single port lightening port.
    Yes, that is what they WILL do.

    What they will not do is replace Lightning with USB-C or any other connector port for at least the next 6 years or so. Phil Schiller said as much. Though it never ceases to amaze me when people clamor for Apple to replace their product line standards with whatever hip new connector comes out.

    Not too long ago it was Thunderbolt that Apple had to include on iOS. Now its USB-C. By the time Apple is ready to move to a new standard of I/O, it will probably be something else entirely.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 8 of 57
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    appex said:
    Standards are good. Whatever. Is Apple listening?
    Come on, I love my AppleBus port!  
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 9 of 57
    plovellplovell Posts: 795member
    pmz: problem is that EU has mandated that all phones have a standardized power supply. It's either mini- or micro-USB (micro, I think, but I'm not sure). There's a push to switch the standard to USB-C.

    I guess that Apple could meet this requirement with a dongle but it might take the opportunity to add USB-C so that it could kill two birds with one stone:- EU compliance and digital headphones.

    Let's face it - if this move by Intel gets traction, there will be a lot more USB-C headphones than there ever will be with Lightning.
    edited April 2016 kermit4krazy
  • Reply 10 of 57
    hodarhodar Posts: 260member
    cnocbui said:
    Smoke and mirrors.  Moving the the D/A and amplification circuitry a couple centimeters physically will not lead to any sonic improvement or greater utility, it will just drive up costs for consumers and line Intel's pocket.  It's completely pointless from a consumers perspective.
    Absolutely. Speakers are analog motors. That's all they essentially are. Current goes one direction, drive moves up, reverse the current flow and driver moves down. Pure analog. All you are doing is moving the D/A converter upstream a few feet. At the end of the day, the quality of the D/A converter and the quality of the difference.
    lorin schultzbaconstang
  • Reply 11 of 57
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,331member
    cnocbui said:
    Smoke and mirrors.  Moving the the D/A and amplification circuitry a couple centimeters physically will not lead to any sonic improvement or greater utility, it will just drive up costs for consumers and line Intel's pocket.  It's completely pointless from a consumers perspective.
    I disagree. It would do more than just move the DAC and headphone amp, it would allow for more advanced DAC for handling multi-point audio. For instance, you could have 7.1 streams. Headphone jack is limited to stereo with mono input. The headphone could also process spacial context and alter the decoding of audio to provide spacial awareness. All of this is currently impossible with a headphone jack.

    It would also let your headphone volume to be retained on the headphones instead of per device. I also think if combined with Bluetooth wireless capability, you could switch to different audio sources for your device if in range like handoff without plugging and replugging.

    as far as cost, the price of a simple stereo DAC and amp is a fraction of other components like drivers. I don't think price is going to be a big issue for basic needs.
    edited April 2016 pscooter63roundaboutnowwonkothesane
  • Reply 12 of 57
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,034member
    plovell said:
    pmz: problem is that EU has mandated that all phones have a standardized power supply. It's either mini- or micro-USB (micro, I think, but I'm not sure). There's a push to switch the standard to USB-C.

    I guess that Apple could meet this requirement with a dongle but it might take the opportunity to add USB-C so that it could kill two birds with one stone:- EU compliance and digital headphones.

    Let's face it - if this move by Intel gets traction, there will be a lot more USB-C headphones than there ever will be with Lightning.
    They made that MicroUSB standard a law, Now they're going to change it? The whole point it to keep people from throwing all these cables into the landfill. What happens if/when they change the law? The whole point is thrown out the window.
    nolamacguy
  • Reply 13 of 57
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,034member
    Of course Intel is all for this and wants to push it. Intel makes ZERO for the plain old analog audio jack we have now. Change that over to millions and millions of Digital USB-C Audio ports and Intel is raking in a bunch of money for years to come!!!
    baconstang
  • Reply 14 of 57
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    If Apple goes lightning, this could be bad news for Apple.

    For the first time ever we'll have a battle of standards with headphone jacks. It's gonna be a mess.
    kermit4krazy
  • Reply 15 of 57
    I love the thought of using digital headphones that last 4 hours on a charge. Awesome.
    edited April 2016 baconstangkermit4krazy
  • Reply 16 of 57
    sandorsandor Posts: 505member
    wood1208 said:
    Just waiting for giants like Apple,Samsung to adopt. It's inevitable. Only, concern is one port used for multiple insertion per day by wired audio jack into the same port use for charging. Within few months of usage, phone will still be perfect but the port went bad. Solution is BT earbuds, wireless charging.
    i guess it all depends on the quality of the port.
    i plug a charger and accessories into my phone's lightening port dozens of times a day for a few years, and havent had any issue.
  • Reply 17 of 57
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    cnocbui said:
    Smoke and mirrors.  Moving the the D/A and amplification circuitry a couple centimeters physically will not lead to any sonic improvement or greater utility, it will just drive up costs for consumers and line Intel's pocket.  It's completely pointless from a consumers perspective.
    I disagree. Moving things to the headset means the headset designer is free to implement the types of amplification and conversion it sees as best. This has the potential to demonstrate a vast array of performance levels. That is if manufactures ever go all digital. The interesting thing here is that it sounds like they are cooking up an analog out solution too. That can mean very cheap head phones to start.
    jkichlineroundaboutnow
  • Reply 18 of 57
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    pmz said:
    wood1208 said:
    pmz said:
    In before all the people claiming Apple is going to replace Lightning with USB-C. Nope.
    Claim is not Apple adopting USB Type-C to replace current lightening port but might ditch 3.5mm audio jack and move that function to single port lightening port.
    Yes, that is what they WILL do.

    What they will not do is replace Lightning with USB-C or any other connector port for at least the next 6 years or so. Phil Schiller said as much. Though it never ceases to amaze me when people clamor for Apple to replace their product line standards with whatever hip new connector comes out.

    Not too long ago it was Thunderbolt that Apple had to include on iOS. Now its USB-C. By the time Apple is ready to move to a new standard of I/O, it will probably be something else entirely.
    While it may be true that they won't replace Lighting with USB-C soon, they would be far better off doing so as soon as possible. I'm not concerned so much about iPhone as iPad, the lack of a non proprietary port on iPad really holds the device back and keep a lot of hardware off the device. In fact the one thing that might keep me from ditching the iPad is better support for hardware through a standard USB-C port. Right now there isn't an option on the market as Android based systems aren't acceptable. More importantly USB-C is not the hip connector you seem to want to imply. It is very much the USBsolution for what will likely be another 20 years. And yes eventually supporting the TB protocol over USB-C ports on Apples devices is a good thing. We want to see continuous improvement of these devices.
  • Reply 19 of 57
    wizard69 said:
    cnocbui said:
    Smoke and mirrors.  Moving the the D/A and amplification circuitry a couple centimeters physically will not lead to any sonic improvement or greater utility, it will just drive up costs for consumers and line Intel's pocket.  It's completely pointless from a consumers perspective.
    I disagree. Moving things to the headset means the headset designer is free to implement the types of amplification and conversion it sees as best. This has the potential to demonstrate a vast array of performance levels. That is if manufactures ever go all digital. The interesting thing here is that it sounds like they are cooking up an analog out solution too. That can mean very cheap head phones to start.
    Beat me to it. cnocbui and hodar (with the ridiculous "Current goes one direction, drive moves up, reverse the current flow and driver moves down" comment) don't have a clue what they're talking about.

    The best example of this is the engineers are free to choose whatever driver (speaker) they like. For example, impedance. The generic headphone amplifier in a smartphone does a good job with a wide range of headphone impedance, but it's not optimized for ALL of them. Especially ones at the extreme high or low impedance range. This is why headphones only come in a few standard impedance versions (like 32 or 600 ohm). For a headphone designer this is now irrelevant. They use the driver of their choice, and can then make a specific amplifier that's optimized for the impedance of that driver. If they want to use a higher impedance driver they can also include a DC-DC converter in their headphones to increase the voltage (power supply) for their amplifier so it works better with that SPECIFIC driver. Further, they can now use non-standard drivers (like electrostatic).

    Having the D/A, amps and processing in the headphone are just a side benefit. The real benefit is freedom of choice for the driver/amplifier.
    pscooter63roundaboutnowwonkothesane
  • Reply 20 of 57
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    jbdragon said:
    plovell said:
    pmz: problem is that EU has mandated that all phones have a standardized power supply. It's either mini- or micro-USB (micro, I think, but I'm not sure). There's a push to switch the standard to USB-C.

    I guess that Apple could meet this requirement with a dongle but it might take the opportunity to add USB-C so that it could kill two birds with one stone:- EU compliance and digital headphones.

    Let's face it - if this move by Intel gets traction, there will be a lot more USB-C headphones than there ever will be with Lightning.
    They made that MicroUSB standard a law, Now they're going to change it? The whole point it to keep people from throwing all these cables into the landfill. What happens if/when they change the law? The whole point is thrown out the window.
    The whole law was pretty stupid to begin with. All they need to do was demand a standard USB port on the charger. What plugs into the phone really shouldn't be a concern. All the law accomplished was to stop innovation on the devices.
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