Intel pushes USB-C as 3.5mm jack replacement, touts better sound, thinness & power management
The seemingly inevitable demise of the legacy 3.5-millimeter headphone jack has placed the technology world in need of a successor, and Intel this week laid out its case as to why it thinks the reversible USB-C port is the best option for accessory makers.
In a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, architects from the chipmaker made their case for USB-C to succeed traditional headphone jacks. As detailed by CNet, they noted the typical advantages related to saving space within a device, but also detailed some other, less obvious advantages to USB-C.
In particular, they said that all-digital audio could allow for better sounding headphones without the need for licensing agreements with companies like Dolby or Bose. In Intel's view, premium headphone features like noise canceling could become much cheaper with USB-based audio.
In addition, Intel's Rahman Ismail and Brad Saunders also noted that the upcoming USB Audio 3.0 specification will include power management capabilities. This built-in functionality will allow for what they said is a "negligible" effect on battery life when USB-powered headphones are in use.
Intel's pitch isn't new — the company began pushing USB-C as a digital alternative to 3.5-millimeter headphone jacks back in April. At the time, Intel portrayed the transition as simple, calling it "basically a connector replacement."
Apple, of course, is widely expected to ditch the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack with this year's anticipated "iPhone 7" model. However, for wired headphones, Apple's approach is expected to utilize its own proprietary Lightning connector, which would require some form of adapter for users who want to use newer Lightning headphones with another competing format, like USB-C.
Apple doesn't stand in opposition to USB-C — the reversible port is the sole input for both syncing and charging on the company's 12-inch MacBook. Still, the ultraportable MacBook continues to feature a 3.5-millimeter headphone port.
USB-C is also expected to make its way to a revamped MacBook Pro later this year, but it's unclear whether Apple plans to also include a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack on its professional-grade notebook. If the next MacBook Pro does ditch the legacy headphone jack, Apple would either need to encourage wired audio via USB-C, or for the first time ever include a female Lightning port on a Mac for audio output.