Intel has recently been plotting the demise of the 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of connecting headphones through a USB Type-C port, a specification which it helped to create.
At the 2016 Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China, the company held a session on using USB Type-C for audio. With plans to reveal its digital audio technology by mid-July, Intel highlighted several upsides to using the new specification.
The company noted that eliminating the current headphone jack would free up space on the motherboard for better circuitry design and reduce the cost of devices.
It also suggested that headphones would improve thanks to the added power USB Type-C provides. Potential new features could include heart beat or temperature detection for health applications. In fact, if USB Type-C audio becomes ubiquitous headphones will have to improve.
With the 3.5mm headphone jack, an analog signal is transferred directly to the user’s headphones. USB Type-C will necessitate the inclusion of digital-to-analog and amplifier components in the headphones themselves.
Intel pointed out that this would have the benefit of more consistent quality audio across devices, but it would undoubtedly also lead to more expensive headphones.
Another simple issue with USB Type-C headphones, though essential to their use, is the question of how users will charge their phone and listen to music at the same time.