It’s no surprise that there are still people who want to know how to use a headphone jack on their iPhone in 2019. After all, the headphone jack is one of the most beloved and versatile pieces of audio technology ever created.
Sadly, Apple seems pretty committed to not letting users easily take advantage of headphone jacks. Instead, you’ll have to pursue some alternative options in order to use what is still a global piece of technology.
Before we dive into those options, though, let’s take a look at the headphone jack and why it’s such a big deal.
What is a Headphone Jack?
“Headphone jack” has become the shorthand for the 3.5mm headphone jack/port.
The 3.55mm jack is an audio connection option that’s origins date back to 1878. The name comes from the size of the connector (which used to be about twice as large). Despite the age of the technology, it’s been a reliable audio standard for many devices for decades and decades. The basic design of the device makes it incredibly simple to transfer an audio signal across a wired connection.
The popularity of the 3.55mm jack as an audio standard began to decline with the rise of USB technology and really hit a slump when Bluetooth and other wireless options began to take off. Despite the use of new technology, the 3.55mm jack remained a common, popular, and useful way of listening to audio across a variety of devices.
Why Did Apple Get Rid of the Them?
In 2016, Apple announced its decision to drop the headphone jack from future iPhone models. Instead, future iPhones would be shipped with a lightning connector.
Apple’s explanation regarding their decision to remove the headphone jack was quite simple. Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller stated that it no longer made sense to maintain an “ancient, single-purpose, analog, big connector” considering that smartphone space is “at a premium.”
Basically, the 3.5mm headphone jack is technically outdated. It only really serves one function and it requires quite a bit of space and power to run properly. Apple argued that removing it would allow them to create more space for features like additional speakers.
Why Are People Upset About It?
For decades, headphone technology was based around the 3.5mm headphone jack. Everything from high-end studio headphones to the lowliest earbuds utilized it. It became so common that most people probably never thought about it much until it went away.
The problem with the disappearance of the headphone jack is two-fold. First off, it made a legion of headphones on the market invalid overnight. Most of the headphones that people already owned no longer worked with their iPhone.
The change also led to problems in the headphone market. The 3.5mm jack may have been outdated, but it was prevalent. Many high-quality headphones relied on them. With the 3.5mm jack gone, users had to pick from a much more limited selection of headphones on the market. Suddenly, some of the best headphones in the world were no longer compatible.
That also cut into how helpful your iPhone really was. After all, there are some situations where headphone jack headphones are the only viable option. There are other times when they’re simply the most convenient alternative. Because non-3.55 port headphones can be more expensive, it’s also not easy to just keep extra pairs around.
The other big issue are the supposed benefits of removing the 3.55 jack. Apple has argued that removing the port affords them extra room. That’s technically true. The problem is what they have done (or haven’t done) with that room. iPhones have naturally been getting bigger anyway, and Apple really hasn’t shown how to maximize the extra space supposedly offered by removing the headphone jack.
There’s also the problem of price. Not just the price of usable headphone alternatives, but the price of the iPhone itself. iPhones aren’t getting cheaper, but shouldn’t they be? How does Apple remove the headphone jack and justify raising the price of their iPhones? The answer is complicated.
What are the Benefits of Removing the Headphone Jack?
We’ve previously mentioned that removing the headphone jack creates extra room in iPhones. That’s the most obvious benefit, even if you can argue Apple hasn’t done enough with it.
There are other advantages, though. First off, Bluetooth is the future of audio technology (and honestly the present). Bluetooth can’t quite replicate the quality of the best 3.55 devices (yet) but it could one day. That’s kind of the point here. Removing the jack forces companies to improve the quality of Bluetooth peripherals.
Bluetooth is also (theoretically) more convenient. Not having to tussle with wires is almost always a good thing. True to form, wireless headphones certainly are incredibly useful once you really give them a chance.
Honestly, since most listening on an iPhone is done through a streaming service, you probably don’t need top-of-the-line quality headphones in the first place. Most streaming services can only hit a certain level of audio quality in the first place.
Besides, there are things that new headphone technology is capable of achieving that old devices cannot. Most manufacturers and audio engineers agree that we’re just really beginning to explore the possibilities of the format.
We’re also seeing that Apple is able to make phones thinner now that the components required for a headphone jack have been removed. So far, this has been the most obvious benefit of the additional space the lack of a headphone jack supposedly creates.
Will Apple Ever Bring Back the Headphone Jack?
Short answer: No.
Apple’s basis for removing the headphone jack realistically comes down to two things. One, they (and others) really do believe that it’s the future of the technology. They’re probably right. At the very least, they won’t be right if they keep holding on to old technology.
There’s another (slightly more annoying) reason headphone jacks won’t come back. See, Apple doesn’t control 3.5mm technology. They do, however, control lightning cables and have more than a foot in the door of new earbud technology.
Apple is obsessed with keeping things in their ecosystem. As such, it makes sense from their standpoint that they’d want to emphasize headphone technology they have a degree of control over. At the same time, that makes it annoying for people who just want the option of deciding what kind of headphones they feel like using.
What Are the Headphone Jack Alternatives for iPhone?
If you’re fine with living without the headphone jack (or just accept it), then here are your headphone alternatives.
This is certainly the route apple wants you to go. Apple’s AirPods have become one of the companies most popular accessories in recent years. They’re praised for their form, audio quality, and the general convenience of them.
They’re also quite expensive. A set of AirPods with a wireless charging case will set you back about $200 when you buy them new from Apple. Are they worth it? That’s debatable. They’re certainly nice, but that price point used to be reserved for some top-of-the-line headphones. AirPods are among the best in their class, but it’s a much smaller class to begin with.
At the very least, Apple decided to allow its users to continue using third-party Bluetooth wireless peripherals when they abandoned the headphone jack. That has opened up a whole world of possibilities.
The fact of the matter is that Apple’s wireless AirPods really are one of the best wireless earbud options out there. However, there’s a thriving market for all kinds of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds out there. That means that you should be able to find reasonably cheaper options if that’s what you’re looking for. It also means that you should be able to find high-quality studio headphones if that’s your preference.
The point is that it’s not a bad idea to become comfortable with Bluetooth headphone technology since it looks like the new open market.
How Do I Use a 3.5mm Headphone Jack on My iPhone?
Do you miss having the 3.55mm option available for iPhone? Well, your options aren’t great for bringing it back, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Here are the best ones out there.
Apple Lightning to 3.5mm Adapter
On paper, this is certainly the best 3.5mm option out there. This cheap (less than $10) connector connects to your iPhone via the lightning port. You then just plug 3.55mm headphones into the other end, and you can use any 3.55mm headphones.
There are some problems with this simple approach, though. For one thing, it takes up the port you need to charge your phone with a wire. Second, it doesn’t properly support headphones with in-line mic and audio controls. Those drawbacks may have you looking for other solutions.
Apple’s iPhone Lightning Dock
This isn’t the best option out there, but it is possible to plug your iPhone into this dock and use the 3.55mm port on the back of the dock for headphones.
It’s a slightly impractical, but definitely possible, option.
Griffin iTrip Clip
This is honestly one of the best (and least talked about) 3.55mm alternatives out there.
This adapter (and other ones like it) connects to your lightning port and features a 3.55mm port. The reason it’s so amazing is that it still lets you utilize in-line headphone controls. It’s almost as convenient as just being able to plug in headphones.
Wireless Charging Station
Some wireless charging stations feature 3.55mm jacks on their backs. Even those that don’t at least let you charge your phone while utilizing lightning to 3.55mm adapters.
This would be pretty low on the list of options, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth considering in some instances.