If mobile manufacturers stop putting headphone jacks in their smartphones, what would be the impact on the NextRadio radio app, which relies on the headphone cable as its FM reception antenna?
That question was prompted by word that the next Apple iPhone would lack the traditional 3.5 mm audio headphone jack. Radio World asked Paul Brenner, president of NextRadio. We reached him by phone as he was traveling to a broadcast technology event in Washington.
His short answer: Don’t worry about it.
Brenner says that even if consumer electronics companies like Apple start to move away from traditional headphone jacks in pursuit of ever-slimmer designs -- or in the case of Apple, claiming water resistance (which, Brenner notes, Samsung figured out) -- physical headphone connectors will be provided for the foreseeable future. So headphone listening might be provided via Micro USB, for instance, and NextRadio can work with that just as well as a traditional headphone cable. A physical connection out to any wire can be used by the device as an antenna, he said.
And indeed the Washington Post reported Wednesday afternoon, after Brenner spoke to us, that there officially will be no headphone jack on the new iPhone; instead it will have stereo speakers, a Lightning-connected pair of headphones and an adapter to connect them to traditional headphones. Apple also introduced its own wireless earbuds called AirPods.
In the longer term, Brenner said, smartphone companies might eventually be able to build devices that are entirely wireless, even for power recharging. That’s a dream outcome for mobile companies, likely far off; but even then, Brenner said, he expects NextRadio will be able to implement a solution to protect the app’s place in the phone. Meanwhile, said Brenner, Apple omitting the traditional audio jack is “not a show-stopper.”
As to whether Apple might yet be convinced actually to activate FM chips in its phones, Brenner says his lobbying on that point never stops. Meantime, NextRadio is up to 50 million handsets enabled without Apple’s involvement.
Separately, Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue has an interesting column this week on why the headphone jack is probably on its way out. And RW’s sister publication Twice is following the trend toward phones without a 3.55 mm audio port; read its story about “5 New Headphones Ready for a Lightning-Only iPhone 7.”