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If Samsung says the headphone jack is dead, it’s dead

Never a company to capriciously get rid of features, Samsung has decided to say goodbye to the headphone jack—at least on its new Note10 phones.

If Samsung says the headphone jack is dead, it’s dead
[Photo: courtesy of Samsung]

For years, Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones have catered to folks who want a phone with a ton of features and are willing to pay for them. Its new Galaxy Note10 and Note10+ continue that theme. But the company did delete a feature every previous Note phone has had, though it’s not making a fuss over the change and didn’t mention it at its splashy launch event in New York City this afternoon.

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As suggested by recent leaks, neither version of the Note10 has a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Instead, Samsung includes USB-C earbuds in the box and will be glad to sell you a pair of Galaxy Buds, its quite-nice answer to Apple’s AirPods.

Way back in 2016, when Apple eliminated the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, marketing honcho Phil Schiller stood onstage and said it took “courage” to ditch such a familiar feature in the interest of (as Apple saw it) progress. Many people saw Apple’s move as annoying rather than brave. Samsung was even making fun of the decision before it was official and kept the jack on multiple generations of Galaxy S and Note phones. (More recently, it did delete it from the Galaxy A8 and Galaxy Fold.)

Nearly three years after Apple went jackless, not everybody has bought into the idea. My colleague Mark Wilson remains agitated about the loss—or at least he was as of last November. The jack’s absence in the new Notes is a major point in the Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler’s first look. Surely, some people will decide not to buy a Note10 based on lack of the jack—or will buy one and then grumble about it.

After today’s Galaxy Note unveiling, I chatted with Samsung senior director of smartphone marketing Drew Blackard. He tells me that the market had reached an “inflection point” that made the end of the headphone jack on the new Notes make sense. His rationale is similar to Apple’s three years ago: One less jack permits a sleeker design and a bigger battery. And in 2019, wireless earphones such as the Galaxy Buds are considerably more mainstream, allowing users to listen without futzing with cables or dongles at all.

Historically, Samsung is among the more cautious phone makers when it comes to forcing teeming masses of consumers into technology transitions before they’re ready. A few years ago, it even brought back the MicroSD memory-card slot after getting rid of it. If the company has decided to write the headphone jack’s obituary, it really is over. We’ll know for sure if next year’s Galaxy S11 arrives sans jack.

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For now, however, anyone who wants a shiny new Samsung phone but doesn’t want to give up the headphone jack still has options: The Galaxy S10 models the company announced just a few months ago still have one. And there are three different S10 variants to choose from—the S10e, S10, and S10+—along with a 5G model. That’s a side benefit of Samsung turning both the Galaxy S10 and Note into product lines unto themselves, with multiple models.

“It’s hard to make one perfect smartphone for everybody,” Blackard tells me. “So we made perfect smartphones for different people.”

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About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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