The most obvious factor working against USB-C headphones is that the two biggest smartphone makers don’t need them. Apple’s iPhones might lack a headphone jack but they also don’t have a USB-C port, while Samsung retains the 3.5mm port, so neither the iPhone X nor the latest Galaxy S9 family are in need of USB-C earphones.
USB-C headphones are not going to be a thing unless the 2 phone makers who really matter make them necessary. Apple and Samsung account for 64% of the US market (38% Apple, 26% Samsung) and neither of them makes phones where wired USB-C headphones are useful.
I really think that wireless is the future, and it’s the present already for many people, but wireless needs to get better and cheaper before articles like the one run by The Verge can stop being written. AirPods are great, and solve almost all the problems with wireless, but they’re too expensive. Yes, they’re selling great, and they’re reasonably priced for what they offer, but the whole category of good wireless headphones is priced too high.
Phone makers should be able to bundle in “good enough” wireless headphones into each phone they sell, instead of shipping wired buds. Audiophiles scoff at EarBuds, but the truth is that they sound totally fine to most people. They were good enough for Apple to feel good about shipping them in the box with every iPhone they sold, all while making a profit. Cheap AirPods would not be something Apple could be just as proud of, and they could not maintain margins while including full on AirPods with every iPhone.
I think AirPods cleared the threshold where they are a clear win over wired EarBuds in every single way: besides cost. I hope the tech that makes AirPods so wonderful can be commoditized to the point where $30 wireless headphones can deliver a good enough experience to make people not even miss their wired earbuds of old. Until then, we’re going to keep seeing people lamenting the loss of the headphone jack on most mainstream phones1.
- Notably minus the Galaxy lineup. ↩