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Two years later, I still miss the headphone port

Two years ago, Apple killed the headphone port. I still haven’t forgiven them for it. When Apple announced that the iPhone 7 would have no headphone port, I was pretty immediately annoyed. I figured maybe I’d get over it in a few months. I didn’t. I figured if worse came to worse, I’d switch platforms. Then all of the other manufacturers started following suit. This, of course, isn’t a new annoyance for me. I’ve been hating headphone adapters on phones right here on this very website since two thousand and nine. For a little stretch there, though, I got my way. It was a world full of dongles and crappy proprietary audio ports. Sony Ericsson had the FastPort. Nokia had the Pop-Port. Samsung had like 10 different ports that no one gave a shit about. No single phone maker had claimed the throne yet, so no one port had really become ubiquitous… but every manufacturer wanted their port to become the port. Even the phones that had a standardized audio jack mostly had the smaller 2.5mm port, requiring an adapter all the same. Then came the original iPhone with its 3.5mm headphone port. It was a weird recessed 3.5mm port that didn’t work with most headphones, but it was a 3.5mm port! Apple was riding on the success of the iPod, and people were referring to this rumored device as the iPod Phone before it was even announced. How could something like that not have a headphone port? Sales of the iPhone started to climb. A few million in 2007. Nearly 12 million in 2008. 20 million in 2009. A tide shifted. As Apple’s little slab of glass took over the smartphone world, other manufacturers tried to figure out what Apple was doing so right. The smartphone market, once filled with chunky, button-covered plastic beasts (this one slides! This one spins!), homogenized. Release by release, everything started looking more like the iPhone. A slab of glass. Premium materials. Minimal physical buttons. And, of course, a headphone port. Within a couple years, a standard headphone port wasn’t just a nice selling point — it was mandatory. We’d entered a wonderful age of being able to use your wired headphones whenever you damn well pleased. Then came September 7th, 2016, when Apple had the “courage” to announce it was ditching the 3.5mm jack (oh and also by the way check out these new $150 wireless headphones!). Apple wasn’t the first to ditch the headphone port — but, just as with its decision to include one, its decision to remove it has turned the tide. A few months after the portless iPhone 7 was announced, Xiaomi nixed the port on the Mi 6. Then Google ditched it from its flagship Android phone, the Pixel 3. Even Samsung, which lampooned Apple for the decision, seems to be tinkering with the idea of dropping it. Though leaks suggest the upcoming Galaxy S10 will have a headphone port, the company pulled it from the mid-range A8 line earlier this year. If 2016 was the year Apple took a stab at the headphone jack, 2018 was the year it bled out. And I’m still mad about it. Technology comes and goes, and oh-so-often at Apple’s doing. Ditching the CD drive in laptops? That’s okay — CDs were doomed, and they were pretty awful to begin with. Killing Flash? Flash sucked. Switching one type of USB port for another? Fine, I suppose. The new USB is better in just about every way. At the very least, I won’t try to plug it in upside down only to flip it over and realize I had it right the first time. But the headphone jack? It was fine. It stood the test of time for one hundred damned years, and with good reason: It. Just. Worked. I’ve been trying to figure out why the removal of the headphone port bugs me more than other ports that have been unceremoniously killed off, and I think it’s because the headphone port almost always only made me happy. Using the headphone port meant listening to my favorite album, or using a free minute to catch the latest episode of a show, or passing an earbud to a friend to share some new tune. It enabled happy moments and never got in the way. Now every time I want to use my headphones, I just find myself annoyed. Bluetooth? Whoops, forgot to charge them. Or whoops, they’re trying to pair with my laptop even though my laptop is turned off and in my backpack. Dongle? Whoops, left it on my other pair of headphones at work. Or whoops, it fell off somewhere, and now I’ve got to go buy another one. I’ll just buy a bunch of dongles, and put them on all my headphones! I’ll keep extras in my bag for when I need to borrow a pair of headphones. That’s just like five dongles at this point, problem solved! Oh, wait: now I want to listen to music while I fall asleep, but also charge my phone so it’s not dead in the morning. That’s a different, more expensive splitter dongle (many of which, I’ve found, are poorly made garbage). None of these are that big of a deal. Charge your damned headphones, Greg. Stop losing your dongles. The thing is: they took a thing that just worked and just made me happy and replaced it with something that, quite often, just bugs the hell out of me. If a friend sent me a YouTube link and I wanted to watch it without bugging everyone around me, I could just use whatever crappy, worn out headphones I happened to have sitting in my bag. Now it’s a process with a bunch of potential points of failure. “But now its water resistant!” Water-resistant phones existed before all of this, plenty of which had/have headphone ports. As a recent example, see Samsung’s Galaxy S9 with its IP68 rating (matching that of the iPhone XS.) “But it can be slimmer!” No one was asking for that. “But the batteries inside can be bigger!” The capacity of the battery barely jumped in the years from the 6S to the 8 — from 1,715mAh to 1,821mAh. It wasn’t until a few years later with the iPhone X, when the standard iPhone started getting wider and taller, that we saw super big jumps in its battery capacity. Will this post change anything? Of course not. Apple blew the horn that told the industry it’s okay to drop the headphone port, and everyone fell right in line. The next year — and the year after that — Apple sold another 200M-plus phones. At this point, Apple doesn’t even bother giving you the headphone adapter in the box. Apple’s mind is made up. But if you’re out there, annoyed, stumbling across this post after finding yourself with a pair of headphones and a smartphone that won’t play friendly together in a pinch, just know: you’re not the only one. Two years later, I’m still mad at whoever made this call — and everyone else in the industry who followed suit.

The Huawei P20 is not coming to the U.S.

Meet the Huawei P20. It’s a pretty nice phone. I played around with it, and I can confirm that it is, indeed, a solid flagship with some suitably over-the-top features — what’s that you say? Three rear-facing cameras?! But all of this is kind of a moot point if you live here in the States. Sure, Huawei’s been having a lot of issues trying to sell its phones in America. In fact, just as I was playing around with the P20, news was breaking that Best Buy was planning to stop selling the company’s phones — it was a bit like finding out your starting pitcher needs Tommy John surgery before opening day. Only with, you know, lots more international espionage and such. Rather than deal with the rigmarole of getting shot down by carriers and retailers this time out, the company is simply making it clear right off the bat that the new flagship just won’t be available here — not through any sort of official channels. And honestly, it’s probably best for Huawei to just focus on those countries that have long stocked its phones — from the look of the FCC reports earlier this week, this situation is going to get worse long before it gets any better. For the rest of the world, there’s plenty to like here. The P20 looks like a cross between the iPhone X and HTC’s latest shiny metal phones. It’s got a 5.8-inch display (6.1 on the P20 Pro) and some crazy camera specs, including three rear lenses, including an eight-megapixel telephoto and 40-megapixel (!) RGP, coupled with a built-in color temperature sensor. There’s still a front-mounted fingerprint sensor and some strange choices, like a 2D face unlock function that makes do with the lack of depth sensing. No pricing or availability at press time, except here in the States, where the latter is just a picture of a big red circle with a line through it.

Your next phone may have an ARM machine learning processor

ARM doesn’t build any chips itself, but its designs are at the core of virtually every CPU in modern smartphones, cameras and IoT devices. So far, the company’s partners have shipped more than 125 billion ARM-based chips. After moving into GPUs in recent years, the company today announced that it will now offer its partners machine learning and dedicated object detection processors. Read More

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Citi slashes sales outlook for iPhone XS Max by nearly half

Citi Research has joined a growing list of analysts to lower first-quarter production estimates for Apple’s iPhones amid weakening demand for the smartphones. Citi Research analyst William Yang cut the overall iPhone shipment forecast by 5 million to 45 million for the quarter, reported Reuters. That’s a sting that falls in line with others such as influential TF International Securities Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who delivered a less than stellar iPhone forecast earlier this month. It’s Yang’s outlook for the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max that is particularly gloomy. In a research note to clients, Yang slashed the shipment forecast for the iPhone XS Max by 48 percent for the first quarter of 2019. The cut in Citi’s forecasts is driven by the firm’s view that ” 2018 iPhone is entering a destocking phase, which does not bode well for the supply chain,” Yang wrote. Two weeks ago, Kuo predicted that 2019 iPhone shipments will likely between 5 to 10 percent lower than 2018. He also lowered first quarter shipment forecasts by 20 percent.

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New iPhones courageously ditch including a free headphone dongle

Apple is under the impression that its “courage” has already paid off and that it no longer needs to ship a headphone dongle with its new phones. Mission accomplished! The new iPhone XS and XR models will not include the Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, and users will have to buy it separately for $9. The iPhone 8 will also not include the dongle moving forward, The Verge reported. Courage. On the bright side, the dongle is only $9, and if you’ve been an iPhone owner for the past few years, you’ve got one already. To be clear, a lot of phones have been moving in the headphone jack-less direction and including the dongles with its past models was a nice precedent set by Apple. That said, the Pixel 2 included the dongle, so Apple is again leading the way here with an unpopular move.

Sorry that I took so long to upgrade, Apple

Apple had some bad news tonight. It was so bad in fact that it had to halt trading for a time while posting a grim report that its numbers would be lower than it had forecast at the last quarterly earnings report in November. Apple blamed faltering sales in Asia, particularly in China, for the adjustment, but I’m afraid it can lay at least part of the blame on me too. You see I was part of the problem as well. On the bright side, I finally upgraded my iPhone this week. I had been using an old iPhone 6 that was over three years old. It had become crotchety with a bad battery life and the recharge cable wouldn’t say stuck without some serious coaxing. The phone had to be flat on a table, and would often disconnect if I even brushed against the cord or looked at it the wrong way. I had been thinking about upgrading for several months, but I kept putting it off because the thought of spending $1000 for a new phone frankly irked me, and I had after all paid off my trusty 6 in full long ago. I was going to squeeze every bit of life out of it, dammit. In spite of my great frustration with my old phone, it took the enticement of a $200 credit to finally get me to replace it, as I’m sure the promotion was intended to do. Just yesterday on New Year’s Day, I headed to my closest Apple Store and I finally did right by the company. I replaced my ancient 6, but I did something else that probably hurt Apple as part of its death by a thousand cuts. I went into the store thinking I would buy the more expensive XS, but in the end I walked out with the lower-cost XR. I looked at the two phones and I couldn’t justify spending over $1000 for a phone with 256 GB of storage. I wanted a phone with longer battery life and a decent display and camera and the XR gave it to me. Yes, I could have gotten an even better phone, but in the end the XR was good enough for me, and certainly a huge upgrade over what I had been using. Clearly lots of people across the world had similar thoughts, and one thing lead to another and before you knew it, you had a situation on your on your hands, one that forced you to halt the trading of your stock and report the bad news. The stock price is paying a price, down over 7 percent as I write this post. So, sorry Apple, but it appears that there is a tipping point when it comes to the cost of a new phone. As essential as these devices have become in our lives, it’s just too hard for many consumers around the world to justify spending more than $1000 for a new phone, and you just have to realize that.

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