The Galaxy Fold was the most exciting announcement at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event by a long shot. While the new S10 and its variants look like top-tier phones, it was the Fold that captured everyone’s imagination. As Samsung CEO DJ Koh proudly declared at the event, the Fold “sets this industry on a new path.” And apparently, it’s a path that — unlike the rest of the phones Samsung announced today — doesn’t include a 3.5mm headphone jack.
It’s a sour note on what otherwise looks like a really interesting product. And if the Galaxy Fold is the future of Samsung’s smartphones, then it might be time for users to start saying goodbye to the beloved headphone jack.
Whether or not to include a headphone jack is a decision that’s painted a line in the sand between phone manufacturers — and we’ve always known which side of that line Samsung was on. But now, Samsung is straddling the gap. One one side, there are the S10 phones, the ultimate refinement of the Galaxy S formula that Samsung has been perfecting for almost a decade. On the other is the Galaxy Fold, setting the stakes for the next decade. The past has a headphone jack; the future doesn’t.
The headphone jack isn’t the only standard item missing from the Fold. Also gone is the microSD card slot, a feature that Samsung once tried to remove with the Galaxy S6, only to bring it back (after customer complaints) with the S7 in 2016. It’s been a line item ever since.
it might be time for users to start saying goodbye to the beloved 3.5mm jack
Samsung’s design decision may just come down to space. Samsung is packing a ton of tech into the Galaxy Fold, and it’s possible there just simply isn’t enough room for a headphone jack or microSD card slot, two features that tend to take up a lot of space internally. And as a first-generation device in an entirely new category, it’s extremely likely that Samsung will continue to refine things in future generations, especially after it gets feedback from customers who actually use the phone after it comes out in April.
Part of the issue might be usability, too. Samsung envisions the user constantly flipping and folding the Fold around as they rotate and switch screens. It’s possible that a headphone wire doesn’t make a lot of sense in that context.
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But there may be more to it than that. Samsung is also including a pair of its new wireless Galaxy Buds with the Galaxy Fold (as well it should, considering the $1,980 starting price point). It’s a strategy which might hint that — like Apple and its AirPods, which were coincidentally announced alongside the iPhone 7 when Apple axed the headphone jack — Samsung is looking to start to wean its customers off the analog port and shove them forward into the digital, wireless future of a Bluetooth headphone world. In 2016, we argued that was a user-hostile and stupid decision. In 2019, we might still argue that — but wireless headphones are looking a little bit better.
As Samsung said at the event, the Galaxy Fold is meant to be a premium luxury device, not a mainstream one in the same way that the S10 (and its headphone jack) is meant to be. But it’s equally telling that Samsung’s idea of a luxury phone is one that doesn’t attempt to cram in every single feature a customer might want.
Hope isn’t entirely lost yet. As mentioned before, Samsung had a similar cycle when it went without a MicroSD card slot, only to add it back due to customers requesting the flexibility. It’s possible a similar shift could happen down the line with a headphone jack for a future Fold, too.
But given the way smartphone features trend to trickle down from more premium options to more mainstream models, and the flag that Samsung is looking to plant in the sand with the Galaxy Fold, it might be time to start preparing for a wireless future… or to invest in a set of USB C-to-3.5mm dongles.