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The Moto Z has no headphone jack

The Moto Z has no headphone jack


The first major new flagship to launch in the US without one

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Lenovo has decided that its 2016 flagship Android smartphone doesn't need a 3.5mm headphone jack. Neither the Moto Z nor its slightly thicker, slightly better Moto Z Force variant offers an analog audio port, though both come with a USB-C adapter in the box.

The Moto Z is a phone defined by the extra accessories and modules it can magnetically connect to, leaving its basic form as a super streamlined and simplified slab. Ignoring its substantial camera bump, most of the Z measures just 5.2mm in thickness, which is only slightly thicker than the 3.5mm connector that the device lacks. Even so, we've seen 5.1mm phones that still include one, so Lenovo's decision can't be explained away as a simple engineering constraint in trying to maximize thinness.

Read next: Why did LeEco ditch the headphone jack?

Most likely, Lenovo's motivation for ditching the headphone jack is the same as that of Chinese rival LeEco, which already made the change with its 2016 lineup. LeEco's president of R&D Liang Jun explained to The Verge that his company was driven by the desire to promote the greater clarity and quality of digital audio via the USB-C port.

Apple's upcoming iPhone 7 has been stirring controversy for a few months now with rumors that it would ship without a 3.5mm jack. If current trends on the Android side continue, however, the next iPhone's omission might seem perfectly in line with the rest of the industry by the time it happens. Sure, Apple would be switching to its proprietary Lightning connector rather than the more widely adopted USB-C, but the overall transition toward digital audio seems like the destination every phone manufacturer is heading in.

Users are unlikely to enjoy having to carry adapters around for something so basic as listening to music. Aaron Souppouris over at Engadget makes the case that Lenovo's switch — and Apple and LeEco's, by extension — is premature, owing in large part to the hidden complexity of the adapters required. There's ample potential for sound quality improvements when using a digital output, but manufacturers will have to be smart about the way they implement the change and communicate it to their users.

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