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Circuit Breaker

OnePlus will keep the headphone jack ‘for the time being’

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OnePlus 5 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

OnePlus is expected to announce its next phone sometime this month, and in the buildup to that, company CEO Pete Lau has confirmed one detail about the device: it’ll still have a headphone jack. “Every feature, removed or added, is based on our understanding of user needs,” Lau writes in a forum post. “For the time being, we think it’s best to stick with the headphone jack.”

Lau says that OnePlus thinks the headphone jack is still necessary for two reasons. First is audio quality when it comes to all but the pricier models of headphones. Wireless can compete with wired, he says, “but as you get closer to the under $200 category, the options are more limited.” Second, he says that 80 percent of OnePlus owners use the headphone jack, and it wasn’t worth taking away that option to “further slim down our flagships” by going USB-C only.

This all means that, like the OnePlus 5 from earlier this year, the upcoming OnePlus 5T will still support wired headphones without the need for a dongle. But what’s more interesting is what, if anything, this means for OnePlus’ next phones. Pretty much every major phone company is ditching the headphone jack in the name of thinness, and while OnePlus isn’t committing to keep it around forever, it is intentionally stirring things up when it may well choose to drop the headphone jack in the not-too-distant future.

OnePlus may be better at building hype than it is at building phones (that’s not a criticism of its phones), and that’s exactly what Lau is trying to do here. He’s very intentionally hyping what really isn’t that bold of a design choice, and he’s going out of his way to criticize other phone companies in the process. “Sometimes, industry trends go against our core beliefs,” he writes. “This is one of those times when we respectfully disagree on what it means to be courageous.” The remark is a year too late, but it’s an obvious dig at Apple — and one a lot of people will agree with.

The question is whether OnePlus will stand by this reasoning a year or so from now, or if it’ll soon publish another forum post explaining why, actually, the headphone jack is no longer needed. That’s basically what Google had to do last month, when it removed the Pixel’s headphone jack just a year after, yes, mocking Apple for getting rid of it. Its reasoning why? “Establishing a mechanical design path for the future.” Not exactly a promise that it’ll be a great experience today.

Certainly, the transition toward USB-C and Bluetooth headphones will one day make the headphone jack noncritical, particularly for flagship devices. But OnePlus is claiming that removing the headphone jack is a violation of one the company’s “core beliefs” at a time when the entire industry is racing to remove them. Whenever OnePlus does decide to remove the headphone jack, we’ll have this forum post to look back on to see if the company’s new reasoning holds up.