Why offer crowd-pleasing phones when you can introduce crowd-splitting ones? Smartphones that are divisive in design or feature set, drawing people intensely toward or away from it with an air of “we know better what you want than you do.”
For an industry where the companies that play it safe run the risk of immediately blending in, this divisiveness has become a secret weapon that’s most valuable in attaining. And that’s exactly what the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL are attempting to do.
Last year, Google was quick to point out that its debut smartphone had what Apple’s seventh generation device didn’t: a headphone jack. Conversely, of the things that the iPhone 7 had that the Pixel didn’t: waterproofing, headphones included in the box, and on the iPhone 7 Plus, a dual-lens camera.
More importantly, the iPhone of the time had an imperceivable quality that Google’s formula lacked: controversy. The huge stir created by Apple’s seemingly small, but radical feature shift away from the trusty 3.5mm jack got people talking, even if a lot of the talk wasn’t always positive.
During its big Pixel event on Wednesday, Google didn’t linger when it got to the part about the missing headphone jacks on its new Pixel 2 smartphones. Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are void of the old but ubiquitous 3.5 mm headphone jack, even though Google poked fun at Apple for removing the headphone jack from its iPhone 7 lineup in October 2016.
Unlike Apple and its “courage” reasoning for removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, Google didn’t shed any light on why it removed the headphone jack from the new Pixel 2 smartphones during its event. Google’s product chief, Mario Queiroz, did, however, tell TechCrunch why after the presentation.
It turns out Google wants to make future Pixel phones with thinner bezels around the display, and removing the headphone jack “sooner rather than later” will make it easier to “make the shift,” Queiroz told TechCrunch.
Queiroz’s statement raises questions about why Google didn’t make the shift now and give the Pixel 2 phones the ultranarrow bezels it wants to add to its future Pixel phones. Apparently, Google wanted to have two front-facing speakers on its phones, which wouldn’t allow for the ultranarrow bezels that’s you’d find on the iPhone X or Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones, according to TechCrunch.
Removing the headphone jack from the Pixel 2 phones also gave Google the opportunity to introduce its new Pixel Bud earphones, Queiroz said. The Pixel Bud earphones are Google’s version of Apple’s AirPods, which are designed to ease the transition from wired headphones to wireless ones, at least for those with headphone-jack-less iPhones.
Either way, my feelings about removing headphone jacks on smartphones are mixed. On the one hand, I hate wires, and I already use wireless headphones. On the other hand, headphone jacks are useful when wireless-headphone batteries die, and many wireless varieties come with headphone wires in case you’re out of reach of a charger.
Google did say the Pixel 2 phones will come with a USB-C headphone-jack adapter — so you’ll have to keep the adapter handy in case your wireless headphone batteries die, or if you plan on keeping your wired headphones.