Tech Tuesday: Do you need a headphone jack?
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, Apple held a press event and announced the iPhone 7, which features two camera lenses and a new processor, will not have a headphone jack.
Removing the headphone jack makes it possible for additions to other internal parts of the phone, such as a larger battery cell and the advanced processor.
But the announcement to remove the headphone jack was highly controversial, as users will now have to use the Lightning port for their earbuds. This prevents users from being able to simultaneously use their earbuds and charge their phone, according to the site.
To combat this, Apple also announced the release of new wireless headphones, called AirPods, which connect to the phone via Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth is a “global wireless communication standard that connects devices together over a certain distance."
Rather than using wires, Bluetooth devices have computer chips containing radios and use radio waves to connect. Devices can connect to each other through a process called “pairing,” according to the site.
An alternative technology that avoids wires is infrared (IR) light, which is a frequency of light lower than the human eye can recognize. An example of IR light usage in technology is a television remote control.
IR signals must be lined up between the devices using it, and only two devices can be connected. For example, a television remote must be pointed at the television in order to work, and the remote can only work on that one television, according to the site.
Bluetooth devices transmit information at a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz, the same frequency used by baby monitors and cordless phones. To avoid interfering with those systems, Bluetooth signals are very weak, with a range of only about 10 feet.
These devices communicate to each other over a network, called a “piconet,” that can contain two to eight devices, with one device sending information and the rest listening along, according to the Bluetooth website.
A special technique is used to prevent transmitters from mistakenly communicating with each other. Transmitters constantly switch between 79 random frequencies in a given range, making it highly unlikely two transmitters mistakenly communicate on the same frequency, according to the site.
Piconets move together as the transmitter’s frequency changes, preventing the signal from getting lost at any time, according to the site.
Perks of Bluetooth devices include low power usage, ease of use and low cost, according to the Bluetooth website.
Headphone jacks work in a different way, employing the use of a wire and magnets to create a closed circuit and subsequently create sound.
A current is passed through the earbud wire, which eventually reaches a permanent magnet at the end that pushes the air to produce a sound, according to the site.
The segments at the metal end of an earbud plug show where each signal will go. Many earbuds have three segments, one sending currents to each ear and the third being shared by both sides. Earbuds with microphones have a fourth segment, according to the site.
While Bluetooth earbuds need very little power to power the Bluetooth radio, wired earbuds do not require any power once connected to the device, according to StereoCompare, a “digital magazine focused on the audio market.”
Bluetooth earbuds are also held back by their need to have data compressed before its transmission to the earbuds. This means that more complex sounds will appear distorted, as the audio stream size is reduced before being sent to the earbuds, according to the site.
Conversely, wired earbuds do not require compression and can take the audio data in its intended form. As such, there is no audio distortion or loss of clarity, according to the site.
Although Bluetooth earbuds lose some quality, they do not have wires that tangle, and the technology is still very useful in other areas where wireless communication is preferable, such as wireless printing and keyboard usage.
Harshel Patel is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry. He is the digital editor of The Daily Targum. He can be found on Twitter @harshel_p.