New USB-C audio standard joins the iPhone 7's quest to kill the headphone jack

USB Type-C audio is finished, and the 3.5 mm headphone jack's days are numbered.

The future of mobile device audio is here, and if you hated the iPhone 7’s Lightning connector headphones, you’ll loathe this new solution. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) recently announced the audio specification for USB Type-C was now complete.

Officially named the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, this new release sets the standard for how audio should work over USB Type-C. The USB-IF hopes the new specification will be the “primary solution for all digital audio applications, including headsets, mobile devices, docking stations, gaming set-ups and VR solutions.”

The new audio specification can help reduce power consumption on devices, and will come with advanced features like hotword detection. The USB-IF says routing audio over the USB Type-C connection rather than a standard headphone jack can shave up to 0.03 of an inch (1 mm) off of product design. That may not seem like much, but it’s a big deal in mobile devices where every little bit of space counts. Losing the headphone jack in favor of the USB Type-C also means it will be easier to design water-resistant devices, according to the USB-IF.

Why this matters: If the lead up to (and the fallout from) the launch of the iPhone 7 has taught us anything, it’s that losing the headphone jack is a controversial advance. Sure, there were a few earlier Android phones that already did so, but with an official specification it probably won’t be long before USB Type-C headphones become standard. The change won't just affect mobile devices, either. The USB-IF sees USB Type-C audio as a solution for desktop PCs and pretty much anything else that requires headphones or speakers. It may take a while before the headphone jack is gone forever, but it definitely feels like the change is coming.

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Ian Paul

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