No courage: Microsoft still requires audio jack port in Windows phones

Microsoft hasn't cut a requirement for Windows smartphones to include a port for audio jacks, while Apple and Android phones are moving on from the legacy technology

Apple said it took "courage" to remove the audio jack port from the iPhone 7 and replace it with wireless audio. Microsoft hasn't yet mustered the courage to cut the aging port.

Microsoft has retained the headphone jack as a minimum hardware requirement for Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. The company declined to comment if it would make the headphone jack an optional port.

The headphone jack port isn't a requirement for other Windows devices, including laptops, desktops, tablets, or IoT devices.

Apple gave several reasons for removing the port, saying it was old technology, and it blocked the integration of newer technologies in the already compact iPhone 7.

Before Apple, Android phone makers like LeEco and Lenovo also cut headset jacks from some mobile devices to move on from legacy technology.

Windows Mobile phone makers could still include wireless audio alongside headphone jacks. But the phone makers will lose opportunities to make devices thinner and experiment with new technologies to replace the headset jack.

Beyond wireless audio, there's a big push to make the USB-C port the replacement to headphone jacks. Pushing audio through USB-C port and removing audio jacks will allow smartphones to be thinner.

It's important to move on to newer technologies, but Microsoft's hesitance to remove the headphone jack requirement has technical and financial merits, said Bob O'Donnell, principal analyst at Technalysis Research.

There was a user backlash when Apple removed headphone jacks from the iPhone 7. People were upset at being forced with the extra cost of buying a wireless headset. Moreover, the wireless headsets have to be charged.

The quality of wireless audio isn't as reliable as it is on headphone jacks, O'Donnell said. Apple has, however, developed a special wireless audio chip that delivers audio from the iPhone 7 to the AirPod using three separate communications protocols. That ensures continued high-quality audio streaming.

Microsoft still sells Windows phones but has been cryptic about their future. Other Windows phone makers include HP, Acer, Alcatel, and Lenovo.

Smartphones with Windows have been taken a beating at the hands of iOS and Android. Shipments of Windows phones totaled 1.48 million in the third quarter of 2016, plunging from 5.87 million units in the same quarter a year ago.

The market share for Windows Mobile reached a rock-bottom 0.4 percent during the second quarter, declining from 1.7 percent a year ago, according to a report released by Gartner last month. By comparison, Android's market share was 87.8 percent, and iOS's share was 11.5 percent during the third quarter.

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Agam Shah

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