Weekly poll: are port-less phones the future?

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The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus arrived in late 2016 with a major omission – the 3.5mm headphone jack was gone. Competitors pocked fun at Apple in ads but followed suit soon after. These days the only flagships to still offer a headphone jack are Sony, Asus and Red Magic. The jack is more common in the mid-range, but there are still many phones in that segment without one that sell millions of units.

So our question for today is this – you already bought a phone without a headphone jack, will you buy one with no wired port at all?

There have been a few prototype devices that abolished the use of wires of any kind, but there hasn’t been a mass market phone with no ports yet. What does USB does these days, anyway? It’s mostly charging. Most data transfers go over the Internet and if you’re an Apple user, over local wireless (Android’s nearby sharing isn’t as reliable or as popular).

Oppo's AirVOOC is one of several fast wireless chargers
Infinix prototype of 110W wirelss charger

Oppo’s AirVOOC is one of several fast wireless chargers • Infinix prototype of 110W wirelss charger

There are features like desktop mode, but so many phones these days are sold with USB 2.0 ports and some of those that do have USB 3.0 don’t have DisplayPort Alt mode support or the software to create a proper desktop multitasking environment (we’re looking at you, Google, OnePlus, Asus, Sony and others).

USB-C does support audio out, two versions of it, in fact. One is a digital standard that requires you to plug in an active device with its own DAC and amp (those are usually tiny adapters, but there are large and powerful units too). The other actually wires analog audio over several USB-C pins, so a passive adapter is all you need. However, looking at the ever-rising sales of Bluetooth headphones, we’re starting to think that few people use wired headsets with their smartphones.

Alright, so charging it is then and now the question is whether wireless charging is good enough. Let’s look at some numbers. The phone with the fastest wireless charging currently in our database is the Honor Magic4 Pro, which claims to do an impressive 100W. In our testing, it fully charged its 4,600mAh battery in 40 minutes (vs. 30 minutes when using its 100W charging over USB-C). Companies like Infinix are working on even faster systems.

A Samsung Galaxy S23+ with a comparable 4,700mAh battery and 45W wired charging support gets from flat to 100% in just over an hour. The Google Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max need closer to 2 hours. Even something like an old OnePlus 8 Pro from 2020 with just 30W wireless and a 4,510mAh battery keeps pace with the wired charging performance of some of the most popular flagships around.

With the new Qi2 standard, Android phones will get the more secure magnetic attachment that iPhone users have been enjoying with MagSafe. This makes the chargers easier to align, which in turn makes them more efficient and more reliable to boot.

This means that port-less phones are technologically possible today. Not just that, any physical connection may become obsolete – microSD slots are as rare as 3.5mm jacks these days and eSIM-only phones are already here (Apple is at it again). The industry is looking at an even more integrated standard called iSIM, which is built directly into the phone’s chipset (eSIMs are separate chips).

What do you think, are port-less phones the future – whether we like it or not? Or will the efficiency and user-friendliness of physical connections win out in the end?

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