FP4. No audio mini-jack

In 2021, we released Fairphone 4, our first smartphone without a headphone jack. As a small player in the electronics industry with a mission to build a market for ethical phones and motivate the industry to act more responsibly, we often have to make tough decisions. Whether it comes to the selection of materials, partner collaborations, certifications or design, we always carefully weigh the pros and cons of every decision we make. So when considering the option to include or exclude the headphone jack, we did not take this decision lightly.

Factors that have tipped the balance towards exclusion of the headphone jack are: modularity and its influence on the phone’s size and weight, market and legislative trends and longevity. We had to sacrifice the headphone jack to make the modules as accessible as possible. It was a tough decision to make but there was simply no space for everything and we had to make some choices. In the end, in order to build a modular, 5G device, this was the best way to go for the majority of users. If the phone were bigger than it already is (and we get a lot of feedback on it being too big), it wouldn’t be commercially viable and that would limit the impact we could have on the industry.

Any decision we made would have supporters and detractors. Our main goal, however, was to ensure that we made a product that combines repairability with industry-competitive dimensions. On top of that, we wanted to create a product that lasts for at least five years. We also wanted to attract a growing audience, which would allow us to make a bigger impact on the industry.

Here are some of the key reasons why we came to the decision to remove the headphone jack:

 

Modularity and its influence on the phone’s size and weight

Fairphone 4 is already thick by industry standard because modular design makes our phone bigger than average. Modularity allows users to repair their phone easily and keep it for as long as possible. Including the headphone jack would have made the phone longer and thicker. We also know from consumer feedback that smaller dimensions are very important for handling and ergonomics.

 

Market and legislative trends

USB-C ports are becoming the standard for charging, particularly in Europe due to legislation. When we started designing Fairphone 4, we wanted the phone to be a future proof device, one that could be used for at least the next five years. Part of that strategy is including features that we forecast to become more popular in the coming years, such as eSims and 5G, and not including those that are becoming less pervasive, such as the headphone jack.

 

Longevity

Our starting point for design is longevity, which means making our devices more repairable, a very different approach to the electronics industry standard. To support maximum longevity and because of the IP rating, Fairphone 4 does not feature a headphone jack. In the end, it comes down to how we make a product that lasts for at least five years. We needed to eliminate as many vulnerabilities as possible, and the headphone jack is subject to dust and water ingress over time.

 


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why did you decide to remove the headphone jack?

To support maximum longevity and because of the IP rating, Fairphone 4 does not feature a mini-jack. In the end, it comes down to how we make a product that lasts for at least five years. We needed to eliminate as many vulnerabilities as possible, and the headphone jack is subject to dust and water ingress over time.

In addition, if we had included an audio jack, the device would simply be longer and wider, both of which are critical features of the phone to enable users to use it comfortably. It doesn't mean we want users to throw away their functional earphones or headphones. For less than 10 Euro, users can buy a small adapter that allows them to connect their device with a headphone jack to our phone. This way we provide the option to use existing devices without creating potential disadvantages for all users. We found that around one fourth of customers go for the adapter option, while the other 75% get a more competitive sized device.

Also, users can use audio equipment with a USB-C connector, ensuring the same sound quality as the analog mini-jack connector. The USB-C connector is also now a standalone spare part easy to repair or replace.

There are many factors to consider when designing a smartphone; antenna placement, durability, feel in the hand, the overall look of the phone, its weight, upcoming changes in legislation and market trends. We took all of these factors into consideration when making this decision, and stand by our choice to remove the audio jack.

Q: Would you consider reinstating the headphone jack in your next products?

In the current user feedback surveys we see more people being critical about the current Fairphone dimensions than about the fact that they have to use an adapter for using devices with headphone jack. Hence, at this stage we would not consider reinstating the headphone jack in our upcoming devices.

Q: Did you remove the headphone jack so you could sell true wireless earbuds?

No, we wanted to make the product we are making (Fairphone 4) more durable as well as competitive so that we can be more impactful.  We also wanted to move into a new product segment and raise the bar on sustainability for the earbuds segment. Earbuds are an easy entry point for consumers who aren’t ready to commit to buying a smartphone but want to support the work we are doing. Based on our website statistics, we also believe that consumers have no trouble finding our headphone jack adapter which allows them to keep using their audio products without having to buy wireless earbuds.


Of course, you can still listen to your favorite playlists, videos, and podcasts with your headphones or speakers. There are two possibilities:

  • You can connect your wireless audio equipment via Bluetooth (Fairphone 4 supports up to Bluetooth v5.1).
  • You can use any USB-C to Mini-Jack adapter with DAC chip to connect your wired audio equipment (you can also find one in our online shop).
    -IMPORTANT-
    Without a DAC chip in the adapter, the Fairphone 4 (and the Fairphone 3) wouldn't be able to play audio via the USB-C port.
    DAC Charging Dongle Cables can be a solution in case you need both charging and audio. An analogue adapter will not work. 
    Plug the adapter into the USB-C port of your Fairphone 4, and you can start listening!
  • The Fairphone USB-C to Mini Audio Jack Adapter is compatible with both TRS and TRRS jacks. When it comes to TRRS, it is compatible with both CTIA and OMTP. In simpler terms, it can be used for audio input as well as output. This enables the use of headsets with microphones or a standalone microphone.

 

Also, note that the Fairphone 4 USB-C port is a standalone spare part. If necessary, you can replace it with a screwdriver.

 


If after reading the article you need more help, get in touch with our Customer Support.