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Computing

Be honest: Your next laptop doesn’t need a headphone jack

It’s been years since we’ve had to debate the merits of analog headphones jacks. But like it or not, we’ve all moved on from there in our smartphones, accepting the fact that wireless earbuds, USB-C (or Lightning) headphones, and the occasional dongle will suffice. Even the iPad Pro moved on from the beloved headphone jack.

But in 2022, the issue has returned — and this time, it’s for laptops.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is the company’s new flagship laptop, a device bursting at the seams with new ideas and fresh innovation. Among these features are an invisible haptic touchpad, an edge-to-edge keyboard, and even a row of capacitive touch buttons to replace the function keys.

The extremely compact and refined design, though, didn’t leave room for a conventional audio jack. It’s not that the device is too thin to house a headphone jack — after all, even the ultra-thin M2 MacBook Air includes one.

Instead, it’s about how the designers at Dell choose to use the space available to them. The keyboard on the XPS 13 Plus runs right up to the edge of the chassis sides, giving the device an extremely efficient-looking design. No space is wasted, allowing for the extra-large keycaps to extend right to the edge of the laptop. It’s a spectacular look.

Dell has shown how certain designs had been off the table due to the need for a headphone jack.

But it also means that the only location available to include ports are in the small area between the keyboard and the hinge. Without wanting to ditch one of the two USB-C ports, that left the headphone jack on the cutting room floor. In other words, it’s the removal of the headphone jack that allows for this kind type of design innovation.

That’s a lot more justification than was given when the iPhone first ditched its headphone jack. We were told it would allow for thinner devices, bigger batteries, and more features — but we were never given proof. With the XPS 13 Plus, Dell has shown how certain designs had been off the table due to the need for a headphone jack.

That’s bound to not be true for every laptop that decides to cut out this port in the future. Some manufacturers will undoubtedly jump on the bandwagon just to appear edgy or fashionable. But who knows what other innovation some extra space within the chassis could allow for? Every millimeter counts, and one less port can sometimes make all the difference.

The side of the keyboard on the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

And because smartphones led the way in the accelerated adoption of wireless audio, we’re much more prepared to leave the headphone jack behind. Wireless earbuds are cheap and widely available, even as connectivity standards like Bluetooth 5.2 continue to improve.

Personally, I found myself using the headphone jack on laptops less and less — and I bet you do too. Don’t believe me? Just go ahead and count how many times you actually need to use it over the next week. I bet it’s less than you realize.

In my time with the XPS 13 Plus, I only encountered one situation when I actually wished I had a headphone jack. My wireless earbuds had died, and I wanted to listen to some music while I worked. Lo and behold, there was nowhere to plug in my backup pair of wired headphones. Thing is, the adapter Dell included in the box fixed this problem within a few seconds. Before I knew it, I was back to work. It’s a bit of a clumsy solution, but hey, it showed me how small my perceived “need” for a headphone jack really was.

I’m not saying every laptop in the future needs to ditch headphone jacks.

Now, I know what you’re saying. You love your set of old wired computer speakers that you use at your desk. Or maybe you enjoy the ease of jacking into your living room entertainment system. Or maybe you just hate Bluetooth.

I’m not saying every laptop in the future needs to ditch headphone jacks. The huge variety of designs in the world of PCs and laptops is its great strength, and it means there will always be room for devices that carry older ports. Heck, even Apple reversed course on its MacBook Pros to bring back ports like HDMI and an SD card slot. There are certain use cases with laptops that certainly make sense for a headphone jack to be included.

But don’t poo-poo the innovation. I agree that removing features for the sake of removing them doesn’t help anyone. But Dell has already proved that there are advantages to taking the plunge — and I, for one, am ready to embrace what a headphone jack-less future has in store.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Square Bitcoin hardware wallet floated by Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey revealed that Square was considering creating a Bitcoin hardware wallet this week. He suggested that “if we do it”, they’ll build it “in the open, from software to hardware design, and in collaboration with the community.” Jack suggested that if they do it, they’ll do it with principals like “bitcoin is for everyone” and “no keys, no cheese.”

What does “no keys, no cheese” mean? In this case, it means Square wants to make the actual “custody” of the Bitcoin as clear as possible. To do this, they’ll be attempting to simplify the process with some sort of “assisted self-custody” system.

They’ll also be attempting to “blend availability and security.” They’ll have to consider that safety failures stem from one of three types of events. As Jack suggested, these are availability failures (“sunken gold”), security failures (“pirated gold”), and discretionary actions (“confiscated gold”).

They’ll likely integrate this hardware wallet with their own Cash App. They’ll likely be creating a custom-built app, but “it doesn’t need to be owned by Square.” Jack suggested that they’re able to “imagine apps that work without Square and maybe also without permission from Apple and Google.” The entire Tweet string makes the case for the wallet – and asks whether it should exist in the first place.

This should prove interesting. Making an app that doesn’t rely on permission from Apple or Google AND works reliably on mobile devices – that’s not easy. That might not even be possible. Would you trust a hardware wallet for your Bitcoin that follows all the guidelines as listed above? Even if it was made by Square?



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Categories
Tech News

The Verizon-exclusive Motorola Edge+ has high-end specs and a headphone jack for $1,000

If you’ve been patiently hoping for Motorola to get back in the premium Android phone game, your wish has been answered. Following years of solid mid-range offerings, Motorola has launched the Edge Plus, a full-on premium Android phone that’s locked to Verizon and costs as much as the Galaxy S20.

The bigger news might be that it features a 3.5mm headphone jack. Long extinct from iPhones and endangered on most Android phones, the tiny port is a welcome sight on the Motorola Edge+, which also sports speakers tuned by Waves audio.

You’ll also get a dramatic waterfall screen with a near-90-degree edge, 5G with support for Verizon’s super-speedy mmWave network, and the latest Snapdragon 865 processor, along with other ultra-premium specs:

  • Dimensions: 161.1 x 71.4 x 9.6mm
  • Display: 6.7-inch Full HD+ OLED, 90Hz
  • Processor: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Front camera: 25MP
  • Rear camera (triple): 108MP main + 8MP zoom (3X) + 16MP ultra wide + time-of-flight
  • Battery: 5,000mAh

Those specs match up well with other similarly priced phones, and it also comes with wireless charging and an expandable storage slot. However, you won’t find a couple of things you’d expect. For one, while Motorola claims the Edge+ has a “water-repellant design,” the phone doesn’t have an official IP rating, so you probably won’t want to take it swimming. Also, its wired charging tops off at 15W, slower than most other phones. You can, however, use it to charge other phones or earbuds with reverse wireless charging.

To take advantage of its dramatic curves, Motorola has a new software feature called Edge Touch, similar to Samsung’s own Edge screen settings. When on a table, the sides of the phone will light up to show charging status, incoming calls, alarms, and notifications, while you can swipe on the edge to bring up the notification panel or switch apps.

In addition to a camera that rivals the S20 Ultra on paper, the Edge+ also can record in 6K and lets you pull 20MP pictures from videos. It also comes equipped with Quad Pixel technology with four times the light sensitivity “to capture incredibly clear and crisp photos in all lighting conditions.”

The Motorola Edge+ will be available exclusively at Verizon on May 14 for $1,000.

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