The target audience for the recently launched Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL smartphones likely can't afford (quality) Bluetooth headphones, at least some Google officials believe.
The closing program of last week's Google I/O 2019 conference saw Google Product Manager Soniya Jobanputra reveal the main reason the 3.5mm headphone jack was brought back for the Pixel 3a range came down to how the team leading the project understood the target audience for the new pair of Android handsets.
"We really felt that consumers at this price point, in this price tier, really needed flexibility," Ms. Jobanputra explained, adding how flexibility is precisely what the popular audio port enables.
Nevermind the fact that the 3.5mm jack adds flexibility regardless of the price tier, which is pretty much the very definition of adding a feature to a product. The official went on to clarify Google is still fully behind digital audio and considers it to be "the ultimate way" of consuming this type of content. Someone better get Jay-Z and every other producer in the world on the line because Bluetooth audio apparently matched and surpassed a wired connection overnight and no one's been informed, at least according to Google.
Once you realize that isn't the case and try to look at the bigger picture regarding this massive push against the very concept of a physical headphone port Apple started several years back, you'll realize Bluetooth isn't so much of an "ultimate" method of audio consumption as much as it is the cheapest way of audio consumption that isn't horrible even if you're using a pair of $11.49 headphones sent to you by your local Alibaba.com-frequenting mom-and-pop dropshipping business.
The very suggestion that any kind of a wireless signal offers greater sound quality than a comparable wired alternative is frivolous, especially if one's talking about right now. Sure, Bluetooth 7.3 or some other tech may figure out a more efficient method of handling audio that requires a negligible number of compromises (assuming you're not a hardcore audiophile) but we seem to be far away from that hypothetical point right now.
The reason why an average consumer may think Bluetooth is somehow superior, which is what most smartphone manufacturers want you to think, lies in the quality of digital-to-audio converters being used in the mobile industry. Namely, it's horrible and always has been; traditional phone calls are conducted in extremely poor quality and using a DAC capable of doing anything more than that is usually seen as a waste of money unless you truly double down on the idea and spin that into a unique selling point, which is what LG has been doing with quad-DAC modules in recent years.
However, even a remotely decent DAC trumps wireless audio, Bluetooth or otherwise, in the vast majority of use cases. So, while there's no way the mobile industry doesn't finish off the 3.5mm headphone jack in the near future, don't make any mistake about why it's doing so – to immediately improve its bottom line. Putting out quality, flexible products is the best way to better profits in the long runs but it's hard to think about the bigger picture when you're a product manager pursuing a cozy promotion or a fat bonus at one of the largest tech corporations on the planet, so investing some energy into figuring out an optimal way to spin the fact you're removing a feature without an all-around superior alternative is a better way to spend your time instead of doing right by consumers. When was the last time anyone got rich by doing right by consumers, anyway?