Intel this week announced plans to usher in the adoption of an audio USB Type-C connector that would replace the standard 3.5 millimeter analog jack and eventually be capable of digital audio transmission (via Anandtech).
The plans were announced during the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, where the semiconductor manufacturer set out its project to develop USB Type-C Digital Audio. Intel remained vague about the digital conversion, but set out broad aims to update the USB Audio Device 2.0 protocol specifications to include up-to-date audio features, while simplifying discovery and improving power management, with plans to release the revised specification in the second quarter this year.
Intel hopes that the improved USB-C audio specification would eventually amount to a standardized connector replacement and eliminate the traditional audio jack from laptops, smartphones and tablets, eventually ushering in a transition to fully digital audio.
From a consumer perspective, this could mean higher-quality audio output, more remote control possibilities on headsets, potential biometric health data tracking (such as in-ear heart-rate monitoring), and supplied power for features like active noise-cancelling without the need for dedicated batteries.
The news comes amid iPhone 7 rumors suggesting Apple is also looking to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack on its future mobile devices, however speculation gravitates towards Apple replacing it with a proprietary Lightning port capable of transmitting audio. With no headphone jack, wired headphones would connect to the iPhone 7 using its Lightning port and Bluetooth headphones would connect wirelessly.
Apple could theoretically implement Intel's USB-C digital audio protocol in future Macs, although details remain unknown. Either way, given that LeEco already offers smartphones with USB-C-only audio, and JBL sells noise-cancelling USB-C headphones, the 3.5mm audio jack appears to be nearing the end of its life in the consumer technology market.