Earlier this week, Intel 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.
During its Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, 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.
Unlike the industry-standard 3.5mm analog audio, USB-C provides a number of benefits in terms of audio equipment connectivity, including sending data along with audio, no shielding required to prevent interference, the ability to draw power from the host device, automatic device discovery, easy software updates, a much smaller form factor versus the 3.5mm jack and more.
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.
Apple is rumored 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.