Intel hopes USB-C will replace the headphone jack

It's working on support that could put an end to 3.5mm ports on PCs and phones.

That recent trend of gadgets ditching the headphone jack in favor of thinner, more advanced ports? Like it or not, it's going to continue for a while yet. Intel is proposing that companies use expanded USB-C audio support to "eliminate" 3.5mm audio on mobile devices. It's not just about removing the bulk of a narrow-purpose port, either. As with Apple's Lightning audio, this would increase the use of digital sound and encourage smart headphones and speakers that handle more audio processing (think built-in DACs and improved noise cancellation). They'd even support upgrades, so your headphones might learn new tricks as time goes on.

Intel is aware that this wouldn't be an easy transition, but it thinks the tech has legs. The wider spec supports analog audio (through adapters), so you wouldn't need to go digital right away. It might be expensive at first, particularly on low-end devices, but Intel is counting on costs dropping as technology and economies of scale catch up.

How quickly companies take to the concept is up in the air. The tech industry is notoriously reluctant to let go of analog technology -- just look at how many PCs still had VGA ports well after digital display formats took hold. However, the rush to make ever-slimmer devices might push companies toward USB-C audio. You could see ultra-thin laptops that don't compromise so much on expansion, or smartphones that have room for bigger batteries without having to bulk up. The main concern is that you're more likely to see wired headphones that only have full functionality on specific devices. That already happens today, but it could be more common going forward.