This Kickstarter makes the debate over Apple’s iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack completely irrelevant
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Jack Bluetooth adaptor Photo Credit: Podo Labs

No headphone jack? No problem with this crafty little Bluetooth adaptor that can turn any old set of headphones wireless

With only nine days left to go, Jack by Podo Labs is tearing up Kickstarter with $550,114 already raised, blowing way past the posts for their initial $20,000 goal.

If you have not yet come across their campaign video on Facebook or elsewhere explaining the product since its launch on January 23, Jack is here to make getting your headphone wires caught on a doorknob a thing of the past.

Basically, they provide a cheap alternative to wireless headphones by creating a Bluetooth connection with your phone, TV, or other connected devices, that you can then plug your headphones into for easier listening. Jack also has a couple of other tricks up his metaphorical sleeve, letting users connect with speakers at home or in your car through the AUX port. It even can make a wireless connection with a fellow Jack device so that two people can listen together, each on their own set of headphones.

Lightweight and stylish enough, the adaptor will likely come with a clip for snagging onto your shirt. It supports in-line microphones and controllers like Apple’s headphones, so your phone can stay in your bag while on the go.

The USB charging makes this an option for use as a car speaker when listening to tunes, but would still require using the mic on your phone for calls, which is less than ideal. Not that the speaker calling options that are currently out there are so great either. For calls on the go, I can recommend Anker’s SoundSync Drive that comes with both a cord for the AUX and a USB cable for charging. On my bike, the Sena SMH5 has been serving me very well with great call clarity and battery life.

Based on tests from their current model, they say that the 300mAh battery will offer 12 hours of listening. However, they note that users should take into account that sharing mode will drain the battery of one of the Jacks 30% faster.

As for the sound quality, a common issue when dealing with the slower wireless signal, the team seems to be pretty confident that they will be out ahead of their competition. They state on their site that, “Jack will output with a 44.1kHz sample rate, or whatever the source happens to transmit at (almost always 44.1kHz with the Bluetooth A2DP profile). The codec will adjust digital compression rates depending on signal quality. In normal situations when you’re within 10 feet of the source, the quality will be great.”

Obviously the quality here is hard to verify before it is actually released to the public. But based on their past experience with Bluetooth streaming on their Podo cameras, where they note that, “Jack is an extension of our existing Bluetooth code and expertise,” it is fair to say that they have some pretty good marks in their favor.

Jack Bluetooth adaptor Photo Credit: Podo Labs

Based in San Francisco, the company has already run two campaigns for their Podo cameras. A brief review of their previous campaigns shows that they both know how to put together a solid product and actually deliver it on a schedule. Like all crowdfunding campaigns, the public should be aware that they are taking a risk in backing a project. So in this regard, establishing a good reputation of reliability can really go a long way.

For now, the expected shipping date is slated for June, but as always this can change.

As we are still waiting for the campaign to end, it is too early to give this product a proper review. What I can say is that I’m tempted as hell to throw a couple of bucks their way while I figure out how I would actually use this seemingly smart adaptor since I have already found pretty solutions to nearly all of my connectivity issues.

Beyond the adaptor itself, Podo Labs is offering a number of great add-ons like headphones, cases, etc that you can pick up for a pretty good deal whle they last.

Jack Bluetooth adaptor Photo Credit: Podo Labs

On our way to a wireless future?

The battle against the wires has proved to be a mixed bag up until this point, leaving me generally dissatisfied when it comes to headphones. Last year I picked up a pair of Jabra Move Bluetooth headphones that I was hoping would simplify my listening habits.

While I give them props for comfort, range from my device, and general sound quality for listening to audio, unfortunately, they were not quite up to snuff when it came to actually making phone calls. This was a bit of a surprise given Jabra’s otherwise excellent reputation when it comes to Bluetooth mics. I still keep my trusty white EarPods in my pocket for when I need the person on the other end of the line to hear me.

The bigger hassle has actually been in getting them to reliably connect to my devices. Way too often I find myself having to reconnect to a device since it lost the signal or some other issue. It could just be me, but I am constantly jumping from my iPhone, to my Macbook, to my iPad – yes I know that I am a part of a cult, join us, we have pie and ice cream – and even to my TV, so making this a smooth process is actually pretty important.

All these reasons and more are why I am actually pretty excited about the AirPods that Apple came out with at their last keynote event. Go read a review by someone who has actually tried them out to understand why for an Apple user at least, these are a pretty great development. Not only are they supposed to sound great for their price category, but they have enough technology packed inside that should make managing my listening, calls, and many of the functions on my device a breeze.

Apple AirPods Photo Credit: Stephen Lam / Getty Images Israel

With advancements in Natural Language Processing, chatbots, and other technologies increasingly incorporating voice, having a good headset is becoming a bigger priority that the hardware industry is still playing catch up on.

The question is though are whether this direction will be a wireless one or if we will stick with the cord. If you are Apple, then they appear to have made this decision exceedingly clear.

As an Apple user, I’ve had to put up with a lot of trash talking this past year. For many, it felt like the Cupertino kids were just taking away those useful little ports that help us connect to our devices, all in the name of nickel and diming us into buying a rat king tangle of dongles and adapters.

First came the news that the iPhone 7 was dumping their headphone jack, in the name of “courage” of course. Then they came for the Macbook Pros, which while beautiful with their nifty digital toolbars, lost many of the basic ports that we all depend on for the ostensible sake of getting a little bit thinner.

Is USB-C the future of cables? Maybe, who knows? This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple made some smart calls that others considered to be counterintuitive. Do you remember the heat they took when people found out that the iPhone had no physical keyboard? You must have forgotten about it when everyone else followed suit, but I digress.

However, the loss of the headphone jack, that universal port that no one company had control over, appears to be the true sore point. After all, why should Apple make it more expensive to listen to audio, and charge $159 for their new headphones to do it? I get the rage but feel that much of it is an overreaction that misses the point.

First off, you can still use wired headphones on the newer iPhones with the included adaptor that goes into the lightning port. Less than ideal, but still doable. Secondly, I think that they might be onto something when they say that the headphone port is wasted space on the device. It was annoying when they switched from the old 32 pin connector to lightning, but it was still the right decision. I would rather they make the battery last longer or add in something more useful in its place. Thirdly, wires suck and the only reason we still use them is that they have been generally more reliable. However as wireless technology gets better with improved connectivity, longer battery life on devices, and sound quality, we should actually want to cut the cord. Be it for health reasons, fewer distractions, or simple convenience, the excuses for distancing yourself from your phone abound. Finally, the truth is that I find myself replacing my EarPods once or twice a year. If regular wear and tear don’t do enough damage to them, my cat finishes them off with some well-placed gnawing. So actually spending the $159 once for a year or two could actually end up saving me money.

Thankfully the development by folks like Podo Labs and others of more affordable ways to go wireless is making this process of wire cutting that much easier. Not everyone wants to shell out $300 for a set of Beats over ears, or the cheaper AirPods. At $29, Jack is a steal that gives you the freedom to use the headphones of your choice at a fraction of the cost.

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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