The OnePlus 6T won't have a headphone jack, but battery life will be improved

The headphone jack on the OnePlus 6

It's confirmed: the OnePlus 6T won't have a headphone jack. We'll let that sink in for a moment.

That's right, the next OnePlus handset will be missing one of the most divisive features on modern smartphones, and TechRadar sat down exclusively with OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei to find out why now is the right time to sack the jack.

We should note that Pei didn't mention the OnePlus 6T by name, merely referring to the "next OnePlus handset", but thanks to the rumors swirling around this phone we expect it to be called the OnePlus 6T when it does arrive.

The why

Our first line of questioning was obvious. Why? Why ditch the jack? Why ditch it now? For Pei, it's about timing, and creating the best smartphone experience.

"When we started OnePlus, we set out to make the best possible smartphone, but making a great phone doesn't mean putting every component available into the device," he said. 

"You've got to make decisions that optimize the user experience, and understand that at times things that provide user value can also add friction.

"We also had to think about the negative side [of removing the headphone jack] for our users. We found 59% of our community already owned wireless headphones earlier this year - and that was before we launched our Bullets Wireless headphones.

"If we were to do that [remove the jack] two years ago, the percentage [of wireless headphones owners] would have been much lower and it would have caused a lot of friction for our users."

"We're not doing it for the sake of doing it and because everyone else is"

Carl Pei, OnePlus co-founder

Pei expects that 59% figure to now be higher thanks to the introduction of the well-received Bullets Wireless headphones - they garnered an impressive 4.5 star TechRadar review - but even over the four months since their introduction users have become a little more accepting of a world without the jack.

It's not a decision OnePlus took lightly either, as Pei explained. 

"It [removing the headphone jack] was a very controversial decision. We're not doing it for the sake of doing it and because everyone else is. We believe now is the right time, as it'll benefit the majority of our users while keeping the downside low.

"We knew this was an option for a very long time, we were just waiting for the right time."

The benefits

Pei went on to explain that there are user benefits to the removal of the port, which should bring some comfort to OnePlus fans already pouring one out for the headphone jack.

"By removing the jack we've freed up more space, allowing us to put more new technology into the product," he said. "One of the big things is something our users have asked us for, improved battery life."

Pei wouldn't be drawn on what the "new technology" will be, but we already know the OnePlus 6T will feature an in-display fingerprint scanner, which will eat up some of the space left by the exiting jack.

Equally, we were unable to glean from Pei how battery life will be improved – although OnePlus 6T rumors suggest a bigger power pack will be squeezed inside the handset – but Pei did reveal the difference would be "substantial enough for users to realize."

OnePlus is aware that some will feel inconvenienced by the removal of the headphone jack, but Pei was keen to stress that it's addressing these fears in a couple of ways.

"We're adding an adapter to the box, allowing you to use your 3.5mm headphones normally," he explained. "We're also making a new version of our Bullets V2 wired headphones, which will have a USB-C connector."

It's still unknown whether OnePlus will include any headphones at all in the box with the OnePlus 6T – wired or wireless – but it's worth noting that the firm has never bundled headphones in the box, and we don't expect things to change.

The backlash?

OnePlus' reasoning makes sense, but it's not guaranteed to stop the naysayers and jack-lovers who may feel a little betrayed by the firm.

There will be those who will miss its convenience, not to mention the ability to charge the handset while having headphones plugged in - something that's not possible with the single-port approach. But things could run a little deeper.

The headphone jack has been a prominent marketing tool for OnePlus ever since the OnePlus 3, a phone which launched three months before the iPhone 7 showed up without the port, but rumors were already rife that Apple was about to ditch it.

It made sense for OnePlus to pick up on the paranoia of smartphone users regarding the rumors, and highlight the fact its latest handset came with the all-important (at the time) port.

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That marketing strategy didn't stop with the OnePlus 3 though, and the headphone jack has cropped up numerous times since 2016, as the tweet below, from November 2017, shows.

Here, playing on the fact that it's included the feature in the newly announced OnePlus 5T, OnePlus is actively asking its community what it’s using the headphone jack for.

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Then, in the build-up to the OnePlus 6 launch earlier this year, Pei tweeted the results of the annual headphone jack poll he runs on Twitter, which found that support for the port – at least in Pei's echo chamber – was still strong.

We wouldn't be surprised if some of the OnePlus faithful expect the firm to continue providing the feature on its smartphones, and the news that the OnePlus 6T will drop the headphone jack may come as a bit of a bombshell (although it had been rumored for a while).

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The future

We asked Pei about the company's approach to publicizing the headphone jack on previous devices, and about users possibly feeling confused about its latest decision.

"Before it wasn't the right time, now we have data to back up that it is the right time," was his simple answer. 

"We're adding more technology, improving battery life and reducing as much friction as possible"

Carl Pei, OnePlus co-founder

OnePlus is also expected by its community to continually push the boundaries of design and technology, so there's hope that fans will be more forgiving when they see the bigger picture.

All in all Pei is confident the pluses outweigh the negatives, saying "we're adding more technology, improving battery life and reducing as much friction as possible by including an adapter and launching a new version of the Bullets V2."

Whether that's enough to satisfy its faithful fanbase, and attract more consumers, remains to be seen, but while the dropping of the headphone jack may be a big talking point at launch we think things will die down pretty quickly.

It's worth recalling the fuss made (by both the press and the public) over screen notch designs towards the end of 2017 and during the first half of 2018. Initially the feature received a mixed reaction, but several months on and consumers appear to have accepted the notch and moved on.

So maybe now is indeed the right time. Time we accept our loss and move on.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.