The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has announced a new specification for carrying audio over the USB Type-C connector, in a bid to wave farewell to the humble 3.5mm audio jack.
Apple has made a number of headlines of late following its decision to drop the 3.5mm analogue audio jack from its latest iPhone devices in favour of digital audio transferred either wirelessly via Bluetooth or using wired headphones tapped into a digital audio signal from the Lightning port. While an adaptor which allows traditional 3.5mm analogue headphones to be connected to the Lightning port is bundled with each phone, the company's intention to push the industry into phasing out a remarkably long-lived connector is clear.
While Apple may seem to be leading the charge - though it is not the first company to release a phone which requires an adaptor to use 3.5mm headphones by a few decades - the USB-IF has made it clear that it is more than willing to help its members follow. The company's latest formal standard, USB Audio Device Class 3.0, details how to carry audio signals over USB via a Type-C connector. To quote the company's press release: 'USB Audio over USB Type-C allows OEMs to remove the 3.5mm analogue audio jack, shaving up to a millimetre off product designs and reducing the number of connectors on a device. Fewer connectors will open the door for innovation in countless ways and make it easier to design waterproof or water-resistant devices.'
The new audio standard has other advantages too, the USB-IF claims: the specification offers reduced power consumption over other USB-connected audio implementations, is easier to implement in devices, includes capabilities such as hotword detection for voice-activated assistants like Google Now, and includes minimum interoperability requirements which should guarantee that any headset bearing USB Audio Device Class 3.0 certification should work with any smartphone offering the same.
USB-IF's hopes for the standard extend beyond the mobile realm, too. The group has indicated that it sees USB Type-C's newfound ability to carry digital data, power, audio, and video signals as being perfect for everything from headsets and mobile devices through to docking stations, gaming setups, and even virtual reality hardware.
The USB-IF has not confirmed when the first devices conforming to the new standard are likely to hit the open market.