iPhone 5 – no analog line out?

iPhone 5 is announced. This is it. It is time to upgrade that old phone. I don’t need any of the new “features” anymore than I did last year when the 4S was announced, but a thinner and lighter phone can’t hurt. Here we go! Oh, wait a minute…

No analog line out? That’s a deal breaker. I mean, everything isn’t digital nor will it be in the next five years, and I actually use the analog line output. It’s not a theoretical nice to have feature that I would never ever use, such as the ability to “root” my phone (I don’t even know what that means, but I imagine it’s something Linux people like to do all day long). It does not take much effort to realize that the 8-pins, duplicated on each side of the connector, is not enough to support analog line output. Judging from the existing connector’s pin layout, USB probably uses 6 of those pins and the remaining two is probably supplying high current power.

For a moment I considered forgetting about the iPhone 5 and purchase a 4S instead, if nothing else to show them that I was disappointed… But then I realized: the headphone jack has been moved to the bottom of the phone. While I disagree with this move, it makes perfect sense. Moving it to the bottom of the phone enables a docking station that uses the headphone jack directly for analog line out, since you can’t keep your headphones plugged in when attaching to a docking station anymore. This is why I disagreed with the move in the first place. However, while you could keep the headphones plugged in in previous models, you would only get sound from either the speakers or the headphones. I think that this is almost certainly because the same components serve both the headphone jack and the line out. All iOS needs to do is turn off the headphone jack and adjust the output level when the docking station is plugged in. This is still possible with iPhone 5, but using the headphone jack directly (and obviously adjust the level, but not turn it off).

I will keep an eye on this issue, specifically because I haven’t seen any accessory that matches the above description yet, but I feel confident that there will be analog line out for the new iPhone.

5 thoughts on “iPhone 5 – no analog line out?”

  1. The headphone out comes from the amplifier, lineout comes straight from the dac, bypassing the amplifier allowing it to be amplified by another device without adding extra noise or distortion. There is really no positive point to Apple removing the lineout, its all bad.

  2. I didn’t know that. So you’re saying it would work, but the audio quality would not be as good as before? I read somewhere that the adapter has a DAC in it. It seems that they are not using the headphone jack, that should solve the noise issue you describe. I agree with you though. I really dislike the new placement. It’s in the way more than it isn’t. The only benefit is that the cord is not in the way when browsing, but that could have been solved by enabling upside down mode in Safari. I don’t think that had anything to do with the move though.

  3. Yep, the adapter has a DAC it in, so they have basically removed a function, then given it back to you at extra cost. This is one of the worst moves Apple has made in a long time, but seems to have made no ripples in the tech press (lack of understanding?).

  4. “It does not take much effort to realize that the 8-pins, duplicated on each side of the connector, is not enough to support analog line output.”

    This would be true if Lightning were simply a new physical-connector design whose pins mapped passively to USB. Fortunately, as Rainer Brockerhoff explains in considerable detail, it’s not:

    http://brockerhoff.net/blog/2012/09/23/boom-pins/

    I can personally attest that you can get line-out from an iPhone 5. I’ve had, for several years, a car adapter that plugs into the cigarette lighter, and from which emerge a 30-pin cable and an eighth-inch line-out jack. When I connect it to my iPhone 5 using Apple’s Lightning to 30-pin Adapter, I get the line-out signal I expect.

    I discovered this morning that Apple’s Adapter also works with SendStar’s PocketDock Line Out Mini USB, which, unlike my car adapter (a) is still available for actual purchase and (b) can be used from locations other than my driver’s seat.

    http://www.sendstation.com/us/products/pocketdock/lineout-miniusb.html

    So: line out from an iPhone 5 is possible with existing and available hardware, without ever touching the headphone socket, even if the currently-necessary chain of adapters is not the most aesthetically delightful solution ever. (Indeed, it was a Google search to see if one-piece Lightning-to-line-out adapters were available yet that led me to this very page.)

    Cheers!

  5. I didn’t realize when I wrote this post that it would attract so many readers and I didn’t expect feedback as clarifying and helpful as it has been. Thank you! I am looking forward to reading the article about the adaptive design in full. After writing this post I found out that the lightning to 30-pin adapter actually contains a DAC, which resolves the issue and explains why the old accessories work, but technically does not prove or disproves whether iPhone 5 is capable of line out or not. The adaptive design might allow analog signals, but my guess is that it is digital only.

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