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.

Apple TV: the simplest user interface you could imagine

Many have speculated how Apple will change the way we use a television set. In the biography by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs is quoted saying that he finally cracked the secret of how to make a television set: “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine”. Most have imagined this to mean voice control in some fashion. I for one, do not believe that for a second – I can imagine a much more simple user interface. There are far too many problems with voice command for it to be a preferred solution in a situation where you:

  1. have your hands free
  2. are looking at the thing you want to interact with
  3. are sitting sill
  4. may want to be quiet (as not to wake other family members)
  5. may want to speak to other people in the room

Tripp and Tyler have brilliantly made fun of some of these issues.

So, what did Steve Jobs mean? I think we will see a television set with eye tracking software. I have already mentioned this when speculating about the new iPhone, but for a television set this technology would make perfect sense. Imagine a single button remote. One click on the remote to bring up a menu to one side of the screen and activate eye tracking. Click again to select the menu item you’re looking at. Repeat until you have selected something to watch. The menu goes away. Now that is simple!

Headphones round up

You can never own too many headphones/headsets, right? There’s a reason for purchasing each new pair. For me, it’s always because the ones I already have do not work well in a given situation. While most reviews are based on short term usage, I’ll review three pair of headphones and three headsets that I own and use. I’ll try to explain each new purchase and the intended usage scenario. Nowadays, it’s almost always listening to music outdoors (and taking a few calls now and then).

All headsets are designed for iPhone/Mac and have a 3.5 mm headphone jack with four connector rings. I will not review the quality of the headset microphones, but I can say that the complaints from the other end has never diminished, no matter which headset I used. My advice is, get a headset you like and forget about pleasing the ones you’re talking to.

  • Koss Porta Pro
  • Sennheiser HD 25 II
  • Sennheiser HD 650
  • V-Moda Vibe Duo
  • Klipsch Image S4i
  • Bose MIE2i Mobile headset

Koss Porta Pro


I have owned these headphones for close to 15 years and I continue to recommend them to people. Particularly to people who do not own a lot of headphones already. They are cheap, light and sound excellent on almost any equipment. I view them as somewhat fragile since they have broken a few times, but then again, that’s over a 15 year period.

Also, the open design does limit their usefulness outdoors. I would not recommend taking these out on a busy street since their great sound will be drenched in noise anyway.

Pros

  • cheap
  • excellent sound
  • performs well on any equipment
  • light
  • foldable

Cons

  • somewhat fragile
  • no noise insulation

Sennheiser HD 25-II


Outdoors on a busy street I prefer Sennheiser HD 25-II. Their closed design provides good noise insulation. They sound great too. Designed (and originally purchased) for studio/DJ use, they also play very well on extremely high volume. However, the long cord feels exessive when my pocket is only inches away. I have always wished for someone to make a separate headset cord for these, as the cord is easily replaceable, but so far, no luck.

Pros

  • great sound
  • great noise insulation

Cons

  • long cord

Sennheiser HD 650


These are the most expensive headphones I own. Their open design does not lend themselves for outdoor use (having no noise insulation capabilities). Some people seem to think that it is the size of the headphones that determine their noise insulation capabilities, but trust me, you can easily carry a conversation with these on, even while playing music. In addition, they need a powerful headphone amp to really come to justice. Typically more power than found in mobile, laptop or even cheaper consumer headphone amps. For this reason, they are mostly lying around. However, when combined with a good headphone amp, their sound quality is unmatched and a true joy to use.

Pros

  • excellent sound
  • letter l in braille on left side

Cons

  • no noise insulation
  • requires a high power headphone amp
  • expensive
  • long cord
  • bulky

V-Moda Vibe Duo


I really liked this headset. It had a great sound, good noise insulation capabilities, looked good and felt solid. It even had a highly tangle resistant woven cord that I loved. However, as many have observed, they break easily. When mine broke, I was prepared to buy another pair, given that they added volume buttons to it. When this didn’t happen, I decided to look around for another headset, since the did break very easily anyway.

Pros

  • great sound
  • noise insulation
  • tangle free
  • good looking

Cons

  • very fragile

Klipsch Image S4i


After reading a number of positive reviews I purchased a Klipsch Image S4i headset. This turned out to be a poor choice. I have nothing good to say about them, and I don’t understand why they ranked so high. The special shape of the earbuds are designed to go far into the ear canal and seal off outside noise. A side effect of this is that they also create an unpresedented vacuum which, when pulled out, causes substantial pain. Since no clothing clip is provided (supposedly because the remote is so light), this tend to happen at various occasions throughout the day. This becomes especially problematic in cold weather, where the cord becomes stiff as a stick.

The sound quality is decent, but only on moderate volume. On high volume the frequency response goes completely mad and the sound becomes severely distorted, sharp and generally unbalanced.

Oh, and prepare to untangle the cord for five minutes every time you pick them out of a pocket. How I missed my V-Moda Vibe Duo!

Pros

  • good noise insulation

Cons

  • tangle prone
  • poor sound quality at higher volumes
  • stiff cord in low temperatures
  • hurts eardrums

Bose MIE2i Mobile headset


To end the terror of Klipsch Image S4i (I was really sick of having my eardrums pulled out), I turned to an open design in-ear headset: Bose MIE2i Mobile headset. I actually went to a store to try these and I still remember when I plugged in my iPhone and started Deadmau5’s FML. The sound was just fantastic! I purchased them on the spot and has never been disappointed by the sound quality. Another evidence of the excellent sound quality is the fact that I often hear “ghosts” while I am outside with these, turning my head towards sounds in the music.

As with Koss Porta Pro, their weakness is busy streets and I can’t really recommend them in noisy environments. Taking a call in a noisy environment can be really hard.

Despite the odd look they are very comfortable. So comfortable in fact that I often find myself wearing them long after I have stopped playing music. I dare you to do that with Klipsch Image S4i!

Pros

  • excellent sound
  • performs well on any equipment

Cons

  • no noise insulation

What’s the next revolutionary iPhone feature?

I have been thinking about the iPhone 5. Specifically, what the next revolutionary feature could be. The first time I saw the iPhone, it felt like it was based on some alien technology. That feeling was not there when the iPhone 4S was released, as I have written before. I am sure that some think that Siri is as revolutionary as the touch based GUI once was, and I might think so too sometime in the future, but it has a long way to go in my opinion. This is largely due to the fact that it does not support the language that I speak daily, and I am not alone with this problem.

So, what could bring that feeling of alien technology back to the iPhone? Yesterday I was reading about eye tracking technology and I realized that eye tracking on the iPhone would again change the way we view mobile phones forever (pun intended). It already has a front facing camera so it has the necessary hardware. In the article, the Swedish eye tracking company Tobii estimated that mainstream breakthrough was about two years away. Could this be the next big thing for iPhone? I would love to see this come true! iPhone (and iPad) would once again blow the competition out of the water.

This reminds me of a scene in Back to the future Part II where Marty is in the Cafe 80’s and he is showing a couple of kids how to play a video game and their response is: “You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy!” I have always wondered how that might come true. Could this be it?