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I’m thinking of starting a whole blog simply dedicated to glaring engineering / design mistakes that companies build into their products. But instead, i’ll start a new series of posts here where we can discuss some of the crazy things we encounter when reviewing handsets. Clearly someone chooses to make things this way, but many times it seems the consequences these choices have on users are totally ignored.

For instance, today we’ll take a look at accessory and headset jacks. These days most manufacturers are putting these jacks on the sides of phones. But like our mama said, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should too. On some phones this placement is acceptable. For instance, tiny flip don’t leave any space on the top or bottom for jacks, so they must go on the side. When you connect a headset or a headphone adaptor to these phones, you can either turn the phone sideways in your pocket or you can leave it upright and let the adaptor jut out to the side a bit. The phone is small enough that you can get away with the mild discomfort of either of these solutions. But what about when phone is larger – like, say, a thick slider or a big QWERTY phone? Well then you’ll most likely have to turn the phone sideways in your pocket if you have a headset plugged in. And that, my friends, is very uncomfortable. The list of phones that commit this offense is longer than the list of phones that get it right, and that’s a shame.

If just one person at any of the guilty manufacturers had plugged one headset or set of earphones  in and tried to put the phone back in their pocket, they would have noticed how uncomfortable things would be. They could have made a difference. But instead a team or designers and engineers carefully placed these jacks where they would be cheapest or most convenient, and not where they made sense. And today, when trying to plug my Sennheisers into an offending phone that put a 3.5mm headset jack on the side, all I got was a pocket full of OUCH. I will not call out this phone by name since it is not uniquely guilty of this offense.

I know fixing this is not as simple as just moving a jack – it probably would require re-engineering circuit boards and designing bodies to accommodate the move. But making changes like this show that a company cares about us users, and that they expect us to actually USE the features they list on the box, and not merely just buy their product because said feature was listed. And for all those companies who would say, “well why don’t you just use Bluetooth headphones, Mr. high tech phone reviewer,” I would gladly argue back “Have you ever tried to use those?” Cripes if anything, including my own body comes between any phone and any pair of Bluetooth headphones I’ve tried, they always cut out. it’s so frustrating and such a drain on the battery that i refuse to use them. 

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