How badly do you want a headphone jack on your smartphone? Android creator Andy Rubin’s smartphone startup, Essential, is still alive after laying off 30 percent of its staff, and it’s still producing products. The latest is a headphone jack attachment called the “Audio Adapter HD” for the company’s only standalone product, the ill-fated Essential Phone.
The Essential Phone doesn’t have a headphone jack built into the device, but it does have a modular accessory system that this headphone jack can click onto. So if you really, really want to use wired audio, you can fork over a $150 for this accessory. That price seems excessive considering the entire phone has had fire sales for $250 and $224.
The Essential Phone is compatible with the usual headphone jack dongles, so this add-on is being pitched as an artisanally crafted accessory for the discerning audiophile. The company says the “limited edition” accessory is “handcrafted” and made from “100% machined titanium.” Inside is the beloved 3.5mm audio jack and a high-quality DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) from ESS Sabre. You’ll also get three free months of the Tidal HiFi music service. Besides the higher-quality DAC, the other advantage this attachment offers over the usual USB-C dongle is the ability to charge the device and listen to music at the same time! What a concept.
At 11.5mm thick, the box is somehow thicker than most entire smartphones, and keep in mind that you’re putting this on top of the 7.8mm thick Essential Phone. In addition to the audio stuff, there’s also the basic Essential modular hardware, which consists of a magnet-powered attachment system and a pair of pogo pins that provide power to the device. Phones without a headphone jack rely on wireless communication for audio, and that’s still kind of the case here, even with Essential’s wired audio accessory—data for Essential’s modular system is sent over Wireless USB.
I would have expected that a $150 headphone jack attachment for a poorly selling phone wouldn’t sell well, but the first run of the device is apparently already sold out at Essential.com.