The Samsung Galaxy S20 series don’t have headphone jacks but still support microSD cards
The end of an era
Samsung was a proponent of 3.5mm headphone jacks in flagship phones long after other device makers quickly moved away from them. The Apple iPhone 7 removed the headphone jack in September 2016, with Apple citing “the courage to move on.” Not content to be left behind, multiple Android device makers started to remove the headphone jack in their flagship phones too (in fact, Motorola removed it before Apple did). Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus, OPPO, Sony, Motorola, Google, ZTE, and others were guilty of falling prey to the disease of removing a practical feature that increased convenience in consumers’ lives. They said they did it for saving space and increasing battery capacities, but the more logical reason was to force consumers to buy into their Bluetooth wireless audio ecosystems. Samsung, however, valiantly held out. Now, the game is up for users expecting the headphone jack in the flagship Galaxy S series, as the Samsung Galaxy S20 phones don’t have headphone jacks. This is something that we’ve been expecting since the first renders came out.
The story of Samsung’s flagship phones and the 3.5mm headphone jack
It didn’t have to turn out this way. The Samsung Galaxy S8 still kept the 3.5mm headphone jack despite rumors to the contrary. It was then retained in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 kept on with the momentum of riding against a popular trend in flagship smartphones. Incredibly, the 3.5mm headphone jack was still present in the Samsung Galaxy S10 series, at a time when Samsung and LG were the only major vendors to include it in top-tier flagship phones. Affordable flagships and upper mid-range phones from the likes of Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo, and Huawei still had the headphone jack, along with nearly all budget and lower mid-range phones. In other top-tier expensive flagships, however, it had virtually disappeared. Praising Samsung’s resilience, here is what I wrote in my Samsung Galaxy S10e review:
“The Samsung Galaxy S10e also retains the 3.5mm headphone jack that was once described as ubiquitous. At this point, Samsung and LG are the only major smartphone vendors selling top-tier flagship phones with headphone jacks. Therefore, I can’t praise Samsung enough for its decision to keep the headphone jack. In the here and now, I firmly believe that the headphone jack is an important part and convenience in the lives of many users, and the Galaxy S10e delivers in terms of usability. Users do not have to worry about losing their 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapters. Users do not have to worry about not being able to charge their phone while listening to audio. It’s such a situation where most Chinese device makers have fallen flat while Samsung has shown integrity in sticking with the headphone jack. I hope I don’t have to swallow my praise for Samsung with future Galaxy flagships (I’ll be very disappointed if I have to do so), but at least for now, the Galaxy S10e’s choice of including the headphone jack makes complete sense.”
The Galaxy Note 10 series removed the headphone jack, and as expected, the Galaxy S20 series has now followed it. It turns out I have to swallow my praise after all. Samsung’s rationale for removing the headphone jack can be explained in the industry-preferred way where headphone jacks take too much internal space. Removing the headphone jack supposedly enables device makers to increase the battery capacity and add better vibration motors. This theory should be taken with skepticism when we consider teardowns of multiple phones, which show that the space previously taken up by the headphone jack isn’t used for anything else; the battery capacity factor is unrelated.
In simpler terms, we should note that the company has a target of promoting the Galaxy Buds truly wireless earbuds. It launched the Galaxy Buds+ alongside the Galaxy S20 series. Of course, the expensive earbuds aren’t bundled in the Galaxy S20’s box (although some regions will get it free as a pre-ordering bonus), but Samsung does have a mitigating factor of bundling AKG-branded USB Type-C earphones. The company doesn’t bundle a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter, though, just like the box package of the Galaxy Note 10 series.
The long-and-short of the matter is that the Galaxy S20 series is less versatile for audio than something like the Redmi Note 8 Pro, despite having a 4x higher price tag. If users want headphone jacks, they will either have to buy an LG flagship phone or stay away from flagship phones altogether.
MicroSD card support is thankfully present, though
On the other hand, the Galaxy S20 phones do retain microSD card support. MicroSD cards are an affordable and convenient way of expanding internal storage (even 1TB microSD cards are now available), but more and more device launches have opted to skip it over the past two years as the base internal storage capacity of flagship smartphones has increased to 64GB and then a more palatable 128GB over the last couple of years. Samsung strangely removed the microSD card slot in the standard Galaxy Note 10 but opted to keep it in the bigger Galaxy Note 10+. All three variants in the Galaxy S20 series: the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and Galaxy S20 Ultra have microSD slots. The dual SIM variants have a “hybrid” slot, as expected, where users can either have dual SIMs or a single SIM plus a microSD card. The single SIM variants will allow only a microSD card.
So we have this strange situation that with the Galaxy S20, Samsung is retaining one popular feature and letting go of another popular one. Time will tell if its decisions are validated by consumers’ purchasing power.