Intel at its Intel Developer Forum 2016 in Shenzhen, China laid out plans to promote an industry shift from an analogue to digital interface. One of the ways it plans to make the shift is by replacing the traditional 3.5mm jack that we have seen in thousands of smartphones, tablets, and PCs with the new USB Type-C port. The company is also preparing a USB Type-C digital audio specification as well.
According to Intel, the USB Type-C interfaces offer much more than a single purpose analogue port like the 3.5mm audio jack. The USB Type-C interface can perform multiple tasks such as charging a device and transferring data alongside. With power being provided by the device, headphone designers can also integrate digital-to-analogue converter and amplifier inside the headphones using the digital connection in the USB Type-C. AnandTech adds that the additional features of USB Type-C can also let headphones act as a device to track health information.
(Also see: No, It Is Not Okay for Smartphones to Ditch the 3.5mm Headphone Socket)
Intel for now is in the process to finalise the USB Type-C Digital Audio technology and is planning to release the specifications in the second quarter of this year. The company has said it is working on updating the USB Audio Device Class 2.0 specifications in order to support the new connector. Although the details have not been mentioned yet, it is for sure that the new specifications will support the new audio formats, improve power management and will add new discovery and configuration models for devices. They can also be backwards compatible with USB Audio 1.0 and 2.0. This will also make the future products more costly.
(Also see: You'll Soon Be Alerted If Your USB Type-C Cable Is Safe to Use)
For those unaware, LeEco recently launched USB Type-C earphones and headphones. It also launched three smartphones that are also the first to ditch the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack instead of USB Type-C ports.