When Apple decided to strip its flagship phones of the headphone jack, certain people were angry. Those relying on the headphone jack for non-music things were grumpy, but so were those of us who had recently dropped hundreds of dollars on new, high-end headphones. Jack — a Kickstarter campaign in its final hours — offers reprieve to both groups.
“We were on the Highway1 accelerator,” Eddie Lee, Podo’s co-founder, tells me, and we’re doing a lot of work developing our own Bluetooth stack. When Apple announced they were going to remove the headphone jack, we looked at each other and thought — well, that’s something we can help with.”
The result is Jack. Jack is a simple Bluetooth device that helps music and podcasting fans reconnect with their phones, even if the headphones they love are encumbered with the ancient technology of “wires,” on which Apple so courageously declared its violent putsch.
I tried out the Jack last week, and it delivers on its promise. Crystal-clear sound, easy to pair and the device is designed to be unobtrusive. The metal clip encircling its case could be mistaken for a tie clip. If anyone in the café where we met would have worn a tie, that is. Either way; design-wise, it’s simple and understated.
“We’re hoping to sell Jack at $39, eventually,” says Lee, “but for the Kickstarter campaign, we’re selling them for $29.”
The Jack has a couple of cool tricks up its sleeve, too. The Podo crew tells me you can hook several of them up to each other wirelessly, connecting them to several sets of headphones or speakers. Perfect for creating a tiny silent disco experience, I suppose.
“In theory, we can hook up an infinite number of Jacks to each other,” Lee says, before admitting that they’re not yet able to consistently do that. “On the Kickstarter campaign we are selling two of them as a buddy pack, because we’re able to get two Jacks to connect and work well consistently. We are optimistic about being able to do more than two, eventually.”
The Jack can work both as a receiver and a transmitter. The case for the latter is to add Bluetooth functionality to devices that typically don’t have it — televisions, for example.
I feel that Podo’s biggest challenge is going to be defending the price-tag; $39 may be worth it if you have a $500 pair of headphones you can’t use otherwise, of course. Nonetheless, there are cheaper devices already available — convincing customers to shell out more money may be a hard argument to make, even if Jack does prove to be higher quality with better battery life and snazzier design. That hasn’t stopped more than 15,000 people from backing the Kickstarter campaign with more than three-quarters of a million dollars so far, though, so what do I know.