Which android phone has the best camera and has a headphone jack?
January 21, 2019 6:13 PM   Subscribe

(or should I just get a Google Pixel and deal with the annoying headphone situation?)

I'm a few weeks away from going on a two-month long epic trip through several counties, and I need to get a new phone before I go (my old Nexus 5 is on its last legs). Because I don't want to bring my DSLR with me, I thought I might go for the Google Pixel because of the camera (I especially love the night mode.)

After spending a lot of time researching though, I feel like the lack of headphone jack is a dealbreaker. I mainly use my phone for taking photos, making calls, and listening to music. I feel like wired headphones are more reliable, and I don't want to deal with having another thing to charge, or a dongle that could get lost. It seems like a lot of people are frustrated with new phones not having a headphone jack.

Wondering if anyone has faced the same dilemma? Do you love your android phone that has both a camera and headphone jack?

I've read the Verge, Wirecutter, Reddit and all kinds of review sites but I'm getting overwhelmed by this decision and would love to hear from my favourite community.

I'm in Canada and not on a plan so will be buying the phone outright. Thanks in advance!
posted by Pademelon to Technology (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I got a Samsung S9 specifically because it has a headphone jack and the Pixel does not (and also because it has a narrower form factor than the Moto, though that's neither here nor there). According to reviews, it's supposed to have a very good camera but I don't shoot enough to say one way or another.
posted by mhum at 6:37 PM on January 21

The Pixel 2 is a wonderful device and the best phone and camera I have had so far. I think it's worth the headphone situation. I do not recommend getting a 3.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:39 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]

Also, the S9 is priced like a competitor to the iPhone -- which might be a pretty big drawback if you're buying outright -- so I wouldn't expect its camera to lag too far behind.
posted by mhum at 6:39 PM on January 21

The USB-C port on the Pixel 3 is usable as a headphone jack, and the phone comes with a set of wired USB-C headphones, as well as a 3/8" to USB-C converter that you can perma-attach to a pair of wired headphones you already own.

I own one, love the camera, and have never needed to use wireless headphones (which I also hate).
posted by introcosm at 7:10 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]

I'm on Google Fi. I got the first gen Pixel XL a few months ago when I did a insurance claim on my Nexus 6P because of the known early-shutdown battery-degredation issue. There aren't any more 6Ps to replace it with so they sent me a Pixel XL for a $100 deductable.

While it's not as good a camera as the Pixel 2 or 3 it's a very good phone, one of the very best cameras in its time with great battery life. It's the only model year of the Pixels to have a headphone jack and I use that daily to plug into the non-BT stereo on my workvan. It got the Android 9 update but it probably won't see Android 10 officially (but who knows).

One of the coolest things is that the recent Pixel 3 software innovations like Nightsight and the Google Assistant Call Screener have been pushed down to it. Even though they're only a year apart the SoC seems way way better than my Nexus 6P, so between that, Android 10 and the whiz-bang Pixel 3 software tricks, it feels like one hell of a nice phone compared to the 6P. You can probably find them at a pretty good price since it's not the latest-greatest.
posted by glonous keming at 7:27 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I have the note 9 and the camera is outstanding
posted by pyro979 at 7:46 PM on January 21

Just got a Note 9 myself and there's a headphone jack and a GREAT camera. Plus remote trigger the shutter with the stylus!
posted by DSime at 7:51 PM on January 21

I have a pixel 2. When I bought it I wondered at the lack of a headphone jack but thought well, I guess this is the trend, maybe it's not such a big deal.

Turns out, it really is annoying. The dongle works, but it's just one more thing to fiddle with and possibly misplace. Which I've already done a few times.

But I guess I also wouldn't consider it a total deal breaker if I had some other was some other reason I really wanted that model. I'd probably buy a second dongle, though, just in case.

I dunno. Best of luck deciding.
posted by bfields at 8:20 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

OnePlus 6. I think the 6T got rid of the headphone jack, but mine has a terrific camera and a headphone jack. Cost is around $600 US. I love the headphone jack if, for no other reason, I have one less piece of gear to charge. I get a lot of compliments on my photo's clarity. I have no idea how it compares to anything but my previous phones including a first gen Pixel and a Nexus5X.

I highly recommend the OnePlus 6.
posted by AugustWest at 8:36 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I bought a Pixel 2 XL when it came out, bought between angrily clenched teeth because of the lack of a headphone jack. Less than a month later, I didn't miss wired headphones for daily use at all, and love the freedom of having my phone in my bag and wearing bluetooth earbuds. When traveling, I have a pair of wired headphones so I don't have to worry about bringing another charger or a battery pack. When I do that, I find the best way to not lose the dongle is to always keep it plugged in to your headphones like it's a part of them.

The lack of a headphone jack is one of those things that seems like a dealbreaker until you live with it for a week or two; then it really doesn't matter. And honestly, the camera on my Pixel is so much better than I've ever had on a mobile phone, it is completely worth the lack of a headphone jack.
posted by pdb at 8:41 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I have the Pixel 2 and I don't miss the headphone jack, although I have had to invest in a bluetooth headset because there is an issue with the USB C adaptor that causes the microphone (when using a wired headset) to pick up any and all sounds.

This is a persistent issue with the Pixel 2 -- I have had two Pixel 2s so far.

However, it's a lot more convenient to not have to deal with tangled headphone cables, and I still have a pair of wired earbuds as backup for when my bluetooth headset runs out of juice.

However, with the Pixel 2 you're getting a phone that just works, and that has a long battery life. And the camera/image software processing is phenomenal.
posted by JamesBay at 9:11 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I went from Nexus 6P to Pixel 2 and the OS has really matured.
posted by JamesBay at 9:12 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

A good set of Bluetooth headphones will change your life. Physically tethering your head to the phone in your pocket is really inconvenient, but I didn't really notice until I stopped doing it. Headphones last many hours per charge and can use the same adapter as your phone.

I have a pixel 3 and the camera really is wonderful. It's a significant, obvious step up from a Galaxy s8. Night sight is amazing, but so is portrait mode and the wide angle selfie lens. Add telephoto and it would be perfect.

My answer is then: if you can afford Bluetooth headphones, the jack should not be a deal breaker. Consider whether telephoto is, though. As a DSLR user, you know that changing focal length has a big effect on the shots you can take.
posted by dbx at 10:04 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]

I use bluetooth headphones for most of my listening pleasure. However, for me, a headphone jack is a necessity especially for travelling. When you do not have reliable access to power and are using backup batteries constantly, headphone jacks become more valuable.

I personally use a Nokia (HMD Global) 8. Highly recommended if you can find one.
posted by wile e at 1:01 AM on January 22

I (newly) have a pixel phone, and this hasn't been a problem for me. I just keep the dongle attached to my earphones and I don't really notice it at all.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 1:04 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna go against the grain and say I hate the lack of headphone jack despite being a Pixel 2 user. If the phone wasn't otherwise really good, I'd dump it in a second for one with a headphone jack. I hate the annoyance of charging the Bluetooth headphones and never really had an issue with cords. I ended buying a better paid of corded USB-C headphones because the ones that come with the Pixel are rubbish, and am much happier with the setup. If you're less convinced about a Pixel, then I'd say go for one with a headphone jack if that's what you want.
posted by ryanbryan at 2:43 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Apparently the degree of annoyance varies a lot, so I'll give some probably excessive details about my use:

I use either Shure 215 (isolating earbuds) or Sony MDR-7506 (over-the-ear headphones) depending on how much noise isolation and portability I need. In addition to the phone I also regularly use both of those on a tablet, a laptop, and a digital piano. I also plug the phone straight into the piano so I can play along with stuff from my phone. Leaving dongles on cables all the time therefore wouldn't work. (Even if I had multiple dongles, I'd have to take them off to use the devices that don't have USB-C jacks.) So I have to find a dongle and plug it in each time I use it.

I left the dongle at home once on a trip. I had a new one delivered to my destination when I noticed, but it meant I couldn't use my phone on the plane as planned. The dongle fell out of my pocket onto the sidewalk once while I was walking; I retraced my steps and found it after a few minutes. It dropped it in a car once, and found it a day later after a lot of exploring the innards of the rental car's seats. Once I just lost it permanently, I'm not sure how.

So, that's three times temporarily misplaced and once permanently lost, over about a year.

Sounds like bluetooth would be a better experience. It's expensive but maybe not that much compared to the phone. I'm sort of attached to my current headphones and don't want to replace them.
posted by bfields at 7:06 AM on January 22

I use a Note 8 phone, which has a headphone jack. However, I prefer blue tooth ear buds (I use ticpods), especially when travelling. Nothing more frustrating than carrying bags near dangling cords especially walking through busy places where other people's stuff gets caught on the cord.

Admittedly the extra thing to charge can be a pain, and Ticpods would have been smarter to use USB C, but I'm fine with it as I just do it when I sleep.

In Canada, if buying a high end phone, you might wan to check out PDA Plaza as they seem pretty cheap, though I have not used them myself. I prefer dual sim phones so i can keep my sim in the phone for emergencies (I just turn off the sim slot unless making an emergency call) and using the main slot for my travel sim.

If you want to see what the camera can do, head to my site (in profile) and click projects, words and photos, and Oliva. Those were all taken with the Note 8.
posted by dobbs at 8:41 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I want to highlight this comment:
The USB-C port on the Pixel 3 is usable as a headphone jack, and the phone comes with a set of wired USB-C headphones, as well as a 3/8" to USB-C converter that you can perma-attach to a pair of wired headphones you already own.

I just got a Pixel 3 this month--the quality of the camera being compensation for it being half an inch taller and wider than my beloved Motorola Droid Mini. It's a nice camera.
posted by crush at 9:04 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I went through this but on the iPhone side of things recently. Old 6S died, none of the new models have a real headphone jack. Very grudgingly bought a 7 for the better camera and water resistance.

It's annoying and I hate it. Wireless headphones make it marginally better, but wireless headphones are a pain in the ass and another thing to have to charge.

An adapter like this makes things significantly, though not totally, better. (That's the USB-C/Android version, there's an identical one for Lightning connectors.)

I'd recommend buying one for each set of headphones you have, and basically putting it permanently onto the end of the headphone cord. The less time you spend looking for one, the happier you'll be. But just one or two occasions of not having your phone sufficiently charged for a night out because you were listening to music on it (rather than charging) will make a person pretty bitter about the whole business.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:46 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I have the original Pixel XL, which has a good camera and a headphone jack. I was able to upgrade it to Android P, but at this point it won't be getting any more Android version updates, only security updates (if that matters to you). Overall I'm happy with it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:54 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I will second the OnePlus 6. (6T did, indeed, get rid of the headphone jack, but the 6 still had it).

OnePlus 6 - I've had it for a couple months now, after switching from iPhone, and I've been very happy with it. On par or better specs than the Samsung and LG flagships, my sons have all taken a look at it since I got it and gave me the begrudging thumbs up, dad, you old fart.

Bonus - typically costs much less than other flagships

Cons - likely still Out Of Stock online.
posted by rich at 11:42 AM on January 22

I got the Moto X4 since it was the affordable option through GoogleFi and I'd heard mized things about the Pixels
anyway. It has a good camera (do they even make "bad" phone cameras anymore, the worst cell phone camera I've ever had was still better than the best digital camera I ever owned) and a headphone jack. It doesn't run stock android by default, but most of the motorola shit has not been intrusive or was easily removed. I love the battery life, I can go a day or two without charging sometimes. The headphone jack is on the bottom, I don't know if that's good or bad for you, I've never used headphones on a phone.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:43 AM on January 22

I got a Samsung Galaxy S9+ in July 2018 and it does have a headphone jack port, as well as a pretty darn nice camera, which works well in low light. The camera software features 5 modes including "Pro" mode, where you can actually adjust aperture, ISO and shutter speed. What I don't like about the camera software is that if you choose one of its built-in filters, you can't adjust how much filter you use, (i.e.: 0-100%), as I could with my old Note 5.
posted by Lynsey at 1:43 PM on January 22

It doesn't help you now, but there are leaks about a pixel 3 lite coming this summer with a headphone jack and substantially similar main camera. Keep an eye out for your next phone, depending how you get along with the one for this trip.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:50 PM on January 22

I got the S9 specifically for the headphone jack. The camera is very nice and the price these days is pretty decent, around $600 unlocked.

Coming from a Moto G though, I am pretty annoyed with the Samsung bloatware. Facebook can't be uninstalled, and you can't repurpose or shut off the stupid Bixby button on the side, which I'm constantly hitting on accident. If I'd realized USB-C headphones existed I likely would have gotten a Pixel.
posted by veery at 5:04 PM on January 22

I have the Pixel 3, which I specifically bought for the camera. I love, love, love it so much. That said, the dongle issue was a almost a deal breaker as I have a lot of wired headphones. To my shock, I've largely managed to switch to pair of bluetooth headphones. I do use the dongle occasionally, and to avoid losing it, bought a cheap adapter headphone plug thingy off Amazon that goes on my keychain. I plug it into the dongle and can carry the dongle on my keychain, super convenient.
posted by Hutch at 6:36 AM on January 23

99% of the Pixel camera's excellence is based in software. There are a variety of other Android phones that use the same sensors, many of which have a headphone jack. Pick up one of those and sideload the Google Camera app and you'll get essentially the same results as you would with a Pixel.

If Nokia/HMD manage to get the software right, their upcoming tryptophobia-inducing phone ought to be pretty nice. My 7 Plus takes great pics with the stock software in reasonable light. When it gets dim, Google Camera's algorithmic magic is significantly better, though.
posted by wierdo at 12:56 PM on January 23

Thanks so much for all the answers, everyone. I ended up getting a very cheap Moto -- the headphone jack thing was making me irrationally angry and I've just decided to not invest much at the moment.
posted by Pademelon at 4:56 AM on February 1

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