Sick of Android headset-related issues. Should I consider switching to iPhone?

(A wee bit ranty, but I’m exasperated. And, yeah, totally First World problems, but I’m hoping to get some useful answers here. Please resist the urge to come in just to say FWP.)

Some initial pointers, so it will be clear what I’m ranting about.

I’m using the words “headset”, “earbuds”, and “buds” pretty much interchangeably to mean the things you put in or over your ears to hear music, and plug the other end into your phone. Naturally I realize there are bluetooth headsets, but I’m not prepared to go there right now.

By “inline control” or “controls” I mean the little oblong thingy usually positioned on the left hand cable, between the earbud itself and point where it joins the other cable from that goes to the right ear. On this you usually find a mic for calls, a button to pause and resume audio playback, and possibly also a volume slider.

By “adapter” or “elbow adapter” I mean a little connector component shaped in a right angle. You plug the end of your earbuds into one end of this, and the other end goes into your phone.
I imagine that most owners of Android devices don’t use their earbuds nearly as much as I do, or I’d expect to see more related complaints online. I’ve had my current phone for nearly two years, and have been running rooted stock JB for most of the time that it’s been available for this device, but a few things have been turning into bigger and bigger nuisances lately. They break down into general categories as follows.

[li]When using my earbuds to make a call, I must always be prepared to snatch them from my ears promptly, because with certain calls the in-ear volume is so freaking LOUD it can damage your hearing. I’m talking so loud that you can easily hear and understand what’s coming through the earbud even if you hold it several inches away from your ear. It’s like one of those cartoons where somebody gets a call from someone who yells into the phone, and you see the guy holding the phone 12 inches away from his face. The volume control on the phone itself, like resistance, is useless here. It doesn’t do anything at all. This problem seems to arise especially when calling to check my own voicemail, thus: [/li]
(Next, tap “8” for a list of ear surgeons and audiologists near you.)

It also tends to happen when calling any kind of business or other organization that uses a menu, but then again, not always. Even just the memory makes me want to rub my ears in pain, the way we used to do after one of the early jet airliners, on departure, had just flown fifty feet over our heads. Maybe I need an iPhone. Would a company famous for its ergonomics and UI sell me something that would bust my drums?
[li]When using any earbuds equipped with an inline control, Voice Dialer continually starts spontaneously, stopping whatever I’m listening to at the moment. I have to use the screen to cancel out of it. If the music or podcast was already paused, it will start playing after I cancel out of Voice Dialer, rather than staying paused. I currently have Voice Dialer uninstalled via Titanium Backup, but it continues to work anyway. Because it’s so hard to disable or remove, even on a rooted device, I begin to suspect it’s a design feature, as in, it’s a phone, right? So dialing calls by voice takes precedence over anything else you would want to do with a headset. So, maybe I should look at an iPhone? Being so lauded for usability, perhaps Apple’s requirements analysis led to a solution more in line with my requirements. If iOS lets me decide what functions are most important to me, then lead me to it.[/li][li]I seem to be the only one out of hundreds of millions of Android users aggravated by the fact that elbow adapters that won’t completely disable a three-ring-and-tip set of earbuds (basically, any earbuds that have volume, pause, or playback controls) are practically nonexistent in the market. At the moment I have two adapters that will work to play sound, but they still disable the inline mic and controls, and even they are not available in any kind of store AFAIK. One company I know of, Urban Ears, ships one of these with each of their earbud sets, and when I contacted them and explained my problem, they very kindly sent out a couple of these adapters at no charge. How are iPhones in this regard? Would they sell me a phone and pair of earbuds that seemed designed specifically to snag on doorknobs, the oven handle, my knee when I’m just standing up after typing my shoe?[/li][li]But UrbanEars’ elbow adapters only solves half the problem. They carry the sound, but they still disable the inline controls. You can still use your screen, of course, but that’s not always convenient or polite, in my view. If I want to stop the music to talk to a real live person in my presence, it’s nice to be able to do so just by a gentle squeeze of the inline control, rather than having to pull the phone out, light it up, and swipe several times to get to right control. Having canvassed Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Fry’s, and still failed to find an adapter that not only enables sound transmission AND the inline controls, I think it’s safe to assume that such an adapter doesn’t exist. If I wanted a peach-and-lime-green 41.4321199999932…" flat-screen TV, and I failed to find one at Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Fry’s, I fully get the fact that my requirement is just too random, too completely bizarre off-the-wall, for the retail marketplace to accommodate me. And so with straight-jacked earbuds that you plug in on top. Again, unlike me, the other 799,999,999 Android users don’t mind the jack-end of the cord wearing out, or the way when the cord loops up and down it tends to loop and snag more than it would if the jack-end could hang downward when in use. So, err, iPhone? [/li][li]Urban Ears, again, has thought of a very handy innovation, one almost as ingenious as wheels on luggage. When you need to take the earbuds out of your ears for whatever reason, like talking to the cashier at the supermarket, these earbuds designed so you can securely snap them together behind your neck. But of course, I realize I’m the only one out of hundreds of millions of Android users who isn’t content just to drape the ends around my neck, and hope they don’t fall off and get stepped on. And apparently, only Urban Ears has thought to include this remarkably rare feature. As Paul Fussell put it, if everybody doesn’t want it, nobody gets it. After all, who else (besides me) could possibly want such a ridiculous feature like being able to secure earbuds conveniently and safely behind their neck, rather than just letting them dangle? So, should I be looking at iPhones?[/li]

Hmmm…Maybe I should have put this in the PIT? I mean with the bold shouting and all; not that I’m actually shouting at anyone here.

Request for mod call?

I think I’m not understanding the issue correctly.

iPhone headsets have a straight connector, too. If they didn’t, your problem would be solved by just buying the headset, no? You would still have to use the elbow adapter since that seems to be a total requirement, and their jacks are the same as anyone else’s. The abling/disabling would be the same no matter which device you’re using.

Is the volume issue possibly due to the adapter? I wonder if the disabling of feedback from the headset also impairs some volume regulator?

My SG4 puts the music control on the lock screen when music is playing, so even if the inline control wasn’t working, I just have to press power/home and then pause. Maybe that’s a feature you can enable in your music player?

Personally, I would have a bigger problem if my connector was an elbow style - if I put my phone in my pocket or bag, an elbow would be far more stressed than the thing just coming straight out or up like it does.

As to the headset falling, I have mine in an auto-winder that clips to my pocket/jacket/shirt/bag strap and keeps the cord from going all over the place, plus lets me drop the buds from my ears and they’ll dangle from the clip. You can also get a clip that just clips without the winder doohickey. Super cheap solution - hair snap clip, the kind that are flat on the head and flip open and shut; in a larger one the cord will fit right into the far inside. I have a second headset that’s just wound on a fishbone cord winder and a hair clip attached.

I have trouble believing that an iPhone would be even remotely useable for you after using a rooted Android. I guess you would plan on jailbreaking it? But I still am not seeing how the elbow adapter would be any different.

I know you said you didn’t want to discuss bluetooth headsets, but I really think that would be a better solution for your woes. Get a good one with a mic that shuts off and its own volume control and volume leveling.

You might get around the problem with an iPhone and their headphones, but I don’t know. Because I’ve never heard of either device having your problems. Other than no volume control on the handset itself, it sounds like your headphones are to blame.

Do you mean that iPhone headsets have the straight connector, too? I suspected that might be the case, but hoped that maybe in the iOS universe, an elbow adapter wouldn’t disable most or all functionalities of the headset.

I’m curious if anyone knows–is there some electrical engineering reason they can’t make an elbow adapter which won’t disable anything on the headset, or is it just that not enough consumers care one way or another?

Ideally, I would use two elbow adapters to allow the connector end of the headset to hang down gracefully and easily, instead of looping from the top of the phone and and stressing the jack. Even though I usually pay only $30 or $40 for a headset, like I do, I’d rather keep it working than have to replace it every month or two. I always get replacement coverage, but it’s still a hassle to drive over to the next town to get a replacement.

The other advantage of being able to use elbow adapters is that I would be able to choose whether to carry the phone in my pocket, or in a holder. If I need to carry several other things in my pockets, I prefer to put the phone in a holder, but if I can travel light, say with just my keys, a DL, and a debit card/cash, I’d much rather put my phone in a pocket. With the holder I have, I can insert the phone upside down and thus have the cord hang down from there, but that obviously doesn’t work with a pocket.

No. Remember the mic doesn’t work with the adapter, although on these occasions the regular mic in the phone might work. I haven’t yet sorted out when it does/doesn’t work, whether it differs with headsets, etc.

It could be that the mic not being disabled is what causes the volume issue for this particular phone (GS2). Now that I come to think of it, it could be phone or the ROM. If I ever have to revert to ICS before I upgrade–which probably won’t happen–I can investigate this.

Somebody (perhaps you) mentioned this in an earlier thread of mine on this general issue. I can see how if you have only one elbow adapter, and the headset cord goes out roughly horizontally from there, you get a significant lever-type force on the jack, which can be bad. But I think most of that would be eliminated if you can use a second adapter so the direction of force on the jack is mostly downward with less shear. If nothing else, the cord will “behave” better in terms of tangling and snagging. At least that’s been my experience.

If I didn’t want the convenience of inline controls I could use my two adapters with no trouble.

These sound like some useful solutions. Do they make hair clips pretty small? Because I’m a bald guy! A big three-inch hair clip would look pretty funny on me, as an Android accessory.

I looked at an i5s and an i6 in a Sprint store…they just felt so nice in my hand. I liked the UI. I’m dangerously tempted. I would almost certainly have to jailbreak if I do make the switch, but in any event I haven’t fully explored what the full implications of doing so would be. I’d hate to find out afterwards that there’s no iOS equivalent to one favorite Android app or another.

Rant aside, have you tried an elbow adapter with 3 black lines instead of two? Like this?

The control signal goes through the third stripe, and many cheaper adapters won’t have it.

As for the Voice Dialer, make sure you disable Voice Search and Google Now and anything else similar (especially if your OEM added their own) to completely get rid of voice-related search features.

I’m not sure what the problem is with your elbow adapters, but there’s no reason why they can’t work with the controls and everything. Of course you need a 4-conductor version, not the 3-connector kind that’s far more available. But the other kind exists; for example this.

If I read your posts correctly, you want your earbuds to hang down instead of coming straight up from the top. The newer iPhones, the 5 and 6, have the headphone jack on the bottom of the phone instead of the top.

That would probably be perfect, but I’ve never been able to find an adapter with three stripes on the male end. The ones I’ve seen look like this:

or like this:

The ones in the top picture are the ones that UrbanEars sent me. They carry the sound, but disable the inline functions. The bottom picture shows an old one I bought at Radio Shack a few years ago. This one works with a plain-vanilla headset lacking the inline controls, but control-equipped headsets with the three-ring configuration are completely non-functional with this adapter.

I was just about to ask you where you got the adapters in your pic, when I noticed the URL appears to include a useful link. I’ll definitely be checking that out; if is an online audio/electronics store that sells that item, it would solve most of my issues.

Googling hasn’t helped me much here, possibly due to my not knowing the right terms to type in. Your link may prove to be the most useful one I’ve seen for months.


And after a bit hunting, because the actual website appears to be, I found the item in Reply’s picture. It does indeed look perfect!

Unless someone is selling a couple on Amazon or eBay, all I have to do now is buy a thousand units and figure out where to unload the other 998 adapters I won’t be using. It appears they’re wholesale only, so I’m still SOL.


I missed this before, thanks. I just ordered three of them.

Glad you found 'em. Sorry I didn’t include a purchase link before.

Also, just for future reference, I wanted to correct myself: they are (as Strangelove says) 4-conductor (or 4-pole) plugs, not “3 black stripes”. The 3 black stripes just separate the actual poles which carry the signal.

“4 pole” is apparently the best keyword to use to find them in a search.

I nearly stopped my eBay order because I noticed where it said the female end is only 3 pole, but the seller has assured me the inline controls and audio will work correctly. Assuming, of course, my question was understood.

Excellent! I was about to warn you that I had screwed up and didn’t read the second part of the description correctly, but I guess it was the seller’s mistake. Weird to have 4 poles on one end but not the other.

Isn’t that what the Urbanears adapters are, as shown in my top photo? In my photo the male ends appear to have only three poles, if I’m understanding the terminology right, which would make those adapters 3P-male x 4P-female. According the information provided with the Urbanears earbuds, the adapter is intended to ensure the buds will work “on older devices”, which presumably have only a three-pole jack. Hopefully my new ones won’t turn out to be the inverse of that, or 4P-male x 3P-female. Still, the seller apparently understood my concern, so I should be OK there.

Something like this would be helpful, but ideally it should work no matter what app I’m using to listen–podcatchers, Scribd, Librivox, and Play Music. Then again, at
least some of those might have the capability you describe, only I haven’t found it yet.

It may be the Touch Wiz interface on my nonrooted device. It knows when I’m streaming something and puts access to it on the lock screen automatically. I don’t use as many different apps as you do, though. So I’m not sure. It does it with YouTube videos, Pandora, Rhapsody, and Firefox browser.

(Bolding mine)

ETA: I think I misunderstood what you were asking here. To revise and rephrase my answer: The adapter has always disabled the inline mic since this headset was new, same with every other headset. Since I typically want to use the inline mic on calls, I already know I can’t use the adapter for that so the adapter can’t be causing that particular problem. However, since I posted the OP I’ve noticed that the headset, when used without adapters definitely is producing some kind of static which must indicate some kind of short or other failure. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also responsible for the random pausing and playback order issues I mentioned in my second bullet point. This is a bit disappointing because I’ve had this headset for only about a month, and I usually have much better experiences with Skull Candy. Fortunately, however, using an adapter completely eliminates both the static and the fragmented playback.

So indeed the inline control and mic component not being disabled, what with the defect in the headset, must be directly related to some of the problems.

I wonder if the new adapters, with all controls working, will make the problem present itself again. I hope not, how frustrating that would be! At least the headset is still in warranty?