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'USB audio' now available on the latest Android Lollipop devices

Updated: 2015-01-29
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Android Lollipop has started rolling out to more handsets today, including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy Note 4. As part of the update, Google has added support for what's known as USB audio, which means the USB charging port on Android Lollipop devices can be used to play music through compatible headphones
   
Android Lollipop has started rolling out to more handsets today, including the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy Note 4. 
 
Among all the new features the software update offers, one in particular could potentially revolutionise how we listen to music. 
 
Google has added support for what's known as USB audio, which means the USB charging port on Android Lollipop devices can be used to play music through speakers or compatible headphones. 
 
Apple already supports USB audio through its Lightning connector.

And, although Apple's own range of proprietary headphones still use the traditional 3.5mm audio jack, Philips has produced a Lightning-compatible pair that can be used with the latest iPhones and iPads called Fidelio M2L. 
 
This does mean, however, that these headphones can only be used with Apple devices. 
 
As the technology becomes more mainstream, other manufacturers - and even Apple itself - are expected to launch a range of USB audio headphones. 
  

Apple already supports USB audio through its Lightning connector. Although its own range of proprietary headphones still use the traditional 3.5mm audio jack, Philips has produced a Lightning-compatible pair that can be used with the latest iPhones and iPads called Fidelio M2L (pictured) 
 

When using USB audio, the wires carry digital signals all the way to the earbuds, where it is then converted to analog. This prevents the sound quality dropping as it travels through the wire. Removing the audio jack (pictured right, next to the Lightning connector in the centre) could also make future devices thinner
  
Audio is available in analog and digital. 
 
Computers and music files produce audio in a digital format, but speakers, typically use an analog signal to reproduce and play the sounds. 
 
Even digital speakers are traditionally analog speakers that feature a signal converter. 
 
When using a standard, circular 3.5mm audio jack the headphone wire carries the signal in analog format the whole way. 
 
However, with USB audio, the wires carry the digital signal all the way to the earbuds, where it is then converted to analog.
This prevents the sound quality dropping as it travels through the wire. 
 
Removing the audio jack could also make future devices thinner. 
 
However, when the USB port, or Lightning connector, is being used to carry audio it means the same port can't be used to charge the device.  
 
  
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