Until recent years the location of ports on mobile phones hasn’t been as important.
I wasn’t using my phone to play music because of limited storage capacity, battery drain and the clunkyness of early smartphone media players.
I also wasn’t often using my phone while it was charging, because phones weren’t much good at anything beyond phone calls, texting and taking photos (and as a result, the battery didn’t drain enough to need charging until I went to sleep).
So, I never used the headphone port, and the charger cable never got in the way while I was using my phone.
Here’s the phone I use now, the HTC Desire HD. It’s my first modern touch screen smartphone, and I’m extremely pleased with how it’s performed:
What do the ports look like on the Desire HD?
The Desire HD has two ports (not including the internal Micro-SD slot), the Headphone port and the USB port. That’s perfectly standard, but what’s good about them is their placment. They’re on the bottom of the phone.
Okay, so why is having all the ports on the bottom a good thing?
Let’s look at the USB port first. We use that for charging and data transfer, but mostly just charging. With a lot of modern phones, the battery drain throughout the day requires us to plug our phones in at some point during the evening, perhaps while we’re still actively using the phone. For example I use my phone a lot to read blogs in bed before I go to sleep. Having the charger cable plug into the bottom of the phone is ideal, because it means it never gets in the way, and it never bends in a potentially harmful (for the cable) manner.
Having the Headphone port on the bottom of the phone is ideal too, and here’s why:
When you’re holding your phone up to use it, the headphone cable doesn’t have to bend towards gravity, it’s already oriented downwards in a manner that can improve the cable’s lifespan (you don’t want a damaged cable that needs jiggling to get to work!).
Also, (since my first phone without an external antenna poking out of the top) I put my phone into my pocket top first. When I pull it out of my pocket again, it’s already the right way up in my hand ready for use, I don’t have to flip it around.
The key point here, is that it makes no logical sense to flip your phone around when you put it into your pocket, only to have to flip it back again when you take it out.
So, if the headphone port is on the bottom of the phone, not only does the cable hang nicely while you’re holding your phone, but while it’s in your pocket the cable is already oriented to come up out of your pocket.
So where are the ports on current phones?
Here’s the iPhone 4′s ports, and the newest in the HTC line (and soon to be replacement for my Desire HD), the HTC One X:
Both phones have the headphone ports on the top of the phone, which is pretty inconvenient. The particularly strange thing is the placement of the HTC One X’s USB port, the upper left side. This is arguably worse than having it on top. It forces the cable to bend as it hangs, and could annoy left-handed users by getting in the way of where their thumbs comfortably rest to hold the phone. It could also be a pain when trying to use the phone on your side in bed, or standing it up landscape (most phones seem to default their landscape tilt to 90° clockwise, and being right-handed I prefer to have the face-buttons near my right thumb where I can reach them).
Okay, so some of those reasons are minor. But they’re inconveniences that could be eradicated entirely by simply having the ports on the bottom of the phone. There is the possibility that hardware design necessitated that the USB port be on the side, but there’s Little excuse for the headphone ports ill-conceived placement.
I can only conclude that the majority of consumers want their headphone ports to be on the top of the phone. I for one can’t imagine why, but that’s life for you.
What do you think?