Yeah, About That iPhone 3GS Headphone Port Thing… | iLounge Backstage


Yeah, About That iPhone 3GS Headphone Port Thing…

Just when we thought there was a clear enough answer (“yes!”) to an obvious question—“will my old headphones work with the iPhone 3GS”—reality had to intervene today and change that to a “maybe.” Or an “at least partially, for audio but not remote control purposes.”

Who is affected? iPhone 3GS owners interested in using certain third-party headphones that have an in-line, single combined play/pause/call button.

Who is not affected? iPhone 3GS owners using Apple’s old or new iPhone headsets, as well as those using certain other third-party headphones with the aforementioned single multifunction button.

So wait, are you saying that third-party headphones don’t work with the iPhone 3GS? No. What we’re saying is that certain third-party headphones with play/pause/call button controls might or might not function fully with the iPhone 3GS. More specifically, the button mightn’t work, or it might sort of work and sort of not work.

As you might guess, we have bunches of different headphones around here that we pull out for testing on an as-needed basis. When the iPhone 3GS came out with one of those (ahem, newfangled) three button in-line remotes, we wanted to know whether its headphone port worked properly with prior-generation mic- and remote control-enabled headsets, like the Ultimate Ears 4vi, and of course Apple’s earlier iPhone Stereo Headset. Test one, test two, test another couple of headsets—yup, they all worked. People heard us, we heard them, and the buttons did what they were supposed to do. Case closed.

Today, however, we started to play around with Belkin’s brand new Headphone Adapter for iPod shuffle 3G, the first cable-styled remote control add-on for the buttonless shuffle. It doesn’t include a microphone, but it does have the same three buttons as the remotes included with the iPod shuffle 3G, the iPhone 3GS, and two other sets of Apple-branded headphones. So the Adapter should work with all of the latest, remote-ready iPods, plus the 3GS, right?

For remote features, yes, it does. Belkin doesn’t say that it will, but it does, which is great. So then we tried the next thing: what happens when you connect iPhone and iPhone 3G-ready one-button headphones with microphones to the Adapter—do they work? Sorta. Music and calls are totally audible. The microphone works but doesn’t sound good. And the single button is disabled. Fair enough; one wire, one set of working buttons, no problem.

But it turns out that some of the iPhone and iPhone 3G-ready headsets have buttons that don’t work with the 3GS. Like V-Moda’s Vibe Duo and Vibe II. Once in a rare while, we’ve somehow been able to make their buttons trigger Voice Control on the 3GS, but otherwise, a Vibe button press doesn’t seem to do a thing. This, even though the buttons on Ultimate Ears and Apple’s pre-3GS remotes work just fine. Note also that none of the pre-shuffle 3G in-line earphone remotes, Apple or third-party, work to control that shuffle, making Belkin’s Adapter (or a competitor) the only real option for using non-Apple earphones.

Surely, there’s some innocuous explanation for this, like repeatedly incorrect engineering by certain third-party headphone developers. You already know the not-so-innocuous explanation, which would suggest that some old mics and remotes that worked with both prior iPhones are being blocked deliberately on the iPhone 3GS to create a market for newer, Apple-controlled ones. Which do you think is the case?

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So you lost me somewhere there at the end….are you saying V-moda’s Vibe Duo headphones will not work with the 3GS?  Meaning the single button and microphone won’t play/pause/answer as it does now, or that it won’t work to trigger the voice control stuff?  I haven’t upgraded to the 3GS (yet) but it would suck that if my favorite headset didn’t at least do the basic features.

Posted by TosaDeac on July 31, 2009 at 4:53 PM (CDT)


Granted, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but yeah, it gets a little confusing there near the end.
If you’re saying that none of the single button clicker/mic earphones works with the iPhone 3GS, then it would explain why there’s such a limited selection of third party earphones out there with the single button/mic. Last weekend I went to five different major electronics retailers and found literally four models of clicker/mic earphones - and only one pair for under $70.

Posted by Paul on July 31, 2009 at 9:31 PM (CDT)


“What we’re saying is that certain third-party headphones with play/pause/call button controls might or might not function fully with the iPhone 3GS. More specifically, the button mightn’t work, or it might sort of work and sort of not work…

Some of the iPhone and iPhone 3G-ready headsets have buttons that don’t work with the 3GS. Like V-Moda’s Vibe Duo and Vibe II.”

The Vibes’ buttons _do not work with the 3GS_ unless V-Moda made undisclosed production changes at some point later in their lifespans.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 31, 2009 at 10:48 PM (CDT)


I have the Shure MPA-3C because I needed it to use my Bose QC2’s with the original iPhone. They have a built-in microphone and single button to play/pause/next/previous, etc.

I kept using it through the 3G but with the 3GS, I now have the Apple headphones which can do volume up/down in addition to the original functionality.

Is anyone aware of an adapter that is just like the MPA-3C but which adds volume up/down?

Posted by Thom Brooks on January 11, 2010 at 1:19 PM (CST)


Hi Thom,
I’m on the exact same search as you. Finding a headphone adapter with the 3-button+mic functionality of introduced with iPhone 3GS…
Today I wrote an email to Shure if they will sell once in a future…
No one answered so fare…
...seem there is no such a adapter.

Posted by Jens on June 9, 2010 at 6:57 AM (CDT)


So here the answer from Shure:
Please follow this link:
So they want me to buy there headset with integrated remote control. There don’t plan to sell a headset adapter with 3-button control.

I still hoper another company will invent such an adapter…

Posted by Jens on June 11, 2010 at 2:39 AM (CDT)

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