Q: I have numerous sets of headphones that I use, including with my iPhone. Is there such a thing as a separate inline handsfree kit/ remote that can be attached between the iPhone and a set of headphones with a standard 3.5mm minijack plug?
This would massively enhance the functionality of all my headphones if I could skip tracks/change volume and as a bonus handle calls. Once upon a time long ago I think I had an Apple branded device that was an inline remote for an iPod but that was many many years ago and I am not aware of any updated product from Apple themselves.
A: Although Apple does not provide any such accessory, these actually do exist from third-party accessory makers. Unfortunately, they have become somewhat obscure in recent years, as most companies seem to have stopped making them. Many accessory makers originally built adapter cables to provide compatibility with the original 2007 iPhone due to its oddly recessed headphone port, and several includes in-line microphones and remotes. The Griffin SmartTalk Headphone Adapter and Shure Music Phone Adapter MPA-3C are two good examples of this.
The third-generation iPod shuffle released back in 2009 created a similar requirement, and several third-party manufacturers again stepped up to the plate, with products such as the Belkin Headphone Adapter and Simplism Remote Controller.
Note that the features differ slightly between these different adapters; the Belkin and Simplism options provide volume control but no inline mic, whereas the Griffin and Shure options do the opposite. All provide the standard single-button track control feature that allows you to pause or resume playback with a single tap or skip tracks with multiple taps.
Although most of these have been discontinued, they appear to still be available from several online retailers, so you may be able to find one by searching around. Apple hasn’t changed the specs on its headphone port in several years, so these should still work just fine with current iPhone and iPod devices, and we’re still using some of them such as the Shure MPA-3C ourselves with our iPhone 5s.
An alternative option that may be worth considering is a Bluetooth headphone adapter such as the BlueAnt Ribbon. This is a device that clips onto your clothing like an iPod shuffle and streams music from your iPhone via Bluetooth. This basically works as a stereo Bluetooth headset, but allows for any set of headphones you own to be connected to a 3.5mm jack on the device, and provides track and volume controls and a built-in microphone. The downside is that you have to keep another device charged, but it eliminates the need to run wires all the way to your actual iPhone, allowing you to keep it more easily stowed in your pocket or bag.