Let's just say I'm not a fan of Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack. Rather than recant my entire rant, the long and short is Apple removed the headphone jack to sell it's W1 headphones, knowing the shortcomings of Bluetooth. The W1 headphones provide a better user experience than Bluetooth alone can provide, and Apple has yet to license the W1 technology outside its own Beats headphones. While the iPhone audio isn't "closed", as any Bluetooth headphones will work off the shelf, it has placed Apple/Beats headphones with an advantage. Any argument pro-headphone jack removal has to contend with this reality that Apple is nudging consumers is placing a squeeze on 3rd party headphones, and the headphone jack represented a port that Apple had no way to subjugate. Pundits cheered as the noose tightened.

Fuze Case vs iPhone
Pictured: The bulky Fuze case was the first case that offered a headphone jack.

Since owning the iPhone 7, I've owned several failed products, the most significant let down being the Fuze case, a half-baked product that provided a janky non-MFI headphone jack and questionable battery case. It was bulky. Worse, it just didn't work well. It didn't support headphone controls or headphones with microphones. The battery case required to be powered up and down, and if the case was out of battery, then the headphone port would fail to work. Also, the case occasionally failed to be recognized. The company turned out to be a bit of a scam too, closing up shop only to re-appear as powerpluscases.com, selling the same crappy case.

My second try was a Veniveta iPhone 7 case, which was simply a bluetooth headphone port stuck to a case. Ironically this half-baked case was far more viable than the Fuze, despite the shortcomings. Again, headphone controls didn't work. The case required independent charging, and its Bluetooth experienced was glitchy, often failing to connect the first time I fired it up. I was able to put up with it as it had the same problems as the Fuze, without the bulk and a bit more reliably crappy performance.

Veniveta case

Pictured: The veniveta lasted about a year before failing to hold a charge.

Looming forever has been the Incipio OX, a case made by a reputable case maker. Every few months since its announcement, I'd e-mail Incipio about the status. Finally, when I went to check on the mythical case, I found it was shipping. I ordered. It's somewhat pricey at $69.99, but I used a 15% off coupon I found with a little google-fu bringing it down to $59.50. The order shipped the day I ordered it (with free shipping) and only took three days to arrive via USPS.

The Review

OX case - top
Pictured: The Veniveta lasted about a year before failing to hold a charge.

The OX is low profile, akin to the sort of cases iPhone users have been used to since it's inception, a rubberized plastic modeled case that fits snuggly to the iPhone. Unlike the Fuze or the Veniveta, it functions as a protective case, provides razor-thin margins to keep the camera lens from protruding beyond the case and a scant millimeter lip around the screen, providing protection from the screen resting on surfaces. It's soft to the touch and reminds me of the official Apple iPhone cases. This will protect your phone and feels as impact resistant as any high-quality low-profile case. It's stylish in the way any case is. Nothing beats the look of an uncased iPhone, but if you're wrapping it up, you won't be visually offended by the Incipio.

Snapping on the case is pretty simple, and requires little effort, it only requires lining up the lightning port and plugging it in. I was a bit unnerved when I received "Unsupported Device" messages from the case, but I'll get to that in a minute. The volume and power buttons are covered but remain easily accessible and easy to press. Lastly, the case adds a bit of a chin to the iPhone, with two ported sections to project the internal speaker. It'snovel as it makes the iPhone speaker directional and more effective.These are the little things that separate Incipio from Indiegogo would-be case makers.

After plugging the case in, and receiving the device not supported I was worried. I plugged in my headphones, pressed the play/pause button and.... it worked. I then proceeded to plug my phone into my car charger and plug it into my deck. My iPhone was charging AND playing music at the same time. Subsequent case fittings, I haven't seen the message since so I'll chalk it up to user error.

OX case - bottom

I tested it with multiple sets of headphones, (Massdrop x NuForce, 1more Triple Driver, Symphonized NRG, Klipsch X11is, Beyerdynamic DT-990s & DT-770s, Sennheiser HD-650s) and every last one worked. Pulling out the headphone jack paused the audio as expected. The only minor hiccup is I didn't seem to have discrete volumes for the jack detecting the difference between headphones that included controls vs. standard headphones, something that iPhones with headphone jacks were able to do. I guess this feature is gone.

The audio quality also was the same as the Apple dongle cables which have haunted me the past year and a half, much better than the Fuze which sounded soft and distance or the sometimes gravelliness of the cheap Bluetooth on the Veniveta.

OX Case vs Apple's case
Pictured: iPhone 7 with OX case vs iPhone 6 with Apple case. The OX slightly is thinner.

Final Thoughts

It took too long to hit the market but THIS IS THE CASE FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS A HEADPHONE JACK ON THEIR IPHONE. It works, and it works well. It's light, well made, oh and it works. After being burned twice now, I've found new harmony in my life. I'm listening to my earbuds and charging my phone as I type this. It's everything that I've missed from the iPhone 6. I just wish I could have had this case for longer. I haven't had a chance to test it with the iPhone 8, but seeing as the iPhone 8 other than the 0.2mm thickness, my gut says yes. (edit: users confirmed it works with the 8)

Right now, as far as I know, it only comes in iPhone 7/8 size and not the plus. The only other game in town is yet-another, IndieGogo campaign, this time by Encased, for their product called the "AudioMod", another bulky battery case with a headphone jack, advertising versions fo the iPhone X and Plus variants. It looks more promising than the faceless brand behind Fuze. Personally, The Incipio is exactly what I want as I'm not fond of battery cases but at least iPhone X and Plus owners can join the party. Here's hoping to that Incipio continues the OX line. (Edit: I bought this case. It's alright, but I don't like battery cases.)

Price: $69.99

Incipio OX

9/20/18 Update - After using this case for almost 6 months, it's still my go to case for daily usage. It protects my phone and the camera bump. It's supper light and makes the phone easier to grip. The only issue I've experience is one in a great while first plug in with my headphones will get sound out of only one ear bud, all it takes is unplugging the headphones and plugging them back in. I'm unsure what causes this issue: headphones or the case. As someone who's pretty active, (I bike to work, hike, run and go to the gym about 3 times a week, and went on trips to the Redwoods, Canadian Rockies and Iceland and logged August where it rained on every single trip) this case has survived my lifestyle and has no visible scuffs or damage. I'm not rough on my phone as I rarely drop it or bang it, but it also gets a fair amount of jostling and foul weather. I haven't submerged my phone in water with this case. I bought the Encase battery case to compare against it but, the Incipio works slightly better. The Encase sometimes will "lose" sync and require me to reseat the phone into the case.

The only minor annoyance with the cases is that if you want to plug your phone into a car or carplay system you must remove the phone. It will sync via iTunes and other operations but will not allow you to play audio via the port. It's strange but that's it.

Also like any case that connects via the lightning port (like battery cases), the speaker phone performance degrades a bit. This isn't any specific to this case, but anything that requires covering the bottom portion of your phone will adversely affect your speaker phone performance, most notably the mic pickup. The mic performance suffers as its no longer able to function as an omnidirectional microphone.

I've seen on amazon some negative reviews but the Incipio from my personal experience is amazing. I roll around using my favorite wired earbuds and able to unplug them and my phone reverts instantly to its internal speakers. It even pauses the audio if I unplug my headphones just like the dongle or iPhones with headphone jacks. I love this case and I hope they make an iPhone X/XS variant.