Earphones: Pin Compatible May Not Mean Electrically Compatible

As you may know, I switched to the Samsung Galaxy S a few weeks ago (and it’s still going very well apart from a stumbling block with using The Missing Sync which I am following up with the vendor). As one might expect for a phone of this calibre, a pair of earphones with a microphone came bundled in the box. At first, I didn’t particularly like them but they are starting to grow on me.

Anyway, I wanted to continue using my iPhone earphones as I had become accustomed to them over the years. Unfortunately, the iPhone earphones would not work properly unless I continually pressed the little clicker on the cable. To me on initial thought this seemed odd as the pin on the end of the cable looked identical to that for the Samsung earphones.

As it would happen, the iPhone uses a particular order for the connections on their earphone jack (as do other handsets such as those from Blackberry and Nokia) whilst other manufacturers use a different ordering. To confuse things further, some manufacturers use both orders but spread amongst their various handsets with no visible sign of which order is in use. In essence, you might need to do some research to work it out.

In a nutshell, the iPhone uses the following pinout order:

  • Contact 1: Left audio (tip of the pin),
  • Contact 2: Right audio (first ring after the tip),
  • Contact 3: Ground (second ring after the tip),
  • Contact 4: Microphone (third ring after the tip).

Conversely, the Samsung Galaxy S uses the following pinout order:

  • Contact 1: Left audio (tip of the pin),
  • Contact 2: Right audio (first ring after the tip),
  • Contact 3: Microphone (second ring after the tip),
  • Contact 4: Ground (third ring after the tip).

As you can see, the ground and microphone contacts are switched. This explains why I had to hold down the button on the iPhone earphone cable to make audio work properly as the electrical circuit is incomplete when used with the Samsung Galaxy S. As you can imagine, this posed a problem as I have been considering getting some good quality earphones but wanted compatibility between my iPad and my Samsung Galaxy S.

So what is the solution?

Basically, you need an adapter to internally swap the third and fourth contacts between the earphones and the jack in the target device. One such adapter can be found at kV Connection if you are interested in buying one – you might be able to save some money on shipping from the USA if you get a few people together.

Finally, this adapter can also be used in the inverse situation (i.e. using iPhone incompatible earphones with the iPhone with the use of the mentioned adapter. Just bear in mind the special buttons on the earphone cable such as call answering and volume control might not work properly.

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