Magnetic 3.5mm Connector on Kickstarter
In my experience the most common failure item on a portable player is the jack. It gets yanked around too much and eventually ends up becoming intermittent. In fact, Apple at one point was thinking about making a flexible headphone plug so it wouldn't put as much strain on the jacks. It looks like they abandon the idea in favor of the new Lightning jack, however. None the less, I'm afraid we'll be seeing 3.5mm jacks for quite some time into the future, and living with products that are strained, or broken, in the process.
Well, the guys starting up Magzet on Kickstarter think they've found a solution. Just like the power plugs on an Apple laptop are held in place with magnets, they're proposing to make an adapter that has a plug on one end and a jack on the other and magnetically snaps apart in between. The advantage, of course, is that it will snap apart when tugged preventing strain on the jack, or worse, a fall to the floor. And if left in it will prevent dirt from entering the jack.
The additional advantage they're touting is that if you buy multiple plugs, you can leave them in many devices and simply switch between them using the magnetic part. They say they've solved the problem of devices that detect when a plug is present to reroute the audio, which will allow you to use the device's speakers even with the plug inserted. This may work for most smartphones but many jacks re-route the audio by mechanical switches within the jack itself as shown in the diagram C. and D. to the right. I don't see how they're going to solve that. 'Course you can just pull the plug out.
Regardless, it certainly seems like an idea that may be worthwhile if you commonly forget you're wearing your headphones as you get up and walk away from your desk. Though, I actually think it's more common for me to come up short as I stand up with my foot on the cable.