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So, I've had some difficulties with a pair of headphones that I have. They are typical Apple ear-buds, but they're old and a little beat-up. Currently, sound only comes out of one of the ear-buds, the left one, but this isn't the issue.

Whenever I plug my headphones into a device, whether it be an Android Nexus 5 phone or an Apple MacBook Pro Mid 2010, I get 30 minutes free of problems, and then whatever device I use opens its music player app (Google Play Music or iTunes), and starts playing the first song on the tracklist, without me telling it to do so. I have tried closing the app, which has varying results based on whether the product is an Apple or a Google product:

  • Apple: Waits 30 seconds-1 minute, then opens up iTunes again and plays songs at random on the track from the one that it was playing previously
  • Google: Waits 30 seconds, then resumes the track that was previously playing

I was suspicious of a virus, but I don't think that the Apple Ear-buds have the data storage capabilities to transmit malware (Source: Can headphones transmit malware?).

Could this be an issue with a short in the headphone port? I doubt it, because it's occurred on two completely different devices.

Could it be a problem with the headphone jack? See above

Could it be a virus? I'm still not sure.

Things to note:

The Music-playing app always opens as the last one in the chain (Cmd+Tab) or line of running tasks (Square button).

Sometimes, music will "jump" around between songs before the app closes itself, other times, it plays the whole song.

  • This looks more like a bug with the phone music apps themselves. Have you tested the same phones with any other headphones of similar audio jack? – katrix Nov 22 '16 at 16:52
  • Well, the behaviour sounds like the standard "remote control" behaviour when play is pressed but no specific music player is active (or the active media player doesn't handle remote control commands) for Android. Therefore, I'd guess that at 30 minutes, the headphones are sending some signal, possibly inadvertently - maybe it takes that long for a joint to warm up in them. Doesn't sound like a security issue though... – Matthew Nov 22 '16 at 16:52
  • I have tried other headphones, and they work without this issue. – SeraphsWrath Nov 22 '16 at 17:10
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I would say that it is a short. You have to remember that headphones can have built in controls to change tracks, pause, play, volume, etc. All of that functionality is through the headphone jack, the right kind of short could send those signals which the music app would see as a signal to start and play songs, etc. A short explains all the behavior, just spooky.

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Chances are this is a combination of faulty headphones and the smartphones' intelligence. If there is a loose contact with the jack, the song "jumping" about or the "30 minutes of music" phenomena may happen. As for whether this could be because of a virus, the only way for that to even work would be if the headphones had some sort of data storage and a mechanism to digitize analog signals, like the Square Card Reader does. I would say this is highly unlikely for headphones without the data store or requisite firmware.

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