Apple prepares for even thinner iPhones, files patent application for shaved down headphone plug

“Apple has patented a shrunken-down headphone connector that shaves precious volume off existing 3.5mm and 2.5mm jack standards by reshaping the plug, thereby removing — albeit temporarily — an inevitable limiting factor in its quest for perpetually thin smartphones,” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider.

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued Apple U.S. Patent No. 9,142,925 for a ‘D-shaped connector’ that replaces the existing low-profile headphone plug and receptacle standard with a shorter, thinner design,” Campbell reports. “This ‘improved’ model would sport all the functionality of a modern 3.5mm TRRS (tip, ring, ring, sleeve) connector, but with a trim profile suitable for use in extremely thin devices.”

“Taking on a ‘D’ profile, Apple’s plug has one flat side that acts as a keyed feature, meaning it restricts insertion to a matching D-shaped cavity,” Campbell reports. “Apple could bypass TRRS designs altogether and introduce a Lightning-connected headphone, but that would prohibit simultaneous charging. It remains to be seen what Apple has planned, but if its portable device designs get much thinner, the demise of the 3.5mm plug is a near certainty.”

Apple slim headphone plug patent
Source: USPTO

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The start with the kludgier of two ideas, what about two lightning jacks per device, one at the top or bottom and one on a side (allowing for landscape positioning for accessories yet to be developed), that are smart input/output jacks? When a power source is present, the jack will charge the device. When it isn’t, it will output audio.

More elegantly, inductive charging, as already employed by Apple Watch, could easily come to future iPhones, thereby eliminating the issue of simultaneous charging while listening to music and allowing iPhones to simply have one smart input/outputjack that could output audio and also charge the device on the rare occasions the inductive charger is not available (i.e. you forgot to pack it).

Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. – Steve Jobs

SEE ALSO:
Philips debuts Lightning-powered noise-cancelling headphones, no batteries required – January 8, 2015
Dumping the headphone jack for Lightning and other ways Apple could reinvent headphone tech – June 22, 2014
Why Apple may axe the 3.5mm headphone jack – June 20, 2014
Apple may ditch analog 3.5mm headphone jack for Lightning to make thinner devices – June 6, 2014
Apple introduces MFi specs for Lightning cable headphones, iOS software update to deliver support – June 5, 2014
Apple preps HD audio for iOS 8 plus new Apple In-Ear Headphones and lightning cable – May 13, 2014
Apple patents biometric sensor-packed health monitoring earphones with ‘head gesture’ control – February 18, 2014
Apple paves way for more affordable iOS accessories with lower MFi and Lightning licensing fees – February 7, 2014

29 Comments

  1. I’m very much against non-standard connectors such as this.

    If the intention is to make even thinner iPhones, then it’s completely the wrong intention. Just make the iPhone as thick as a jack and fill up the unused space with more battery.

    The 3.5mm headphone jack is the most reliable way of plugging almost any portable device into an external sound system. The connector has been that size since transistor radios first appeared in the 1950s and shouldn’t be eliminated without a truly compelling reason.

      1. Adaptors get lost or aren’t with you when it’s needed. A standard jack always accepts a standard plug and you can buy a suitable lead in millions of shops.

        They would obviously have to make an adaptor available, but it’s still the wrong solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.

    1. Are all audio fans luddites? You probably think that the 1950’s should be the standard for everything and there should be progress only on things that you say there should be.

      1. If every other manufacturer were to swap to this connector for all it’s devices, then it might have some merit, but we all know that only Apple would adopt this connector – therefore it would be non-standard.

        Apple has promoted many excellent developments ( USB, no floppy or optical drive, multi touch screens instead of keyboards etc. ) and most other companies have subsequently followed suit. It’s never going to happen with that slimline connector.

        Progress is not achieved by simply throwing out everything more than a few years old just for the hell of it, you make progress by adopting innovative concepts with significant advantages over what was done before.

        1. That’s the beauty of this idea. All headphone manufacturers would need is to make their connector D shaped on all of their headphones. They will still work in round holes on competitor devices as well as in new iPhones/iPods. So the new connector is basically backwards compatible with the new design.

          1. I’m not convinced that the detent mechanism on many jack sockets would work correctly if a D shape jack is inserted with the flat part lining up with the detent spring because it’s completely flat on one side, leaving nothing to latch on.

            If I were a manufacturer like Sennheiser, I would be very wary indeed of supplying my headphones with a plug that wouldn’t mate reliably with all existing jack sockets.

    2. I don’t put a lot of stock in these patent reports. The way tech works now days, you have to patent every single hair brained idea you come up with before anyone has a chance to sit down and think whether it is a good idea or not. Apple churns out the patents, only select few of those ideas actually make it.

  2. If we were in a quarter inch headphone world this would be a good thing to invent the 3.5mm. I hope this doesn’t come to pass. 3.5mm is a nice limiting factor on thinness. I agree that any further miniturization should result in space being filled up with either battery or maybe speaker

  3. iPhones don’t need to be a bit thinner. Thinner no longer impresses and we’re already at the point of “thin enough”. Is the goal a slightly larger but same credit card thin-sized iPhone? Me no like that idea.

    While I have no issues with battery life others do and along with that and maybe other innovations use the “extra space” for newer ideas.

    And while you’re at it offer up a slick tower sized Mac Pro again. One black donut size does not necessarily fit all, nor allow for internal upgrades.

  4. We’re *just* at the point where we’re getting rid of uni-fit USB micro in favour of bidirectional USB-C, we’d better not see this uni-fit stereo connector see the light of day.

    An iPhone that thin is too thin.

      1. You’re probably referring to the fact that the enclosure was so narrow that it required a thin casing on the headphone cable, but that was not a change to he headphone plug, it just required the same exact headphone plug you’ve always used to not be bulky as hell for no useful reason.

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