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Apple patent automatically adjusts iPhone speaker volume based on proximity

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued Apple a patent for a system that leverages the iPhone's various sensors to seamlessly increase and decrease volume, as well as switch between the device's multiple speakers, depending on how far away the handset is from a user.

Proximity
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,452,020 for "Adjustment of acoustic properties based on proximity detection" describes a method in which data from the iPhone's proximity sensor is employed to calculate distance from a user, which is then applied to dynamically adjust volume.

While the property covers a number of sensors, including cameras and passive light sensors, among others, the most obvious would be the front-facing infrared sensor that is already used to turn the multitouch screen on and off during calls. Any applicable component can be used, though it must be capable of providing distance data in some embodiments.

As noted in the patent language, the invention can dynamically adjust volume based on distance away from the user. This action can apply to both the iPhone's receiver as well as the speaker, depending on which sound output mode is selected.

In another embodiment, the phone will fade from the receiver to the speaker if a predefined distance between device and user is reached. For example, if a user starts a conversation holding the iPhone to their ear, and puts the device down on a desk or chair, the proximity sensor will note the change and switch to "speaker mode."

Apple suggests user profiles can be used to implement the proximity-based system. For example, in the illustration at the top of this page, position A would relate to a "normal" profile in which the receiver operates at regular volumes. At the other end of the spectrum, position E would trigger a "speakerphone" profile that routes audio output to the handset's loudspeaker.

Through positions B through D, receiver output can be boosted, then ultimately faded to the speaker as the device moves farther away from a user's head. It should be noted that both the receiver and speaker can be operational at the same time, allowing for a more efficient and seamless transfer of output audio.

The patent also accounts for frequency and gain adjustment based on proximity and environment, which are controlled by various circuitry arrangements involving filters, amplifiers and audio demultiplexers (demuxers)/splitters.

Proximity
Illustration of circuitry as described in one of the patent's embodiments.


As the iPhone's buttonless multitouch screen ushered in the new normal in smartphone design, the proximity sensor quickly became an integral component in making phone calls. Apple has seen its share of issues with the technology, however, including hardware calibration problems with the iPhone 4.

When Apple's fourth-generation handset launched in June 2010, customers complained of proximity sensor issues that would randomly turn the device's screen back on during a call, allowing for errant screen touches. The problem was solved in an update to iOS three months later.

More recently, a lawsuit pertaining to Apple's alleged misuse of a Motorola proximity sensor patent was recently thrown out by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Google is in the process of appealing the dismissed case.

It is unclear if Apple will implement the feature in an upcoming iPhone, but the hardware needed to deploy the tech is either readily available or already found in existing models.

Apple's proximity sensor control patent was first filed for in 2008 and credits Justin Gregg, Michael Lee, and Chad Seguin as its inventors.
post #2 of 11

What they need to do is patent location based reminders. That way I can have Siri remind me to take out the trash when I get home, or remind me to buy something when I'm near POI location.

post #3 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrrodriguez View Post

What they need to do is patent location based reminders. That way I can have Siri remind me to take out the trash when I get home, or remind me to buy something when I'm near POI location.

I don't know if it's patented, but you can already set up location-based reminders in the Reminders app I believe.

post #4 of 11

My first thought about these options was that they'll be used in SNL skits some day.

 

Scene 1 - Automatic volume depending on distance

 

  • Tom:  "What?  Speak up.  I can't hear you."
  • Bob:  "Dummy!  Hold the phone closer to your ear!"
  • Tom:  "I did that, but you didn't get any louder!"

 

Scene 2 - Automatic speaker phone mode depending on distance

 

  • Boss: "Is that your phone ringing?  Go ahead and answer it."
  • Person: "Hello?  Oh hi honey.  Hang on, I'm talking to my boss."  
  • (Drops arm with phone to hip level.  Phone switches to speaker mode automatically.)
  • Phone Speaker: (loudly) "You mean the a**hole you're always complaining about?!"
  • Boss: "You're fired!"
post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrrodriguez View Post

What they need to do is patent location based reminders. That way I can have Siri remind me to take out the trash when I get home, or remind me to buy something when I'm near POI location.

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #6 of 11

Oh lord, why do I see the start of the "gimmick" wars.

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrrodriguez View Post

What they need to do is patent location based reminders. That way I can have Siri remind me to take out the trash when I get home, or remind me to buy something when I'm near POI location.
They already have it! Siri can be programmed to do that in certain ways (but weak).

This patent would be helpful when people set there devices down and walk around listening. However seems only good for single person audience.
post #8 of 11

What they need to do is make the speakers louder period.  The volume is so low I have to lean towards the phone whenever I'm driving and my iPhone is in its cradle attached to the windshield.  I've also got HTC One and it totally blows the iPhone's speakers away.

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by psitthipo View Post

What they need to do is make the speakers louder period.  The volume is so low I have to lean towards the phone whenever I'm driving and my iPhone is in its cradle attached to the windshield.  I've also got HTC One and it totally blows the iPhone's speakers away.

 

If you are driving, you should be using a proper hands-free system, not the speakerphone on your phone.

You're doing it wrong.

post #10 of 11

I disagree. The phone should have speakers loud enough so we wouldn't need an external speaker system in our cars. Why do with two tools what can be, and often is, done with only one? It promotes more to use hands free. I use my iPhone this way, although at some speeds or with heavy traffic, the window open, or rain, that road noise drowns it out deterring me from using it at all most of the time. It would increase safety during the rare times when I do need it, and that includes calls such as to #77 to alert police of road hazards (as I did the other day when there was a giant size filled trash bag on big and busy route 95). I use the phone so seldom in the car that it doesn't pay for me to shell out the $$ for an expensive hands free system that will get such little use so I haven't and won't buy one and louder volume from the phone would be a big plus.

post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by FrwrdThnkn View Post
I disagree. The phone should have speakers loud enough so we wouldn't need an external speaker system in our cars.

 

So 40 watts, then.

 
Why do with two tools what can be, and often is, done with only one?

 

Because if you’re not connecting it to your car anyway, that’s exactly what you’re doing: using two tools separately instead of as one.

 
It promotes more to use hands free.

 

The system whereby this is accomplished being also tied into the car’s speaker system. Problem solved.

 
I use my iPhone this way, although at some speeds or with heavy traffic, the window open, or rain, that road noise drowns it out deterring me from using it at all most of the time.

 

Well, duh.

 
It would increase safety during the rare times when I do need it

 

Increase safety by deafening you with the phone’s audio, overpowering the sounds of the world around you?

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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