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Apple researching flexible headphone connectors to stop potential breakage

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
An Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday describes an innovative headphone connector that uses flexible parts to protect against accidental breakage and costly equipment damage.

TRS
Source: USPTO


Apple's "Flexible TRS connector" patent filing outlines a number of designs and implementation scenarios for a headphone connector, the body or sleeve of which is partially made from flexible materials. By using flexible or elastic parts, the plug would be able to withstand moderate bending that would otherwise break existing connectors.

The design of headphones with 3.5mm connectors like those supplied with the iPhone, as seen above, is comprised of a conductive tip, conductive sleeve, and two conductive rings. Between the conductive areas is a dielectric material that isolate the audio, microphone and ground signals from corresponding pins in the headphone jack.

Signals are transmitted between the contacts to an inner conductive member that itself is connected to signal wires running through the headphone cord. At one terminus is the speaker or microphone, while the other end connects to the electronic device.

TRS
Illustration of plug inserted into an electronic device.


These TRRS (tip, ring, ring, sleeve) connectors can be brittle due to their construction, and are prone to breaking when inserted incorrectly with too much force, or extracted in a similar fashion.

Apple proposes a plug that incorporates flexible elastomers or thermoplastic elastomers that will give if a user accidentally bends the sleeve or the plastic shell that is located at the base of each connector. These materials can replace the dielectric insulation along the plug shaft or, in some embodiments, the internal member which runs through the entire sleeve can be made from an elastomer coated in conductive layer.

With the elastomer parts in place, the plug can withstand substantial bending when under strain and return to its normal state when strain is removed. In some cases, a combination of sleeve, inner conductive member, or shell is flexible, while other parts remain rigid.

Finally, in some embodiments, flexibility varies across the connector's length, allowing for more strain tolerance in areas prone to breakage, such as the tip or base of the plug.

TRS
Connector as described in patent application with flexible inner member (206) and insulation (204).


With each iteration, the iPhone has become thinner as consumers demand sleeker, increasingly lightweight products. In Apple's latest iPhone 5, for example, the 3.5mm headphone jack assembly spans nearly the full width of the phone, almost to the point where the part is becoming a limiting factor in the device's design.

Apple's plans for the invention remain unclear, though the company could potentially deploy the technology as its devices quickly move toward a design stage that calls for thinner connectors, such as a 2.5mm subminiature plug.

Apple's flexible connector patent application was first filed for in 2013 and credits Albert J. Golko as its inventor.
post #2 of 33
Scamsung no doubt start work on their version today.
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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post #3 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Scamsung no doubt start work on their version today.

 

Apple has been working on a system, reported here previously, that employs a (probably) thinner but longer connector, approaching perhaps the existing digital port in size, which of course is considerably thinner. 

Where are we on the curve? We'll know once it goes asymptotic!
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Where are we on the curve? We'll know once it goes asymptotic!
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post #4 of 33

 

Quote:
...consumers demand sleeker, increasingly lightweight products

 

I don't really think anyone is demanding this at all, Apple keep upping the ante on this one themselves. I think people understand that while hardware will get faster and more powerful indefinitely, it will not get ever lighter, there's a limit and we probably are very close to it. In fact I don't think anyone would want any more heft removed from the iPod touch, we need to feel some substance.

 

With regards to the 3.5mm micro connector it will never be able to have a magsafe like detachment and it seems that this is a waste of engineering.

post #5 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple's plans for the invention remain unclear, though the company could potentially deploy the technology as its devices quickly move toward a design stage that calls for thinner connectors, such as a 2.5mm subminiature plug.

There's no need for Apple to move to a smaller plug yet.

The iPod Touch is already much thinner than the iPhone and its still able to support a 3.5mm audio connector. Unless the iPhone 6 is slimmer than that the 3.5mm isn't going anywhere.

And honestly Apple would probably ditch audio plug ins altogether and rely solely on Bluetooth before even contemplating migrating their devices to 2.5mm audio connectors.
post #6 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Scamsung no doubt start work on their version today.

 

They may also work on a dildo as well...
post #7 of 33
Everything should be MagSafe. Magnetic connectors that can pull off. All connectors.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #8 of 33
Apple's earphones definitely are getting better generation after generation. They're not just an afterthought component that they buy from a third party and just chuck in the box. I remember my first 2 sets of white earbuds (many years ago) didn't last too long, but the third set was much improved, and the latest Earpods are the best yet, they still look almost new after months of wear and tear.
Edited by ascii - 8/15/13 at 4:16am
post #9 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by btonedem View Post

They may also work on a dildo as well...

No chance of that, there are no patents related to that by Apple or rumors that Apple are so Scammy won't be.
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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post #10 of 33
Building a propitory headphone jack is an option. They could just make convertor accessory for 3.5mm.
Like the lightning connectors are build by third party legally, every headphone manufacturer could build an apple propitory headphone connector if they still wanna rely on wired tech. If that's done they could come up with MagSafe optical jacks which is much compact.

Hence moving to digital headphones rather than analog ones.
post #11 of 33
This is awesome news! Those little details come a long way in making a product special.

Regarding some of the comments on this thread: I doubt Apple would move away from 3.5mm to 2.5mm any time soon. I believe people want to have the option of using the earphone or headphones of their choice and Apple knows that. 3.5mm is the standard --more so than 2.5mm. I can see Apple eventually migrating to Bluetooth in the furute but not to 2.5mm. But again, I could be wrong.
post #12 of 33
Why does it have to be round? Seems the issue is the shape, can you not make a flat or elongated connector for headphones like a micro sd card for example ?
post #13 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by eckergus View Post

This is awesome news! Those little details come a long way in making a product special.

Regarding some of the comments on this thread: I doubt Apple would move away from 3.5mm to 2.5mm any time soon. I believe people want to have the option of using the earphone or headphones of their choice and Apple knows that. 3.5mm is the standard --more so than 2.5mm. I can see Apple eventually migrating to Bluetooth in the furute but not to 2.5mm. But again, I could be wrong.

Wireless headphones needs charging and that's a pain. That also means you can't do long term listening coz of battery drains. Perhaps the day when witricity becomes reality, wireless headphones could be feasible.
Witricity is a technology of wirelessly transmitting electricity.

If you haven't seen witricity demos here you go.
http://www.ted.com/talks/eric_giler_demos_wireless_electricity.html
post #14 of 33
Why not a horizontally (along one side of the device opposed into the device) for a standard 3.5mm jack that attaches with a magsafe electrical connection. The port can be removed if not required,adjusts in a north to south position or Vice versa securely, takes all regular headphones or earphones? The magsafe connection is dirt resistant, takes other adapters for larger headphone while at home, provides a secondary port for attaching 3rd party adapters enhancing the iPhone with deluxe upgrades exclusive to Apple such as an altimeter, barometer, step counter, temperature meter or other slim small device. Alternately, the magsafe connection could be used to physically attach your iPhone to a stereo port or your car magsafe jack safely.
post #15 of 33
Apple should patent a way to distribute electricity to an entire planet using a series of geo stationary satellites from space. And also figure how to encrypt those signals so only Apple devices can decrypt those signals to wirelessly charge. They have close ties with NASA so building the satellite and deploying it shouldn't be a problem.

They just have to figure how to convert solar energy coming from the sun, into electricity that can be transmitted and encrypted from outer space.

That's when Apple can tell Scamsung "DARE U TO COPY THAT"
Edited by nikilok - 8/15/13 at 4:43am
post #16 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikilok View Post

Apple should patent a way to distribute electricity to an entire planet using a series of geo stationary satellites from space. And also figure how to encrypt those signals so only Apple devices can decrypt those signals to wirelessly charge. They have close ties with NASA so building the satellite and deploying it shouldn't be a problem.

They just have to figure how to convert solar energy coming from the sun, into electricity that can be transmitted and encrypted from outer space.

That's when Apple can tell Scamsung "DARE U TO COPY THAT"

The day that happens here is the conversations that would happen at Shamesung's office.

Employee to CEO

Employee : Sir we have a serious problem with Apple.
CEO : Nothing our Cloning Department can't solve.
Employee: They can wirelessly charge there devices 24/7 now.
CEO: 24/7 how ?
Employee: they got satellites in outer space transmitting electricity in a encrypted format. We can't hack into it.
CEO: no problem, let's make our phone with a 20 inch screens and stuff a giant battery into it. One that needs charging only once a month.
Employee: sir but there phones are 4 inches and 0.5mg light with 3mm thickness.

CEO calls Tim Cook: Hello Tim we have a new deal for you. Next 10 years of FREE component manufacturing. Let's share this new satellite tech 1biggrin.gif

Tim hangs up the call.
Edited by nikilok - 8/15/13 at 5:02am
post #17 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Everything should be MagSafe. Magnetic connectors that can pull off. All connectors.

And then everyone would complain about Apple making an incompatible headphone jack and whine that their $4.99 Walmart headphones won't work.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #18 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Scamsung no doubt start work on their version today.

And it will release it before apple does.  

It will release it in different sizes (dont ask why) which eventually end up looking a like a di!do. 1rolleyes.gif

post #19 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chandra69 View Post

And it will release it before apple does.  
It will release it in different sizes (dont ask why) which eventually end up looking a like a di!do. 1rolleyes.gif

Of course. bigger is always better, right? So why doesn't Apple introduce an 8" headphone jack to keep up with Samsung?
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #20 of 33
Thank god. If you go to the gym regularly with headphones, you know this is a godsend. I go through two headphones a year because of this very thing. The point where bending makes wires lose some or all of their connection. Pain in the ass when wiggling of the wires makes your music cut in and out.
post #21 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Everything should be MagSafe. Magnetic connectors that can pull off. All connectors.

 

Nice thought, but then limited to Apple only headphones.  I bought their earpods last year and sent them back.  I just keep getting the $9.99 Sony ones in the rollup case from Walmart.  I found they have better sound than the earpods for my liking anyway.

post #22 of 33
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post
No chance of that, there are no patents related to that by Apple or rumors that Apple are so Scammy won't be.

 

I think the joke may have been that anything Apple makes, Samsung makes bigger.

 

Ooh. Song.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #23 of 33
I find it quite ironic that my headphones broke today of the exact issue and I am an avid reader of this blog and today they do an article telling me Apple already knows and is working to fix the issue. I love Apple!
post #24 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Everything should be MagSafe. Magnetic connectors that can pull off. All connectors.

I totally agree. The phone could come with a small 3.5mm socket to magsafe adapter so all headphones could be used.

post #25 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikilok View Post

Hence moving to digital headphones rather than analog ones.

 

What is a digital headphone? How does it work?

post #26 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Markg71 View Post

Why does it have to be round? Seems the issue is the shape, can you not make a flat or elongated connector for headphones like a micro sd card for example ?

 

As long as it only goes in one way, sure. The connector shouldn't be reversible though, as left and right ears would be swapped.

 

Then there would be the issue of Apple's devices being incompatible with every set of headphones ever made unless you want to carry an adaptor which sorta negates the elegance of a slim connector.

 

If it's really necessary for a pocket computer/communications device (it just doesn't seem right to refer to it as just "a phone" anymore) to be as thin as a credit card, perhaps just the area where the headphones plug in could be thicker, like a little semi-cylindrical jack "hangar."

post #27 of 33
Great, now can you figure out how to make a charging cable that doesn't tear after 6 months? I've had a bunch of iPhone cables tear near the connector, and now I just had to patch up my 2010 MBP power cable. The MBP I can understand, as its been 3 years, but the iPhone cable problem I cannot. Seems like such low-hanging fruit.
post #28 of 33

I have also imagined a Lightning connector that fits fully inside the device so that if the device falls only the cable takes the impact.  The hard inflexible parts of the connector are inside the phone.  A lot of Lightning sockets get damaged when the outer body of the connector gets impacted or torqued.  By moving the rigid parts of the connector inside the phone, only the cable and it's strain relief would suffer the forces of impact.  I know this idea creates an internal space issue, but  . . . .

post #29 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by v5v View Post

 

What is a digital headphone? How does it work?

 

A digital headphone takes in digital signals instead of Analog ones.

It then converts that digital signals into analog ones, which is then sent over to the speakers built in.

So Arguably the question would be why even bother making headphones digital, since its finally analog outputs.


Edited by nikilok - 8/16/13 at 2:49am
post #30 of 33
Originally Posted by jrob View Post
Great, now can you figure out how to make a charging cable that doesn't tear after 6 months?

 

Yeah: take care of your possessions. 

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #31 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikilok View Post

 

A digital headphone takes in digital signals instead of Analog ones.

It then converts that digital signals into analog ones, which is then sent over to the speakers built in.

So Arguably the question would be why even bother making headphones digital, since its finally analog outputs.

 

So a digital headphone would require a ditial-to-analog converter, an amplifier, and some means of providing power to those devices. Seems like a lotta hardware to carry around in an earpiece. Does such a thing actually exist?

post #32 of 33
Apple seems to be working on ultimate earphones, with it practically industructable, best sound quality, best ever fit, switch between Bluetooth and wired connection

Apple will likely never make new audio port. They will likely switch to Bluetooth, make lighting to 3.5 and ask makers to use Bluetooth or lighting.
post #33 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnalogJack View Post

 

 

I don't really think anyone is demanding this at all, Apple keep upping the ante on this one themselves. I think people understand that while hardware will get faster and more powerful indefinitely, it will not get ever lighter, there's a limit and we probably are very close to it. In fact I don't think anyone would want any more heft removed from the iPod touch, we need to feel some substance.

 

With regards to the 3.5mm micro connector it will never be able to have a magsafe like detachment and it seems that this is a waste of engineering.


Yeah, it's a complete waste.  The headphone connector is a standard, and has been a standard for many, many years (I know it's been around for at least 40, and I suspect it's older than that).  Apple WILL lose customers if they abandon it.

 

And NO ONE is demanding thinner devices.  Apple keeps making them thinner, at the expense of power, battery life, and serviceability.  I'd be VERY happy if the next iPhone were thicker, at least as thick as the first iPhone, and with a removable battery.  I was hoping Steve dying would reverse the trend, but Tim seems to have bought into the stupidity.

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