Apple shows continued interest in shrinking audio jacks to create thinner devices

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's quest to make electronic devices even smaller and thinner continues to be challenged by the size of a standard 3.5mm audio jack, prompting the device maker to explore new methods to shrink the input's footprint, including collapsible ports.



A new patent application from Apple was made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled "Low Profile Plug Receptacle." Discovered by AppleInsider, the proposed invention details ways in which devices could accommodate standard-sized headphone plugs while shrinking even further in size.



Apple notes that a standard port for a 3.5mm audio plug must have a thickness that is greater than that, in order to accommodate a plug for an external set of speakers or headphones. In addition to the port, the thickness of the device's housing, like an iPod or iPhone, must be taken into account, and appropriate clearance must be made available for the plug to slide into the device.



"As electronic devices get thinner, the diameter of the audio plug, and corresponding receptacle, have been found to be limiting factors in the reduction of device thickness," the application reads. "While it is possible to develop plugs that are thinner than either the 3.5mm miniature or 2.5mm subminiature audio plugs that could be used with a correspondingly thinner receptacle, smaller connectors are not backward compatible and need to use an adapter for larger jacks."



To resolve this issue, Apple has proposed a number of methods for making audio jacks smaller while still accommodating standard size plugs. One method would use a "flexible housing" that would expand when a 3.5mm plug is inserted into the device. Using a plastic housing, the side of the device would bulge outward to allow a plug to fit.







Other methods could rely on hinges that would extend outward when a set of headphones are plugged in. While the side of the device would be flat when nothing is plugged in, they would pop outward slightly to contain an audio plug when it is inserted.



In another example, the hinges could be ditched entirely, leaving an exposed slit along the side of the device. An audio plug would slightly protrude outward from the device when inserted, as its 3.5mm cylindrical diameter would be thicker than the iPhone, iPad, iPod or other super-thin device.



Disclosed this week by the USPTO, the application was first filed on Nov. 10, 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Stephen Brian Lynch and Anthony Sagala Montevirgen.







Last September, AppleInsider discovered a separate patent application that would use different methods to shrink audio jacks on portable devices like an iPod. That proposed invention would rely on Pogo pins with conductive contacts, replacing cantilever beams that can take up a large amount of space in current audio jacks.



Apple continually strives to make its devices thinner, smaller and lighter, as evidenced by Friday's release of the new iPad 2, with the tablet a third thinner than its predecessor, and thinner than the iPhone 4. Last September, the company also released a redesigned iPod nano that isn't much thicker than its built-in 3.5mm audio jack.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 45
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    I'd love to have an Apple external device for jack plugs ... a gizmo with a standard jack that plugged into my guitars etc. and wirelessly communicated with iPads and Macs. I know these things get lost but add in a 'Find My iJack' to MobileMe and I'd be in heaven



    iJack (as in ... I just iJacked my guitar) ... LOL
  • Reply 2 of 45
    mytdavemytdave Posts: 434member
    I don't really see the point. If a device gets thinner than 4mm, then it becomes difficult for humans to handle it because it's too thin/small to grip and use comfortably. Instead of being obsessed with thin, maybe they should focus on other improvements like edge-to-edge displays, or say, including long requested features such as integrated FM tuners, better cameras, SD card slots, you know, useful stuff...
  • Reply 3 of 45
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member
    The smaller the jack is, the more fragile. I think Apple is better off exploring wireless solutions such as Bluetooth.
  • Reply 4 of 45
    I wonder if they could just use magnets to hold a new form of jack to the outside of the unit, just like how magsafe works? Or just push wireless headphones.
  • Reply 5 of 45
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple's quest to make electronic devices even smaller and thinner continues to be challenged by the size of a standard 3.5mm audio jack, prompting the device maker to explore new methods to shrink the input's footprint, including collapsible ports.....



    This article would be a whole lot more readable if the author would decide on one term and not just use "jack," "plug," "socket," "audio jack," etc. randomly and interchangeably.



    I know the Americans have dropped the original way of referring to them as "jack plug" and "jack socket," and now just use "jack" to refer to both the plug and the socket or either in isolation, but even that confusing state of affairs would be preferred to this mix and match mess of conflicting terms.



    Pick a term and go with it already.
  • Reply 6 of 45
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Asst. Prof. View Post


    Apple really needs to do this. As of now, any crap company can make headphones and other audio devices that plug into Apple's stuff, with the result that the sound is lousy. So people blame Apple.



    If they had their own special plug, only good headphones would get licensed, and Steve could be sure that the sound quality is up to snuff.



    The patents here and the pogo ones would seem to cover off a whole lot of possibilities for small jacks too. Since hardware patents are clear and easily defensible, it would seem that Apple kind of "owns" the "thinner than a headphone jack" space in mobile devices for the future.
  • Reply 7 of 45
    juandljuandl Posts: 228member
    Alle should do the same as they did with FaceTime.

    Skype had been around for a while, but it was not up to Apple's standards.



    They should do the same regarding a new better Bluetooth type device that will work better and stronger.
  • Reply 8 of 45
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Asst. Prof. View Post


    Apple really needs to do this. As of now, any crap company can make headphones and other audio devices that plug into Apple's stuff, with the result that the sound is lousy. So people blame Apple.



    If they had their own special plug, only good headphones would get licensed, and Steve could be sure that the sound quality is up to snuff.



    I love Apple stuff, but to be honest, I think that the white headphones that came with the iPods are kind of crappy, from a sound quality viewpoint. I have high standards when it comes to sound, as that is my gig.
  • Reply 9 of 45
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mytdave View Post


    I don't really see the point. If a device gets thinner than 4mm, then it becomes difficult for humans to handle it because it's too thin/small to grip and use comfortably. Instead of being obsessed with thin, maybe they should focus on other improvements like edge-to-edge displays, or say, including long requested features such as integrated FM tuners, better cameras, SD card slots, you know, useful stuff...



    Ah, clearly you've done lots of usability testing in this area, you must have spent a lot of money on it. Are your results published anywhere? Link?
  • Reply 10 of 45
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    At this stage of the game I'd love to see Apple redo the entire audio line out system to their own standards. Develop a higher fidelity port, and cable, and headphones. Develop their own HD audio solution for automobiles.



    I hope Apple has some "hires" that are working on this very issue.
  • Reply 11 of 45
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    I love Apple stuff, but to be honest, I think that the white headphones that came with the iPods are kind of crappy, from a sound quality viewpoint. I have high standards when it comes to sound, as that is my gig.



    Right, and the last thing I want is to be locked to their headphones that keep falling out of my ears. This is a real pain in the gym or mountain biking. I want to choose my own headphones to application thanks, not what apple thinks are great.



    The sound quality is not awful but hardly competes with similarly priced products so no thanks to the custom connector!
  • Reply 12 of 45
    oc4theooc4theo Posts: 294member
    This does not make sense. I think it will result in users damage to the device. How think can it get. The newest iPhone, iPod Touch, and now iPad are all already thinner than the competition. How thin can they get? Fragility must be taken into account.



    Collapsible plastic that bulges out is a bad idea, in my opinion.
  • Reply 13 of 45
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by diamondgeeza View Post


    Right, and the last thing I want is to be locked to their headphones that keep falling out of my ears. This is a real pain in the gym or mountain biking. I want to choose my own headphones to application thanks, not what apple thinks are great.



    The sound quality is not awful but hardly competes with similarly priced products so no thanks to the custom connector!



    Have you tried the Griffin rubber clip on attachments for Apple Buds? They make the Apple buds very comfy and they don't drop out. Without them I find the standard buds unusable.



    http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/earjams
  • Reply 14 of 45
    I don't like this trend to ever thinner devices. There's a point where I want something substantial to hold, not a paper thin thinggy that gets blown away by the wind. Exaggeration aside, if Apple is so intent on killing the 3.5mm audio jack, at least INCLUDE a high quality adapter so the rest of us can continue to use our own high(er) quality headphones.
  • Reply 14 of 45
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Asst. Prof. View Post


    Apple really needs to do this. As of now, any crap company can make headphones and other audio devices that plug into Apple's stuff, with the result that the sound is lousy. So people blame Apple.



    If they had their own special plug, only good headphones would get licensed, and Steve could be sure that the sound quality is up to snuff.



    Are you for real? Have you listened to music with the headphones bundled with the iPod range? Like most bundled headphones, they're awful. Their lack of bass response has had a terrible effect on modern pop music.



    Apple is in no position to dictate over headphone quality.
  • Reply 16 of 45
    freddychfreddych Posts: 266member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RichL View Post


    Are you for real? Have you listened to music with the headphones bundled with the iPod range? Like most bundled headphones, they're awful. Their lack of bass response has had a terrible effect on modern pop music.



    Apple is in no position to dictate over headphone quality.



    What are you talking about?



    The stock apple headphones blow so-called "professional" earphones from Shure out of the water. It's the duty of Apple to protect its customers from such shams.



    Plus, if Apple comes out with a proprietary plug, then it can charge its customary 30%, ensuring that freeloaders aren't riding on their coattails.
  • Reply 17 of 45
    Come on people READ the article. Apple is NOT talking about a new jack, they are talking about ports that take up less space so people can user standard 3.5mm jacks.



    Also stop worrying about devices being too thin. For the most part (iPhone 4 being the exception) devices are thicker in the middle but thin on the edge. The edges are where the 3.5 mm jacks need to go. On the other hand it would be a neat feet of magic to plug standard headphone into a credit card.
  • Reply 18 of 45
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RichL View Post


    Are you for real? Have you listened to music with the headphones bundled with the iPod range? Like most bundled headphones, they're awful. Their lack of bass response has had a terrible effect on modern pop music.



    Apple is in no position to dictate over headphone quality.



    I think you miss the point of Apple's headphones. Not everyone listens to rap and not everyone listens to classical music. Sure, a lot of kids and a lot of audiophiles don't like them because they don't have a subwoofer or because you can't hear the conductor coughing on that recording from the 20's, but most people don't care.



    That's who they are made for, "most people."



    The whole point of the inventions described here is to find a way for Apple to make their devices smaller precisely so that they don't have to go with a non-standard jack which would leave all the marginal cases (audiophiles and rap lovers), out in the cold.
  • Reply 19 of 45
    jglavinjglavin Posts: 93member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by freddych View Post


    What are you talking about?



    The stock apple headphones blow so-called "professional" earphones from Shure out of the water. It's the duty of Apple to protect its customers from such shams.



    Plus, if Apple comes out with a proprietary plug, then it can charge its customary 30%, ensuring that freeloaders aren't riding on their coattails.



    After the fiasco surrounding the original iphone and its recessed headphone jack, Apple know better than to try to create a proprietary audio jack.



    Plus, the pogo-plug thing was an idea about how to shrink the 3.5mm jack's pins so that it could be contained in a smaller package; the proposed plug would have still accepted regular headphone plugs.
  • Reply 20 of 45
    Apple of all companies should know to make something smaller and better they need to get rid of it. For ex. The MacBook air doesn't uave a cd rom drive why ? Because you can download everything fro the app store now on ur laptop. While this move is brave it's also genius ! My suggestion would be to create Bluetooth headphones so you don't really have to worry about an audio port anymore !
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