Apple filing shows initial stab at AirPods with magnetic hooks

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2016
An Apple patent application published on Thursday may hint at an abandoned AirPods design that aimed to keep the earbuds more firmly in place.




The patent describes a series of hooks that would not only attach around the ear but magnetically attract each other from opposite sides of the ear wall, preventing earbuds from falling out. Apple first submitted the idea in June.

It's not certain if the concept was born with the AirPods in mind -- one diagram shows a conventional wired set of earbuds -- but Apple's filing does mention wireless antenna assemblies.




Keeping AirPods in the ear has been a key concern of prospective buyers, though most initial tests suggest they are unlikely to fall out without a wire attached. Some third-party accessory makers are even selling add-on cables that keep them physically connected.

Conceivably, Apple may have decided against hooks for aesthetic reasons, simpler use, and/or making charging easier. In their final design the AirPods are charged by inserting them into a small battery case -- something that wouldn't have worked with hooks in the way.

The company does use hooks in its Powerbeats line, but those are more consciously fitness-focused and originated prior to Apple's takeover of Beats in 2014.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    Too bad, mine don't stay firmly seated enough to get the best fidelity, especially base. They are secure enough for me not to worry about them falling out, but not for best music. Fine for podcasts. Maybe after market attachments will offer some kind of soft cover with horns to snug them in. On the other hand, the design pictured looks a lot like an old school hearing aid. 
  • Reply 2 of 11
    I truly hope the design can evolve over time to account for the fact that not all ears are built to hold in place Apple's current earbud design. If that can happen, I would imagine that Apple would increase its sales of AirPods many, many times over.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    can any single design provide a solution for literally everybody? my SO hasn't had luck with any brand anywhere. 

    BeastX offer wingtips which offer another point of tension. 
  • Reply 4 of 11
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    Too bad, mine don't stay firmly seated enough to get the best fidelity, especially base. They are secure enough for me not to worry about them falling out, but not for best music. Fine for podcasts. Maybe after market attachments will offer some kind of soft cover with horns to snug them in. On the other hand, the design pictured looks a lot like an old school hearing aid. 
    True. While Apples earbuds have always fit my ears fine, and stayed put without fear of falling out, but I am forever repositioning them to try and find the sonic sweet spot.
  • Reply 5 of 11
    I would guess Apple did extensive research to design the EarPods/Airpods to fit the ear shape that is most commonly found. For instance, Airpods probably fit 80% of people. And there aren't just two or three earshapes, there can be dozens. So if one shape addresss 80%, and Apple invested in a second shape to add another 5% coverage, then a third for another 5%, and a fourth for 2%, fifth for 1%..... and so on.... apple would have to juggle manufacturing, logistics, and sustainment of extra earshapes for a diminished rate of return. Sticking to one shape that covers 80% is a more economical business decision by not getting into the realm of extra effort with  diminishing returns.

    They thankfully fit my ears perfectly. Yet I've seen some tech reviewers demonstrate some people who's ears pop their Airpods/EarPods out of the ear by merely smiling, let alone shaking their head around. It's definitely a one size fits most approach. 
    edited December 2016
  • Reply 6 of 11
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,540member
    I am fortunate that the AirPods fit my ears very well. Loving them over the last couple days. Just did a workout and no issues with the sweat. Sound quality is much better than the traditional EarPods.  Ease of use is best of any headphone I have ever had.  With an Apple Watch, the automatic switching between sources was the key reason I wanted them. 

    That said, I do hope Apple can find an elegant solution to account for different ear shapes so more people can enjoy them. 
  • Reply 7 of 11
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,764member
    If your AirPods don't fit, it might be worth trying this:

    Pull down in earlobe. 
    Push AirPod firmly into ear. 
    Let go of earlobe. 

    I suffer from a condition called Congenital Weirdness which means my ears are completely different in both size and shape. I'm not even going to try AirPods because one of my ears will be outside the 80%. 
  • Reply 8 of 11
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,764member
    xmhillx said:
    I would guess Apple did extensive research to design the EarPods/Airpods to fit the ear shape that is most commonly found. For instance, Airpods probably fit 80% of people. And there aren't just two or three earshapes, there can be dozens. So if one shape addresss 80%, and Apple invested in a second shape to add another 5% coverage, then a third for another 5%, and a fourth for 2%, fifth for 1%..... and so on.... apple would have to juggle manufacturing, logistics, and sustainment of extra earshapes for a diminished rate of return. Sticking to one shape that covers 80% is a more economical business decision by not getting into the realm of extra effort with  diminishing returns.

    They thankfully fit my ears perfectly. Yet I've seen some tech reviewers demonstrate some people who's ears pop their Airpods/EarPods out of the ear by merely smiling, let alone shaking their head around. It's definitely a one size fits most approach. 
    It's highly likely that Apple scraps AirPods that are returned to them for whatever reason. If people try and return sets while trying to find the perfect fit, then that would result in a lot of wastage. 
  • Reply 9 of 11
    It's highly likely that Apple scraps AirPods that are returned to them for whatever reason. If people try and return sets while trying to find the perfect fit, then that would result in a lot of wastage. 
    It would be true, except that apple's EarPod shape has been used for years. They come included with a new iPhone. And since Airpods are the same shape, there is a small percentage of people who have no idea if Airpods would fit them well or not. So the vast majority of Apple users likely to buy Airpods  already know if Airpods fit their ears or not.  There's no scenario where the "waste" from returns is overly problematic; the return rate is more likely already calculated into Apple's business plan. Multi billion dollar companies tend to not overlook all facets of commerce, such as expected return rates. 
  • Reply 10 of 11
    One piece of magnetic magic that would have been very helpful would be to incorporate magnets in each AirPod that allow them to stick together when they are out of my ears and not in their charging case. E.g. when they are sitting on a table (as they are as I eat breakfast in a cafe right now), or when they are in my pocket. Obviously they are largely designed to sit in their case when they are not in your ears however I've found that there are lots of instances where carrying the case around just doesn't make sense, e.g. To the gym, or just out to get a coffee. Actually the magnets could serve an additional function also. Because the AirPods themselves are activated (i.e. Start playing) based on a proximity sensor, it seems that having the AirPods sitting in a pocket may cause them to think that they are in my ears. Having them magnetically connected with the magnets then communicating with the proximity sensors to let them know that whilst they might be in a dark place, they are not in my ears would solve this issue too! (Yes I will send this as a suggestion to Apple)
  • Reply 11 of 11
    Version two could come with microscopic harpoon guns built in to each ear piece that hammer miniature spikes into your ear canals. That would work.
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