Apple wants to shrink MacBook Pro by removing speaker grills

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Apple has been researching how to embed a speaker underneath a MacBook Pro keyboard, which would meaning being able to reduce the device's footprint.




First they came for the bezels - and Apple isn't done reducing those - and now it wants to cut back on the speaker grill. Apple's ideal for the MacBook Pro appears to be one where the device is no wider than the keyboard, and no taller than the screen.

Apple's ideal for the MacBook Pro is apparently the beloved 12-inch PowerBook. But that model wasn't known for having great audio, not even with its hidden subwoofer inside the chassis.

So the newly-revealed "Speaker Assembly for Electronic Device" patent application proposes a new speaker system. Audio quality is important, but this patent application is equally concerned with "design, heft, ease of portability, and overall aesthetic appearance."

"One design challenge associated with the manufacture of electronic devices is the assembly of parts that provide different functions into a compact form factor," says the patent application. "This design challenge generally arises from a number of conflicting design goals that include the performance of separate components and the user experience while interacting with the electronic device."

Apple wants the MacBook Pro to sound great, but also to not in any way impair a user's working on one.

"During operation, a speaker mounted within an electronic device may move in a manner that generates vibrations," continues Apple. "At the same time, a user may operate a keyboard or another component of the electronic device by physically contacting such a component."

"The vibrations generated by speaker motion can tend to be transmitted throughout the electronic device," says the patent application. "It can be desirable to reduce or eliminate transmission of such vibrations so that they are not perceptible by a user while in contact with the electronic device."

Apple also wants to "achieve such results with an arrangement that minimizes cost in terms of components and time for assembly."

The proposed solution is a speaker system that would reside underneath a MacBook Pro's keyboard. The system would be a speaker assembly that included the speaker itself, and also be "coupled to the chassis via a spring element."

This spring element could be "configured to reduce transmission of vibrations generated by the speaker into other components."

Detail from the patent application showing a speaker assembly underneath a keyboard
Detail from the patent application showing a speaker assembly underneath a keyboard


"For example, the spring element can include an arm that extends within an opening of the main body to connect the main body to a fastener secured to the chassis," says Apple. "With such an arrangement, the speaker assembly can operate from within the laptop (e.g., beneath the keyboard) to generate sound without propagating excessive vibrations throughout the laptop."

So you could type while listening to loud music and neither your striking the keys, nor the tune moving the speaker, should affect each other.

The majority of the patent application's almost 7,000 words concentrates on the possible mechanisms for the spring element. Consequently, although the patent application only broadly refers to it, such a speaker system could be embedded in other devices.

"Such an electronic device can be or include a desktop electronic device," it says, "[or] a display, a television, a portable device, a phone, a tablet electronic device, a mobile electronic device, a wearable device, a watch, and/or a digital media player."

This patent application is credited to eight inventors, including Stuart M. Nevill. His previous related work includes research that led to the redesigned speakers on the 24-inch iMac.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    Uhhh,  didn't they solve that problem long ago?

    The original MacBook Air had no speaker grills -- I understand the speakers are under the keyboard.
    My grandson's 2017 (basically just an update of the original design) seems to work perfectly and sounds great.
    9secondkox2baconstangcornchip
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    darkvaderwilliamlondonMplsP
  • Reply 3 of 13
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 254unconfirmed, member
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    Same screen size, bigger keyboard and smaller body.

    All wins
    GeorgeBMacwilliamlondonpatchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    Same screen size, bigger keyboard and smaller body.

    All wins

    Not really.

    I bet they could squeeze a 17.5" screen in something the size of the old 17" with no notch, and have plenty of room left for speakers, user-upgradeable storage and RAM, and even a user-replaceable battery.  Maybe even a built-in numeric keypad.

    Smaller isn't better.
    9secondkox2williamlondonMplsP
  • Reply 5 of 13
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,476member
    darkvader said:
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    Same screen size, bigger keyboard and smaller body.

    All wins

    Not really.

    I bet they could squeeze a 17.5" screen in something the size of the old 17" with no notch, and have plenty of room left for speakers, user-upgradeable storage and RAM, and even a user-replaceable battery.  Maybe even a built-in numeric keypad.

    Smaller isn't better.
    Why stop there?  Just sell the whole thing in modules that are user-solderable.  The tech enthusiasts had it right at the start of the PC era in the 70s. /s
    edited January 27 9secondkox2omasouwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 13
    The PowerBook g4 12” had no speaker grills either. 

    Neither did the 12 inch MacBook I think. 

    Personally I think the way Apple led with the speaker grilles on the sides looks fantastic. The best way to do it. 

    It looks nice. Even nicer than without in my opinion. And you can get better speakers with more room. Speakers shouldn’t be an afterthought at this level of notebook. 

    And if we are trying to get more room for things, just come out with a 17” screen for the top tier MBP. it would be unnoticeable larger than the 16” now. 

    Aesthetically, it’s extremely difficult to top the 2016 MBP design. It was perfect in every way.  Not talking about touchbar or butterfly keyboard or low power ram or Intel CPUs that barely improved. Talking the shell. The industrial design. It was beautiful, sleek, and looked just right from every angle. Much nicer even than the fantastic new machines. 

    Sometimes you don’t have to rethink something. You just appreciate it. Until an actual better idea comes along. Forcing change just to change usually ends up with stuff like compromising speaker quality and location. 

    And making something smaller isn’t always a positive. 

    I don’t want to mash the keys every time I go to pick up the laptop to show someone something on my screen. The speaker grills are actual practical for that kind of thing. 
    edited January 27 patchythepiratecg27watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    omasouomasou Posts: 324member
    I appreciate the nice deep Mac start up sound and it does sound impressive but seriously is anyone listening to the sound coming out of the MacBook speakers? They only really need to be good enough to communicate user feedback. The current speaker placement is to fill the space required for the screen width. So what's the plan, increase the keyboard size? I'm certainly not buy a screen <16"

    For everything else, e.g. music. We have a headphone jack and guessing most folks use AirPods or other wireless headset/speaker. Just saying.

    Note to Apple, lets spend some engineering hours to give the case back its style and weight! I for one will give up an hour of battery life so my MacBook doesn't look and feel like a brick of aluminum. It's really sad when my work ThinkPad has more style than my newest MacBook Pro.
    edited January 27 williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 13
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    Same screen size, bigger keyboard and smaller body.

    All wins

    Keyboards should be standard size.  No bigger, no smaller.
    tjwolfpatchythepirateMplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 13
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 424member
    This might be a useful exercise for Apple's smallest MacBook Pros, but for it's main seller, the 16" MBP, it's utterly pointless.  As another poster already pointed out, a keyboard is pretty standard in size, so eliminating the speaker grills doesn't really fix a problem.  And i bet most MBP users' #1 wishlist item for a future MBP is a bigger screen  so even less reason to eliminate the speaker grills.

    Apple must be trying to address some concern with the grills if, indeed, they're trying to eliminate them.  Water/coffee/coke ingress through the holes?
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,646member
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    Same screen size, bigger keyboard and smaller body.

    All wins

    Keyboards should be standard size.  No bigger, no smaller.
    Exactly. My 15" MBP has a full sized keyboard and room for speaker grills. If they took away the speakers it would just have blank space on either side of the keyboard. What's the point?
    CluntBaby92watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 13
    Maybe they intend to degrade the sound somewhat, via the built-in speakers, in order to promote sales of AirPods and HomePod Minis. 
  • Reply 12 of 13
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,741member
    darkvader said:
    Even smaller MacBook Pro? No thanks.
    Same screen size, bigger keyboard and smaller body.

    All wins

    Not really.

    I bet they could squeeze a 17.5" screen in something the size of the old 17" with no notch, and have plenty of room left for speakers, user-upgradeable storage and RAM, and even a user-replaceable battery.  Maybe even a built-in numeric keypad.

    Smaller isn't better.

    Smaller isn't better, you talking about something else. For laptop, larger screen in smallest possible case/body is better.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 13
    It's just a patent.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
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