Apple’s audio port patent shows it wants to make iPhones even thinner

There are persistent rumors that the iPhone 7 will ditch the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack and offer only two choices for connecting headphones and earphones: wirelessly via Bluetooth or, physically, via a Lightning port. Only Apple knows if the rumors are true, but a newly granted patent (number 9,237,389) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that the company remains committed (obsessed) with making its devices ever thinner.

In the patent for an “audio port configuration for compact electronic devices,” Apple even points out that, as portable electronic devices get smaller and thinner, there are increased difficulties in providing the same or greater audio functionality in a smaller area. An electronic device such as an iPhone can utilize at least one or two speakers and one or more microphones in its internal house.

However,, given the area constraints imposed on many portable electronic devices, it is increasingly difficult to provide high-quality audio sound output and pickup “without hindering the ability to make portable electronic devices smaller and thinner,” Apple says. The company feels that there’s a need “for improved approaches to provide high-quality audio sound output and/or pickup from portable electronic devices as they get smaller and thinner.”

The patent is for an “audio port configuration for compact electronic devices.” The audio elements can be drivers (e.g., speakers) or receivers (e.g., microphones). 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “In one embodiment, an audio element can be mounted on or coupled to an intermediate structure (e.g., a flexible electrical substrate) having an opening therein to allow audio sound to pass there through. In another embodiment, an audio chamber can be formed to assist in directing audio sound between an opening an outer housing and a flexible electronic substrate to which the audio element is mounted or coupled thereto. In still another embodiment, a barrier, such as a mesh barrier, can be provided in an opening of an outer housing so that undesired foreign substances can be blocked from further entry into the opening in the outer housing.”