Patent report: wireless earbuds, flexible iOS devices, tweaked user interfaces

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are this week’s patent highlights: 

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,277,309) that will doubtless fuel rumors that the company is planning on phasing out the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack on at least its iOS devices. The patent is for a “detachable wireless listening device” — in other words, magnetically attachable/detachable, wireless earbuds.

In the patent filing Apple says that earbud/headphone cords transmit a audio signal more effectively, require less power, are inexpensive and are simpler to implement than wireless transmission techniques. However, as simple and efficient as the cord may be in transmitting the audio signal, the cord is susceptible to becoming entangled while the end user is participating in physical activity. 

Apple says this is “particularly nettlesome” since the cord connected to the personal media player used while exercising or worn on the body requires frequent adjustment to avoid entanglement which can prove distracting or in some cases present a hazard to the end user. The company says what’s needed are “improved techniques for listening to audio provided by a personal media player during physical activity.”

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,274,562) for “flexible electronic devices,” which hits at “bendable” iPhones and Apple Watches. The invention is for a flexible electronic device that may include a flexible display, a flexible housing and one or more flexible internal components configured to allow the flexible electronic device flex and bend.  Apple says such gadgets may be more resistant to damage during impact events such as drops because the flexible device may bend while absorbing impact.

Apple has filed for two patents regarding the interfaces for the Mail and Music apps on iOS devices. Both patents hint at interface changes for future versions, including accessing the apps by rotating an iPhone or iPad in a certain direction.

Patent number 20160065525 is for a “electronic mail interface.” In some examples, a user can provide input through the rotatable input mechanism to access a landing screen of an electronic mail application. The landing screen concurrently displays an affordance for accessing an electronic mail inbox and for accessing an interface for composing electronic mail.

 

Patent number 20160062567 is for a “music user interface.” Akin to the previous patent, In some examples, a user can provide input through the rotatable input mechanism to access a landing screen of a music app. The landing screen concurrently displays an affordance for accessing playlists, for a list of artists, and for accessing a list of songs.