Future Apple headphones may double as speakers

A future Apple headphone may double as a portable speaker, hints a new patent. That would be something from the Beats line, not a future AirPod (though, admittedly, that would be impressive).

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,565,490) for “dual mode headphones and methods for constructing the same.” This would alleviate the necessity of carrying both headphones and an external speaker, the company says.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “Dual mode headphones, and methods for constructing the same are provided. Headphones can be connected to an electronic device to provide an audio output. The headphones can include a transducer or other component for providing sound waves at appropriate levels near a user's ear. To provide audio as a speaker, however, circuitry in the headphones can include a powered amplifier that may be selectively used. 

“The headphones can be moved between a first, in-ear position and a second, speaker position. A sensor in the headphones can detect the current position of the headphones, and can change the mode of the circuit to correspond to the detected current position. For example, the sensor can change between an in-ear mode in which the amplifier is bypassed and a speaker mode in which the amplifier is powered and used. In some cases, the headphones can include a sensor for preventing the speaker mode when the headphones are positioned near a user's ears.”

Speaking of audio devices, Apple has also been granted a design patent (D778,255) for headphones. The design (pictured above) indicates audio devices in the Beats line-up. Apple acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion in 2015.

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.