Apple eyes a way to make it easier to hear iPhone calls in a noisy environment

Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,269,369) for a “system and method of noise reduction for a mobile device.” The goal is to make it easier to hear phone calls on your iPhone when you’re in a noisy environment.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that you can use using headphones, earbuds, or headset when talking on your iPhone. However, a common complaint with these hands-free modes of operation is that the speech captured by the microphone port or the headset includes environmental noise such as wind noise, secondary speakers in the background.

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Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “System of noise reduction for mobile devices includes blind source separator (BSS) and noise suppressor. BSS receives signals from at least two audio pickup channels. BSS includes sound source separator, voice source detector, equalizer, and auto-disabler. Sound source separator generates signals representing first sound source and second sound source based on signals from the first and the second channels. 

“Voice source detector determines whether the signals representing the first and second sound sources are voice signal or noise signal, respectively. Equalizer scales noise signal to match a level of the voice signal, and generates scaled noise signal. Auto-disabler determines whether to disable BSS. Auto-disabler outputs signals from the at least two audio pickup channels when the BSS is disabled and outputs the voice signal and the scaled noise signal when the BSS is not disabled. Noise suppressor generates clean signal based on outputs from auto-disabler. Other embodiments are also described.”

Of course, 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.