Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

Summary: If a patent application filed this week is any indication, Apple is trying to limit the amount of holes in its devices, because each "breaches the barrier that protects components inside the housing."

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According to Patently Apple, our favorite Cupertino computer company is considering a new audio input port configuration for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. If a patent application filed this week is any indication, Apple is trying to limit the amount of holes in its devices, because each "breaches the barrier that protects components inside the housing." Translation: less holes are better. Paul Marks at New Scientist writes:

Apple's answer is to reduce the hole count by making them multifunctional. It proposes removing the need for a separate microphone aperture by making it part of the socket the headphone jack plugs into. This adds only a couple of milllimetres to the socket length - the mic fits behind the tip of the jack plug. The result: "A microphone can be added to a mobile telephone without the need for an external aperture."

While its only a patent and it remains to be seen if, when and how it would be implemented, Apple appears to be considering combining multiple jacks into one smarter jack. It makes sense too. For starters, less holes mean less physical parts to manufacture (and potentially fail) and Apple is already heading down this road with the iPhone 4 which features two microphones and noise cancellation.

The first mic is for phone calls, voice commands and memos. The second mic is for FaceTime calls and for making your calls better.

The other potential direction could take is to use the new port for beamforming -- where the audio input of the two microphones is used as an amiable directional input. Patently Apple thinks this could be advantageous for the iPhone in speakerphone mode or video camera mode when projecting or recording a sound source at some distance from the device.

Apple could even do away with invasive "breach" type ports altogether and convert its audio/microphone ports into surface contact ports that attach via a magnet -- like the popular MagSafe power adapter found on its MacBook Pro notebooks. I just hope that Apple retains backward compatibility with the millions of 3.5mm stereo headsets that are out there, changing to a new jack entirely would alienate too many customers in one fell swoop.

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

    I agree; I think it's quite incredible how they can fit so many functions into one plug to reduce the number of holes on their devices (Mac's included), but to negate the 3.5mm jack altogether would be a grave mistake. A lot of Apple customers would be... well, highly displeased.
    zwhittaker
    • Naw, that's an easy fix

      @zwhittaker
      Magnetic lock, surface conductors, and move the interface inside the case--brilliant! and the "3.5mm plug to surface plug adapter" would cost about $6 and would be offered by about 300 different vendors. Besides, in my experience, headphone jacks fail all too often due to the bending stress put on the parts inside by the plug.
      Geedavey
  • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

    Apple is a company who has changed it processor family for its computers 3 times, I do not think they would hesitate to change the headphone jack completely and sell an adapter.
    mrlinux
    • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

      @mrlinux Agreed, but having experienced all of the transitions Apple made them remarkably painless. While no company should be required to carry legacies too far Apple has been pretty good at supporting them.
      dheady@...
    • Fallacious argument. What does processors have to

      @mrlinux... do with a headphone jack. PPC processors were excellent processors.

      There used to be several companies that produced processors, now there is only AMD and Intel as the major competitors in the OEM manufacturing of Computers. Of course ARM is the major player with mobile devices, but there are also SnapDragon from Qualcomm, and of course the Intel Atom, and also Apple with their custom SOC Arm based processors.

      But even Mainstream OEM's such as HP, Lenovo, Dell and others flip back and forth between Intel and AMD processors all the time, so again, what's your point?

      Of course anyone who hates Apple will always scoff at what Apple does, it is the same as when the iPad came out... "eh... the thing doesn't have a USB port, and the want you to buy an adapter.... Well that is just rubbish" All of the ABAers wanted what? Multiple USB ports, a built in Multi-Card reader, a HDMI port, and the list goes on. I have to hand it to Apple, they prefer to keep it clean and simple. If you need that port, then yes an adapter is required, but I doubt they would go so far as to rework a headphone jack to the point you would need an adapter to use a standard set of headphones.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • Architecture

        @JM1981
        When Apple changed processors it changed the architecture of the processor which changed the way that software ran on it. For example - I think it was Snow Leopard that finally stopped supporting PPC processors? Anybody with legacy hardware can't use the newest software. mrlinux is simply commenting that if Apple is willing to change their hardware to an entirely new CPU architecture which sets a permanent death date for old hardware than they probably won't mind coming up with a new plug type that will make their new hardware incompatible with old hardware.
        p0figster
    • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

      @mrlinux <br><br>No - they would change if it benefitted the user. They are brave enough to make changes that put them out of step with other manufacturers and to lead and innovate.<br><br>They have changed their processors twice in the Mac range.<br><br>1. 68000 series<br>2. PowerPC Series<br>3. Intel x86<br><br>When they transitioned from 68000 to PowerPC they also changed the OS from using Pascal style function calls to C style function calls, and did this in stages. They made both of these changes transparent to the user - and even managed to make them fairly transparent to the software. If you realise that this means every API call in every application was suddenly passing all it's parameters backwards to any updated API function, and this worked seamlessly, you will realise that they are very good at transitions.<br><br>If you also realise that every OS up until 10.6 has been compatible with the PowerPC series of processors which use a completely different instruction set, and this means many, many years of supporting the old processors.<br><br>OS X 10.6 takes advantage of the newer processors and therefore providing compatibility for it is probably not a good idea. 10 years life is fair enough for legacy hardware.<br><br>And if you realise that during this time they transitioned from Mac OS to Unix, and provided compatibility for the old OS under Unix, and even a legacy code development path to allow slow transitions of the code base to the new OS for developers who did not have the resources to shift their code (Such as poor little Adobe).<br><br>If you also realise that OS X 10.5 introduced 64-bit computing silently and in a single version of the OS (i.e. you do not buy a special 64-bit pack) and this introduced no incompatibility for the user.<br><br>If you also realise that 10.6 shifts the kernel to 64-bit, but is switchable between 32 and 64 bit so that developers have time to port drivers to 64 bit without locking the user out or making them decide which version to buy. Comparing that with Windows where you choose to buy 64-bit in the hope your drivers will work, and if you choose 32-bit your apps will run in 32-bit as well.<br><br>So Apple has been quite good with their 2 processor changes - keep the user up with the latest with minimal interruption and 10 year legacy support, and give the user new OSes with legacy support at the same time.<br><br>What Apple does do is not put full size Monitor ports on their computers - but then what should they put? VGA? that's being phased out? DVI - well many people still use VGA!!! HDMI - well that's probably the future but not many PC monitors use it yet!!!<br><br>So Apple puts something small, robust and capable of accepting adaptors for VGA, DVI or HDMI - and this requires the user to buy an adaptor at extra cost.<br><br>When it comes to headphone sockets, Apple chose 3.5mm, they could have used 2.5mm like many other mobile devices, or they could have used a proprietary connector like Sony-Ericsson. Instead they chose 3.5mm which was a wise choice - based probably on the device's development path as a music player.<br><br>I cannot see Apple changing from this unless it means a benefit to the user - and one which would probably get howls of 'insane' by many on these blogs.<br><br>Remember when Apple dropped 3.5" floppies? (which they invented) Many, many calls of 'Steve jobs is a lunatic, everyone needs 3.5" floppies'<br><br>Where are 3.5" floppies now?<br><br>So it is unlikely that Apple will drop 3.5mm miniplugs with the expectation that the replacement will require an adaptor. They will do this only because they expect their new choice to be the future. And they are most often right. And they will incite screams of protest from the short sighted.<br><br>@JM1981<br><br>Yes - PPCs were excellent processors.<br><br>I miss them.<br><br>What happened is that the innovation stopped due to lack of money from the partners in the project, also the cost was kept too high.<br><br>But the irony of those days when Macs and IBM servers were using the same processor - and the IBM desktops were using the inferior Intel chips.<br><br>When IBM PCs were Wintel and not IBM. So an 'IBM compatible' even from IBM was in fact not IBM compatible at all.<br><br>The high end of IBM servers was 'Power' - the smaller servers and the workstations were 'PowerPC' and the lowly desktops were Pentium. So I was using the same processrs as IBM Workstations and Servers - seems a wise choice doesn't it?<br><br>PowerPC macs still outperform many newer PCs running Windows for most tasks. They are certainly more responsive even with OS X 10.4 as long as they have more than 256MB of RAM.<br><br>So yes a fine processor - wish IBM had kept up their work on it and had kept the price affordable - unfortunately Intel got ahead of them.

      As for his point: flipping between AMD and Intel is not changing the instruction set completely.

      Intel and AMD processors will run 90% of the same code.

      The 68000 and the PowerPC require completely different code, nothing is the same.

      The PowerPC and the Intel x86 instruction sets also are different completely.

      So to transition from Intel to AMD is in many cases no change at all.

      To transition between Apple's Mac processor choices meant changing everything. The amazing thing is how little the user has had to worry about it.
      richardw66
      • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

        @richardw66 Apple doesn't care about the user. They only care about their product. Those don't always mesh as in the elimination of the 3.5" floppy. You fail to mention that Mac users were forced to buy external 3rd party 3.5" drives for years because they still needed them. Same goes with the single button mouse. Many users, for a very long time, bought 3rd party two-button mice because they wanted the use of a primary and secondary button. Jobs didn't care. He finally acquiesced and imbedded the two button concept in his "single" button mouse.

        What's best for Apple isn't always what's best for their users. If they had the same market share as Intel machines they wouldn't be able to practice their force obsolescence ideology. They have been able to get away with it because of their niche status and their blind following.
        mrxxxman
      • Old PPC Outperforming Wintel?

        @richardw66 Not a chance. If you run the old Photoshop PPC against a modern x86 based Photoshop there is no way the PPC is going to compete. And my daughter (graphics design) had a PPC based MAC and her new Sony VAIO (laptop) blows it out of the water using photoshop. First with SSE4 you have around 100 Gflop DP performance with core i7. Then if you consider GPU acceleration and what was available then vs what is available now... (5 teraflop).
        DevGuy_z
      • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

        @richardw66 Do you remember the 1st generation iPhone, where the 3.5mm jack was inset a certain way as to not accept any other headphones? Do you remember that Apple themselves did NOT sell any adapters (possibly because they only wanted their (uncomfortable) headphones used?)
        Also, I can certainly see problems with a Magsafe-type connector: it won't stay stuck to the iDeviceofchoice when you go to pull the device out of your pocket/purse/whatever (if you want to find your iDevice using the headphone cord, you're out of luck).
        R220
  • Holes come in numbers, not amounts

    In other words: "number of holes"
    Economister
    • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

      @Economister

      What are you, a Grammar Nazi? <br><br>No soup for you, come back one year!
      prof123
  • You'll have to make adapters from busted Apple headsets.

    That's if there even is a "plug", and not just a wire out of the device with earpieces on the other end. When it busts, you buy a new device.

    Count yourself lucky you're still allowed to use your own ears (for now). Your non-standard, different-size ears.
    Robert Carnegie 2009
    • Careful crossing bridges everyone!

      @Robert Carnegie 2009
      I smell a Troll!
      use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

        @macadam

        Yep - I think he is a troll.

        Funny thing is that I think I have different size ears - most earbud style earpieces do not work well for me, even the ones that come with 3 sizes of moulding.

        I also have destroyed many bluetooth earpieces that clip over the ear.

        So far the Apple supplied earpieces have been OK, not perfect fit but OK - which is quite a suprise.

        So my ears are clearly non standard - and not compatible with many reputable brands. I can still use them for some non-earpiece applications, and they work ok for iPhone applications for the moment.
        richardw66
    • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

      @Robert Carnegie 2009 Hey, your village called - something about a missing troll...
      athynz
  • bad grammar

    This is incorrect: "less holes are better".
    It should be "fewer holes are better".

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/less-versus-fewer.aspx
    bmeacham98@...
    • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

      @bmeacham98@... <br><br>You are right of course.<br><br>I keep annoying my Mother, who is a Mathematician and educator, by using 'less' when grammatically fewer would be the right word.<br><br>I deliberately use 'less' in some circumstances instead of 'fewer', such as when it is the area or volume as well as the count that is relevant.<br><br>To say that a device is better with a lower count of holes is correct. To say that a device with a lower area of the outer covering that is not solid is actually more to the point here.<br><br>A million holes of 1 nanometer diameter is not so much of an issue as 2 holes of 2mm diameter when it comes to fluid or dirt ingress.<br><br>So I might deliberately, but incorrectly, use 'less holes' in this circumstance also.<br><br>Maybe 'less hole' would be closer?<br><br>A smaller amount of total holeness rather than fewer holes? <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy"><br><br>Please feel free to comment on my need for less ungrammaticality.
      richardw66
    • While on the subject

      "amiable" should be "aimable".
      Geedavey
  • RE: Apple mulling new audio jack for iPhone

    I'm assuming that a headset would come with a new piece of equipment, so if the standard jack wouldn't work, you would be covered by the new headset. No problem.
    Of course, that means you couldn't use the new set on old equipment.
    Different kinds of batteries is probably a bigger nuisance than this will be.
    scottatdtn