The official release of the iPhone 7 is still nearly half a year away, but the device is already the center of a bit of controversy. Rumors of Apple ditching the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack have now been all but confirmed and many users are not happy.
In fact, an online petition asking Apple to reconsider the decision has garnered over 250,000 digital signatures. At the moment, it’s unclear how Apple will deal with the loss of the headphone jack – will the new device will ship with wireless Bluetooth earbuds, a Lightning-port adapter for standard headphones, or go another route for users?
A new Apple patent application published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office may give a bit of insight into what the earbuds that ship with the new device may look like. The patent application, titled “AUDIO CLASS-COMPLIANT CHARGING ACCESSORIES FOR WIRELESS HEADPHONES AND HEADSETS” describes a set of headphones that is capable of switching seamlessly between wired and wireless modes.
Although the descriptions of the technology in the patent are somewhat vague, the headphones would employ a system that determines “that the user device connected via the wired connection is the same user device as is connected via the wireless connection”, resulting in a system that would switch seamlessly between a wired and wireless connection with no break in the audio. The headphones would use a data buffer to continue to play audio during the switch from wired to wireless mode.
The patent also describes how the Lightning cable can supply the headphones with both audio and power. Wireless headphones typically have notoriously short battery lives – this system would enable the headphones to borrow a bit of battery life from the phone during periods of extended playback. According to the patent application, the supporting hardware can work with in-ear, on-ear, and over-the-ear styles, and can employ a variety of wireless communication protocols – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, etc.
While at first this system may seem a bit redundant and perhaps silly, but it makes sense if Apple does indeed ditch the traditional headphone jack for their next iPhone. Users get the best of both worlds – a wireless headphone experience without the usual worry about battery life, and the ability to switch between both modes without a second thought.
As is usual with Apple patents, it’s unclear when this technology would be implemented, if at all. However, if the new iPhone comes included with headphones featuring this technology, perhaps it would quell a bit of the uproar that Apple is currently experiencing with the decision to ditch the headphone jack.
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