The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published an Apple patent application (via AppleInsider) covering an idea for flexible headphone connectors to avoid plug breakage and accidental equipment damage – a common complaint of many users. The patent application, which was first filed back in June 2011 and lists Albert Golko, an iPhone and iPad product development engineering manager at Apple, as its inventor, describes a system whereby:

…a portion or all of the plug connector may comprise a flexible material that allows the connector to bend with respect to an insertion axis and prevent the connector from breaking when inserted or extracted improperly.

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 12.20.21 pm
The patent describes an audio connector (i.e. a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack) that is manufactured from a flexible material that allows it to bend slightly during use. The audio connectors currently in use on most devices are inflexible and offer no strain relief, meaning that any sudden force to the headphone jack risks damaging the port, which often warrants an expensive repair.

A further addition to the patent is a certain level of flexibility along the connector's length, which allows for more strain in areas that are prone to breakage, such as the tip or base of the plug. Many smartphone users are accustomed to wrapping headphones around the device, which causes an enormous amount of strain to the base of the plug. It is envisioned that Apple's patent will help reduce this slightly by providing more relief to both the headphone jack and the connector.

Although the intentions of the patent application are as of yet unclear, Apple has in the past expressed interest in improving and shrinking headphone plugs and jacks. A patent application published in 2010 outlined a headphone jack design using pogo pins rather than cantilevered metal strips for electrical contacts within the jack, a design which could allow for thinner headphone jacks. Existing audio connectors, both in the standard 3.5 mm and smaller 2.5 mm sizes, remain limiting factors in making smartphones and other devices smaller and thinner, but Apple's work toward thinner jacks and more flexible plugs could help the company achieve smaller and thinner device designs in the future.

Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

iMerik Avatar
107 months ago
Always improving the little things. Can't complain.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Technarchy Avatar
107 months ago
Really? This is something they spent time on?

Are you new to Apple?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FakeWozniak Avatar
107 months ago
2 words: Mini MagSafe
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jrlcopy Avatar
107 months ago
lol,

Dear Apple, you're focusing on the wrong part of the plug, the metal part that goes into the iPhone is fine, it's your cable that goes from the big plastic coupling to the cable itself. And the problem exists on ALL your cables.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
goobot Avatar
107 months ago
There is nothing wrong with the 3.5 mm head phone jack. Not everything has to be thinner. We do not want the same problem as the original iPhone!

Except all headphone jacks are going to be smaller soon, you can't use the same port forever. Technology evolves.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SvP Avatar
107 months ago
Or keep the standard we are all used to :P
Id rather not have 2 sets of headphones, 1 to use with older devices and 1 for newer ones. I also wouldnt like to worry about charging or replacing bluetooth headphone batteries.

(i do agree on BT being a bad standard tho)
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Premium Subscribers Can Now Use iOS Picture-in-Picture: Here's How

Wednesday August 25, 2021 3:55 am PDT by
Google has rolled out picture-in-picture support as an "experimental" feature for YouTube premium subscribers, allowing them to watch video in a small window when the app is closed. If you're a premium YouTube subscriber looking to try out picture-in-picture, follow these steps: Launch a web browser and sign into your YouTube account at YouTube.com. Navigate to www.youtube.com/new. Scroll...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
tim cook spring loaded event

Gurman: Apple Planning Multiple Events for the Fall, M1X MacBook Pros to be Available by November

Sunday August 15, 2021 12:07 pm PDT by
Apple is planning to hold multiple events this fall, which will collectively include the launch of new iPhones, Apple Watches, updated AirPods, revamped iPad mini, and the redesigned MacBook Pros, according to respected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. In his latest weekly Power On newsletter, Gurman says that much like last year, Apple will hold multiple events this coming fall, with the...
apple screen time screen icons

Persistent Kids Finding Loopholes in Apple's Screen Time Limits

Tuesday October 15, 2019 9:44 am PDT by
Apple is currently engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with persistent kids looking to circumvent Screen Time restrictions, but the company has been receiving some criticism for not moving quickly enough to lock down some of the loopholes, reports The Washington Post. A few of the loopholes and ways for parents to shut them down are documented on the site Protect Young Eyes, while these and...
anker lightning cable mfi

Unwrap a New Apple Device? Stock Up on Extra Certified Lightning Cables for as Little as $6

Monday December 25, 2017 5:45 am PST by
If you unwrapped an Apple product today it likely came with one of the company's first-party Lightning cables, but having an extra on hand is always a good idea, so you can place it in other rooms in your house, in your car, or in a bag when you travel. For that reason, now's a good time to shop for third-party Lightning cables that are cheaper than Apple's own accessory, but still Made For...
personal hotspot 1

Apple Acknowledges Personal Hotspot Issues Affecting Some iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 Users

Saturday March 21, 2020 10:04 am PDT by
In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has acknowledged that some iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 users may experience issues with Personal Hotspot. Apple has told Authorized Service Providers to expect customers who are unable to connect to a Personal Hotspot or experience frequent disconnection from one. Customers may also...
macos monterey safari beta 3

macOS Monterey Beta 3: Apple Redesigns Safari Tab Interface Following Complaints

Wednesday July 14, 2021 11:39 am PDT by
In the third developer beta of macOS Monterey, which came out this morning, Apple has overhauled the design of Safari, making the tab bar more similar to the current tab bar in macOS Big Sur. The prior Safari design did away with the dedicated URL and search interface, instead allowing any individual tab to be used for navigation input. Tabs were also all arranged at the top of the display...