The United States Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent filed by Apple in March 2014, which depicts an Apple Watch automatically adjusting an iPhone's audio volume or other alert characteristics based on ambient sound samples (via AppleInsider).

The invention would be most useful in noisy environments where alerts might otherwise go unnoticed or unheard. The system could also serve to automatically lower iPhone ringtone or notification volume in quieter situations.

The patent details an Apple Watch using its microphone to listen to ambient sound at regular intervals or when triggered to do so by a host device. Using the data collected, the Watch analyses the difference between the background noise and the alert audio level, and makes a volume adjustment accordingly.

Ambient audio sensor patent
The system is also able to work out the iPhone's orientation and location in relation to the user's body, including whether the handset is tucked in a pocket or stowed away in a bag, in order to account for physical sound barriers.

In one example, an iPhone sends a notification audio signal to the Watch before playing an audible alert. The receiving timepiece analyses the wave signal and compares it against a stored reference signal based on ambient noise samples. Through a combination of sound threshold analyses, the Apple Watch then sends the appropriate command to raise or lower the iPhone's output volume.

ambient audio sensor patent
The invention could also be used to filter audio signals received by voice-activated control functions -- for example, by increasing the physical distance that a user can successfully activate Siri using the "Hey, Siri" spoken command.

Apple has researched the use of sound sensors before as a possible accompaniment to existing light sensors in its devices. However, ambient sound monitoring is now an established technology in the consumer space, for instance in several auto-adaptive noise cancelling headphones, suggesting implementation of the feature in Apple products could happen sooner rather than later.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 7
Tag: Patent
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
Related Forum: Apple Watch

Top Rated Comments

MentalFloss Avatar
83 months ago
"Sound sensors"... previously known to experts in the field by the obscure little-used technical term "microphones".
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GubbyMan Avatar
83 months ago
I don't understand. Why can't they just completely silence the iPhone and use the Taptic Engine in the WATCH to alert the user?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FieldingMellish Avatar
83 months ago
Any reason the iPhone can't do the same thing? Here's Apple coming up with reasons to augment watch sales beyond the current installed base.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
User 6502 Avatar
83 months ago
Any reason the iPhone can't do the same thing? Here's Apple coming up with reasons to augment watch sales beyond the current installed base.
If the iPhone is in a pocket the sound it receives is muffled, so it might think the environment is very silent and hence reduce the notifications volume. However in this scenario it should raise it instead.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
springsup Avatar
83 months ago
The system is also able to work out the iPhone's orientation and location in relation to the user's body
I hope they use this to implement a compass for the gen.1 watches.

Lack of direction indicator for walking directions is the biggest flaw with the device, in my experience.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonnysods Avatar
83 months ago
It's pretty amazing tech they are developing. The whole thing sounds like another battery drain with the constant sensor checks. I can adjust my alert sounds as I go about my business, I've done it since the first iPhone in 9 years ago...
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...
m2 mac mini screen feature

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

Base 13-Inch MacBook Pro With M2 Chip Has Significantly Slower SSD Speeds

Sunday June 26, 2022 2:52 pm PDT by
Following the launch of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip, it has been discovered that the $1,299 base model with 256GB of storage has significantly slower SSD read/write speeds compared to the equivalent previous-generation model. YouTube channels such as Max Tech and Created Tech tested the 256GB model with Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test app and found that the SSD's read and...
M2 Pro and Max Feature

Apple's Upcoming M2 Pro Chip for High-End MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Will Reportedly Be 3nm

Monday June 27, 2022 7:31 am PDT by
TSMC will manufacture Apple's upcoming "M2 Pro" and "M3" chips based on its 3nm process, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. "Apple reportedly has booked TSMC capacity for its upcoming 3nm M3 and M2 Pro processors," said DigiTimes, in a report focused on competition between chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to secure 3nm chip orders. As expected, the report said TSMC will...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
tesla carplay hack

Tesla Apple CarPlay Hack Updated to Work With Any Tesla Model

Monday June 27, 2022 3:38 am PDT by
Polish developer Michał Gapiński has released a new and improved version of his "Tesla Android Project" which brings Apple's CarPlay experience to more Tesla vehicles than ever before. According to Gapiński, version 2022.25.1 provides "100% functional CarPlay integration for any Tesla," and comes with several new features and bug fixes. The project now supports DRM video playback so that...