Future Apple Watch Could Adjust iPhone Volume Based on Ambient Noise

by

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 Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 6, watchOS 7
Tag: patent
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
59 months ago
"Sound sensors"... previously known to experts in the field by the obscure little-used technical term "microphones".
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
59 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)
Avatar
59 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)
Avatar
59 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)
Avatar
59 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)
Avatar
59 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)

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Kuo: Global iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up to 30% If Apple Forced to Remove WeChat From App Store [Updated x2]

Sunday August 9, 2020 10:17 pm PDT by
In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual global iPhone shipments could decline by 25–30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out...

iPhone Maker Foxconn Says China's 'Days as the World's Factory Are Done'

Wednesday August 12, 2020 7:55 am PDT by
China will no longer be the world's manufacturing epicenter going forward, according to Apple's largest supply chain partner Foxconn, which has been gradually expanding its operations in other countries amid the U.S.-China trade war. "No matter if it's India, Southeast Asia or the Americas, there will be a manufacturing ecosystem in each," said Foxconn chairman Young Liu, according to Bloombe...

Google Maps Debuts New Apple Watch App and CarPlay Features

Monday August 10, 2020 9:16 am PDT by
Google today announced the launch of several features for Google Maps on Apple products, including new CarPlay functionality and a new Google Maps app that works on Apple Watch. The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch works similarly to the iOS app, allowing Apple Watch owners to get directions for a car, bike, public transit, or on foot. The app supports estimated arrival times and...

Apple May Release 4G-Only iPhone 12 in Early 2021

Tuesday August 11, 2020 5:28 am PDT by
In a research note shared by Business Insider, Wedbush Securities analysts said that Apple may release a cheaper iPhone 12 in early 2021 with no 5G connectivity. Wedbush initially believed Apple would launch a mix of 4G and 5G iPhone 12 models this fall. Following re-examination of Asian supply chains, analysts Daniel Ives, Strecker Backe, and Ahmad Khalil revised the predictions,...

iPad Pro Keyboard Comparison: Logitech's $160 Folio Touch vs. Apple's $300 Magic Keyboard

Tuesday August 11, 2020 2:11 pm PDT by
Logitech recently debuted the Folio Touch, a keyboard and trackpad case designed for the 11-inch iPad Pro that serves as an alternative to the Magic Keyboard. In our latest YouTube video, we compare the $160 Folio Touch to Apple's $300 Magic Keyboard to see which is better. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Logitech is selling the Folio Touch for $160, while Apple's...

Foxconn Reportedly Begins Seasonal Hiring Spree for iPhone 12 Production

Monday August 10, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
Apple's largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has begun its seasonal hiring spree to assist with iPhone 12 production, offering employees who recruit qualified applicants up to a 9,000 yuan bonus, according to Chinese media reports. As usual, Foxconn needs as many hands on deck as possible at its factory in Zhengzhou, China to assist with mass production of the upcoming iPhones. Apple is...

Apple Seeds First Public Beta of watchOS 7 to Public Beta Testers

Monday August 10, 2020 10:33 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public beta of an upcoming watchOS 7 update to public beta testers, one week after seeding the fourth beta to developers and a month and a half after the Worldwide Developers Conference. The update can be downloaded after installing the proper profile from Apple's Public Beta website. watchOS 7 should not be installed on a primary device as it is still an early...

Apple Watch Likely to Adopt MicroLED Display Technology in 3-4 Years

Monday August 10, 2020 2:55 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to feature an OLED screen like previous models, but a future model is likely to be the first Apple product to adopt MicroLED display technology, albeit not for another three to four years. That's the main takeaway reading between the lines of comments made by the chairman of Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, which is reportedly working on a...

Parallels Desktop 16 Brings macOS Big Sur Support, Multi-Touch Gestures, 20% Faster DirectX, and More

Tuesday August 11, 2020 2:17 am PDT by
Parallels Desktop 16 released today, bringing some notable new features and performance enhancements to the virtualization software, including full support for macOS Big Sur. When Apple introduced macOS Big Sur, it ended support for the third-party kernel extensions that previous versions of Parallels were built on. That forced the developers to re-engineer the virtualization software from the ...