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Apple Patents Cutting 3.5mm Jack in Half 369

An anonymous reader writes with an article on a recent patent application by Apple. From the article: "Apple likes thin devices and considers the depth of the iPod, iPhone and iPad as critical component of the aesthetic appearance of a product and has been very aggressive in finding ways to trim fat from its portable devices: The 3.5 mm audio-connector stands in the way of future design improvements: Apple suggests to simply cut it in half."
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Apple Patents Cutting 3.5mm Jack in Half

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  • by Minter92 ( 148860 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:51PM (#37132898)

    Is apple trying to patent an actual invention?

    • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EraserMouseMan ( 847479 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:54PM (#37132912)
      Steve wants to force you to buy a $20 adapter that costs $0.03 to manufacture.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:58PM (#37132966)

        just call it the iJacked your wallet

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jo_ham ( 604554 )

        You'll note that the patent (you did RTFA right? No, silly me, of course you didn't!) specifies that current connectors would be compatible with the port, but that either it would require a magnetic system to hold the connector onto the port, or a cover would have to be installed to hold the connector on, thus eliminating the need for an adapter since current 3.5mm jacks would work with it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

          Wrong. Current ports would be compatible with the new plug, but NOT the other way around.

          And there's already a more standard approach to this - 2.5mm audio jacks.

          • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

            by CProgrammer98 ( 240351 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:13PM (#37133206) Homepage

            RTFA much?

            You;re the one that's wrong.
            " Current jacks will fit the new port design, but since the port is cut in half and exposed to one side of the device shell, a traditional connector would simply drop out: Apple proposes a magnetic interface that would keep a thin audio connector in place"

            • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Interesting)

              by _0xd0ad ( 1974778 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:37PM (#37133580) Journal

              Current jacks will fit the new port design

              A "jack" is a female fitting. So is a "port".

              jack noun
              8 : a female fitting in an electric circuit used with a plug to make a connection with another circuit

              [2]port noun
              5 : a hardware interface by which a computer is connected to another device (as a printer, a mouse, or another computer); broadly : JACK 8


              In other words, whoever wrote that is a moron and failed to successfully explain what they meant.

              I'm still not sure whether they meant that current jacks will fit the new plug design, or that current plugs will fit the new port.

              • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

                by JWyner ( 653364 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:52PM (#37133828)
                Except, again, if you bother to RTFA, you'll note that the author clearly defines what he means by "jack" (i.e., plug), when he states "The audio jack consumes about 3.5, while the port and its ring add another 2.5 mm." Of course, I'm sure it's more fun to play Language Nazi than actually discuss the implications of the article...
                • Jack is just the hole/opening. Port is the entire housing, etc.. Easy enough.
                • If you all of a sudden start calling a screwdriver a hammer, even if you say you're doing so, it still makes you look stupid. Words mean things for a reason. That's how we communicate. If you randomly redefine words to mean the exact opposite of what everyone else understands, it confusizes the meaningness.

              • TFA isn't very clear, but the diagrams help. Apple wants to put the socket (receptacle, female*) at the surface of the device. Apple's new headphone plug (male part, found at the end of the headphone cable*) would be flush with the surface. Old headphone plugs also fit, but they would not be flush. Since the plug is only supported on one side, a magnet is needed to keep it from falling out.
                To compensate for the ugliness of having the connector exposed, Apple proposes to provide their headphone plugs with a

                • The actual patent states this to describe that figure: (well, what I could find [], anyway - it doesn't include the figures, but it references the ones that were in TFA)

                  FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a plug connector 800 mated with a low profile plug receptacle 802 that illustrates a magnetic retention mechanism according to an embodiment of the present invention. In the embodiment shown, plug connector 800 is similar in general construction to custom plug connector 400 of FIG. 4. For example, plug connector 800 can include a cosmetic cap 804. Low profile plug receptacle 802 is similar in general construction to receptacle 200 of FIG. 2A.

                  In various embodiments, low profile plug receptacle 802 can include a magnet 806 and plug connector 800 can include a ferrous attractor 808 (e.g., a ferromagnetic material such as steel). In one embodiment, the ferrous attractor 808 can be a discrete object embedded in the plug and/or connector body of plug connector 800. In another embodiment, ferrous attractor 808 can be integrated into the structure of the plug or connector body; for instance, the entire plug can be constructed of a ferromagnetic material.

                  In other words, a standard plug would fall out of the port, unless it was made from a ferromagnetic material or had a bit of ferromagnetic material embedded so that it would be held in the port by a magnet.

                  Unless I'm reading that wrong.

              • by BillX ( 307153 )

                A "jack" is a female fitting.

                I propose a movement to start calling the male end a jack, and the female end a jill. Confusion solved! (In a generation or so when it catches on, of course...)

            • Go read the patent. Jack is the same as a port. Here's what it basically proposes: Two types of ports. First is a half-port. Nothing will fit that new port except for the half plug. The second is a fully circular "port", but only putting the electrical contacts on one half of the the port. The other half (to make a full circle) is just a non-conducting part of the case of the device. This eliminates the contacts on the other half of the port, thus shaving maybe like a millimeter or two off the total
              • by denobug ( 753200 )
                I don't know if you have ever seen a internals of a jack. Basically you have 2 piece of metal, both with a rounded tips, hanging out. The metal act as a spring to apply tension pressure when the plug is inserted, maintaining a constant contact between the tips (remember the rounded tips?) and the plug (both the tip, ring, and sleeve). They usually have only 1 for the for each of the tip, ring, and sleeve. So essentially the design of the jack right now (in current production) are pretty much one-sided.
          • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:21PM (#37133318)

            You need practice in reading comprehension I feel, like every second post on this whole story. If proof were needed that almost no one at slashdot reads the articles, this story is it, with 30 people immediately posting factually incorrect information that is addressed in plain english in the article itself.

          • No, GP is correct, the new port will accept current plugs. They've sawed the port in half and put it at the surface of the device, so there's plenty of room for old cylindrical plugs.

    • Half of one.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      I think so. 1.5mm, 1.25mm, and 1mm phonojacks have been around for awhile.

    • Why not go from a 3.5mm to a 2.5mm TRS jack?

      • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

        Because then the port would not be backwards compatible with 3.5mm plugs, which this one is.

        • by blair1q ( 305137 )

          No it isn't. Not without some mod to the old port to keep the connector from falling out.

          The bigger issue I see is that a round plug prevents strain when the cord or plug is twisted. With this you're going to put a lever into your uber-expensive device, and either plugs will get broken off or cases will be sprung open.

          So the solution should have been something like a micro-USB shape, rather than this torque multiplier.

          • It sounds like it is going to be on the side of the case, i.e. the flat part of the jack will be exposed. You're right that it will be a lever, except that the idea is that any force applied will make it just fall out.
          • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

            The article addresses that - it is going to be a surface mount connector, that holds the plug magnetically sort of like the current magsafe design.

            The thin plug is presumably so that the overall look when it is connected will be flush, but the port will also take a standard 3.5mm plug too - it'll just stand proud of the surface, or (as also explained in the article, with a diagram no less) a 'cosmetic cap' would be fitted that covers the port. I assume that this will be part of the phone itself and work lik

            • by afidel ( 530433 )
              So they are going to have a magnet that is powerful enough to keep a headphone cord in place without physical restraints, yet will be less than 1.75mm thick? That will be a neat trick and probably worthy of a patent.
              • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

                There are plenty of very powerful, very small permanent magnets already in existence. That's the easy bit.

                • There are plenty of very powerful, very small permanent magnets already in existence. That's the easy bit.

                  And I'm going to put this exposed, surface mount, powerful magnet in my pocket with all the other flotsam? I don't think so.
    • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
      Also, they are patenting removing the top half. Can I patent removing the bottom one?
  • by Giometrix ( 932993 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:55PM (#37132928) Homepage
    Won't a thinner connector make it much easier to snap off ?
    • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @02:57PM (#37132950)
      From the perspective of those who are likely to sell you the connector, that's a feature.
    • Yeah, it'd be more needle-like. Meaning easier to stab yourself with. Or others. Wait, maybe this is a good thing....
    • The tips of the lil buggers break off inside the socket like the mating tactic of some insects. Cheap 3.5mm plugs are weak.
      Fix her equipment: bend 1mm or so at the tip of a smallish very thin safety pin (safety first!) Insert into the socket, alongside the busted bit using the spring loaded tab inside the socket to your advantage. Pull it back to remove the plug. It might take a couple minutes. Chicks love it when you do this.
      Repair shops advocate motherboard replacement. You could however; delay you
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Since it's attached via a magnet, snapping off shouldn't be an issue. It'll be like the magsafe power connectors where the cord just pops out when stressed.
  • Wireless devices ought to be wireless. They already have several radios, including Bluetooth. Headphones and docking should be wireless. So should charging. which should be inductive. Then you can have a sealed, waterproof unit with no annoying connector holes.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't already gone that way on aesthetic grounds. Why should those perfect forms have holes in them?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why should those perfect forms have holes in them?

      So tempted.

  • Jerks. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nationless ( 2123580 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:04PM (#37133062)


    After only recently being able to plug in most phones with the same USB cable and FINALLY having 3.5 jacks a standard on said phones, Apple now wants to go fuck with the standards.


    • Personally, I don't mind screwing with standards now and then, as long as the result is a new standard. Given the age of the current 3.5mm jack, I wouldn't be surprised if they could come up with something that was more compact and generally superior. If you got all the manufacturers onboard, it could be good.

      Of course, that never seems to be what happens these days. Apple comes up with a standard, and then Sony doesn't like the idea of a standard existing without them collecting patent licensing fees,

    • Did Apple ever buy into the microUSB standard? I may have missed the change, but I haven't ever seen an Apple iPod or iPhone that used a standard interface cable.

  • Give this problem to any group of 10 geeks and one of them is bound to suggest this solution.

    The Patent system needs to be reformed.

    • The other nine will instead suggest to get off your fetish of ultrathin devices and just make the device thick enough for a normal plug. It's not as if that would be very thick anyway.

      • I've noticed folks obsessing over a couple millimeters of thickness. I'm not really sure that 3mm of depth is really that big of a deal. Even with a cellphone, that's not really enough to justify the extra cost in most cases.

        What's worse is that this obsession with diminutive devices leads to devices that are less and less usable as they require fingers that are tiny to operate. At this point even if I wanted to buy an Apple device, many of them are way too small for me to use.

    • by mr1911 ( 1942298 )

      Give this problem to any group of 10 geeks and one of them is bound to suggest this solution.

      But none of them have yet, hence the innovation.

      Your argument could be applied to anything ever invented. Once you know the answer, the question is easier.

      So the lightbulb was invented - no big deal, right? If you would have asked a group engineers of the day to create a device for generating light from electricity, one of them would have probably come up with something similar. That does not mean it was not innovative. Why? Because you did not know to ask the question, and they had not not thought

      • But none of them have yet, hence the innovation.

        Had they been given the money by an employer and told to solve this problem, one of those geeks probably would have. But I digress.

        Patents are granted so that individuals or corporations would have protection to implement a technology that would otherwise not be invented without such protection. If Apple would have had the incentive to make this connector without patents, then it does not deserve patent protection.

        It's also awkward to compare the creation of

    • In the business, we call that an ex post facto view. People screaming "Oh, I could have done it" after some invention is disclosed are about as witty as people screaming "I could have made that" when looking at a piece of modern art. Well, the key point is, you haven't and no one else has either.
    • Re:Obvious? (Score:4, Funny)

      by 0xABADC0DA ( 867955 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @04:07PM (#37134080)

      This invention halves the size of the jack, is compatible with all existing devices, and is less likely to break the device (pull on the headphone just pulls it away from the magnet instead of yanking the whole device). And nobody in 96 years thought of this solution.

      This is exactly what patents are for. Rewarding the people that spend their dollars on research to improve things. It's a small but innovative idea, and gives Apple a small advantage over competitors. Stop eating the sour grapes and start inventing.

  • It is easily recognized that a 3.5mm TRS jack eats a substantial fraction of the internal volume budget in a modern phone or portable media player. It is thus understandable that Apple would want to replace it with something smaller. However, basing it on the current standard is perhaps the worst possible way to go about it. The standard 3.5mm headphone connector shorts the contacts on the plug to the wrong contacts on the jack all willy nilly. Given the opportunity to push a new design, they should go
    • However, basing it on the current standard is perhaps the worst possible way to go about it.

      Only if you do not care about cutting out hundreds of millions of existing (some very expensive) headphones.

    • The patented design allows semi-TRS plugs to mate with standard jacks, but does not permit the connection of standard headphones to the Apple design--what people will actually want to do, given the poor quality of the usual bundled earbuds.

      From my reading, a full male would work with this (the female end is basically like a trench or ditch on the outside of the device), just half of the connector would be sticking out and held in place al a magsafe, but a semi male probably wouldn't work with a full female, as nothing would hold it in contact.

    • They could just move to a 2.5mm connector if it's that big of a deal, but devices have gotten to the point where there's little to be gained by making them any smaller. My Samsung Sansa is small enough that I have a hard time finding it if I don't put it back where it belongs when I finish with it. They could make is even smaller by removing the display, but it's hit the point of diminishing returns. And it sports a 3.5mm jack without trouble.

  • With a smaller battery :(

  • by ljw1004 ( 764174 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @03:22PM (#37133352)

    Another advantage which they omitted from the article -- this invention will help you insert the plug the right way round.

    With the current circular 3.5mm jacks, it's actually impossible to know whether you've rotated the plug correctly. Sure, you can try to figure out if you've got it right by listening to the resultant sound quality, but that's inexact and most people don't even have the equipment. Now with Apple's invention, everyone will be able to insert it with the right rotation -- first time, and every time.

    • by jovius ( 974690 )

      Exactly. It's great that Apple sells a device called iPolarizer to find the exact position. It works by aligning the electromagnetic fields of the connector and the plug to the same plane of reference. The effect lasts for a few weeks until you need to polarize the connectors again. There's also an app to visualize the process.

    • I really like the fact that the jack can spin. I can't believe they'd kill that feature for thinness.This means all plugs have to always be straight, or of 90degrees, plugged in the same way all the time.

      I'd rather they just invent a 1mm stub plug (1/4 length).

    • I know my headphone plug must be rotated incorrectly, because the WHOOSH I'm hearing in this thread is almost deafening.
  • They could eliminate a connector and sell REALLY expensive and proprietary headsets, too. Win! Win! for Apple.
  • I would be worried about the plug strength. let alone there being 1/2 the material, by cutting it in half, it will far easier to bend it on the flat side.
  • Mohels have been doing this for millennia...

    • And me without Mod points!

      I'll venture the Orthodox way to shorten audio jacks is not with ones teeth.

  • Seriously, what?

    This is worse than patents that boil down to "a system for doing some thing well known but with a computer".

    This is a system for taking a well defined connection and cutting it in half, with a magnet to keep it in place, and putting a rubber thingy on it to make it look pretty. Worse, it's more like "a system to make a cylinder narrower by cutting it in half longitudinally while still retaining all of the connection properties of the original device".

    How the hell is this patentable? There

  • The jack comes after the DAC, thus what goes through the jack and plug is analog signal. The less surface area between connectors, the less analog signal, the more noise, the worse the audio quality. 1/4" inch TRS connections deliver better fidelity than 3.5mm TRS, and 3.5mm TRS will deliver better fidelity than this new scheme. Seems to me Apple would be better served perfecting (even over-engineering, and going (no!) entirely proprietary), the Bluetooth audio standards for fidelity and doing away with th
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @04:02PM (#37133992)

    This is an application, not a patent.

  • This is a recipe for disaster. TRS connectors are very susceptible to hum: when you touch a live TRS connector, your skin conducts enough to make a circuit between the connector poles.
    With the connector exposed on the surface of the device, you'd get loud noises every time you accidentally touched the connector. For this to work, the connector has to be covered, negating at least part of the thickness reduction they're seeking.

    Also the magnet they propose for keeping the plug in place is going to have to be

  • As if the standard connector was not weak enough, they want to cut it in half!

    Why not just use a standard connector that has been about for YEARS that is 1/2 the diameter of the "standard" connector?
    You have the large 6.35mm (1/4") jack
    You have the medium 3.5mm
    Then there is the small 2.5mm jack

    OR apple could just make a specialized connector that is flat (like Micro USB) and then include an adapter to allow people to use standard headphones.

(null cookie; hope that's ok)