The 3.5mm headphone jack seems to be on the brink of extinction after Apple cut it from last year’s iPhone 7. Now with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL abandoning it, and a whole host of other phones also cutting it from their frames, the death knell doth ring out for the 3.5mm headphone jack.
However, a patent from Microsoft suggests the company is looking into ways to save the jack from extinction.
As many new phones are becoming thinner, a headphone jack is seen as an obstruction to progress. It takes up valuable space that could be used for another speaker or slightly more battery space. Microsoft’s patent addresses this by creating an expandable headphone port that takes up minimal space due to it being partially external.
Spotted by MS Power User the patent, titled “Plug receptacle for an electronic device”, explains the new socket as “a receptacle housing having a passage configured to receive at least part of a plug connector.”
The full abstract explains:
“A plug receptacle is disclosed, comprising a receptacle housing having a passage configured to receive at least a part of a plug of a plug connector, a front side having a first opening and a top side having a second, elongated opening that intersects the first opening, the passage opening to the front side via the first opening and to the top side via the second opening. The plug receptacle also comprises at least one plug receptacle cover that is reversibly extendable between a cover position and an open position. In the cover position, the at least one plug receptacle cover covers the second opening at least partially. In the open position, at least a part of the at least one plug receptacle cover is extended outwards, so that the at least the part of the plug partially extends through the second opening.”
Along with the abstract, Microsoft also shows diagrams detailing at least three different ways the technology could work. From the pictures, it appears as if connectors are only present on one side of the device, meaning the external bracket is simply there to hold the jack in place. One diagram also shows how such a connection would work for ultra-thin devices where the headphone jack would have to expand on both sides to ensure the jack doesn’t require too much space.
It’s a rather elegant solution to what appears to be an upcoming issue. By hosting the jack on the outside face of a device, it only takes up a slither of room when not being used and means those who want to use wired headphones without an adapter still can.
While the patent may have initially been filed in 2016, it doesn’t look like Microsoft is really going to make much use of it. Earlier this year it announced it was shelving its Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile platforms and unless we see this technology come to Microsoft’s range of Surface devices, it’s not something we’ll see any time soon.
Still, Microsoft’s brains have given us hope for someone to try something to save the headphone jack.
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