California - A new patent application unveiled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday shows Apple Inc. is hoping to obtain patent protection for a listening device for a media player that could instantly and seamlessly switch from being plugged in to operating wirelessly.
The patent application, titled "Detachable Wireless Listening Device" and filed in March 2011 by Jorge S. Fino, describes a media apparatus that can be used in conjunction with a host device to provide a user a pleasurable listening experience, especially during periods of physical activity.
In the described embodiments, the host device can take the form of a portable media player, and the media apparatus can include a listening device.
The media apparatus in one embodiment includes at least one listening device, a corded portion in communication with a host device arranged to provide an audio signal, and a detachable connector having a first part and a second part. The detachable connector would be arranged to couple the listening device at the first part to the corded portion at the second part.
When the listening device is attached to the corded portion by way of the connector, the listening device receives the audio signal from the host device by way of the corded portion. When the listening device is detached from the cord, a wireless signal that includes the audio signal is transmitted from the second part of the corded portion for reception at the first part of the listening device.
The listening device could contain a set of rechargeable batteries that would store energy when the cord is attached to the media player. When detached, stereo audio could potentially be provided by giving a unique wireless address to each of the left and right speakers in the listening device, according to the patent description.
Consumers are looking for improved techniques for listening to audio provided by a personal media player during physical activity, according to Apple.
"As simple and efficient as the cord may be in transmitting the audio signal, the cord is susceptible to becoming entangled while the end user is participating in physical activity," the patent description says.
"This is particularly nettlesome since the cord connected to the personal media player used while exercising or worn on the body requires frequent adjustment to avoid entanglement which can prove distracting or in some cases present a hazard to the end user," it says.
The patent could pave the way for upgrades to Apple's earbud products on the market, especially now that the company offers Bluetooth 4.0 functionality across all of its devices.