A patent has emerged showing that Apple is at least considering experimenting with waterproofing features for a future iPhone build. A second patent could also lead to EarPods with noise-cancelling capabilities via an integrated accelerometer and a 'bone conduction' process.
The liquid resistant acoustic device patent describes how a standard headphone jack could include an "umbrella section" to prevent internal damage to a device.
Filed as far back as July 2014, the protective measure sounds comparable to the Apple Watch's O-ring inside its speaker unit which provided the Watch an IPX7 rating.
Several rumours have suggested that the Cupertino giant is considering water-proofing its 2017 iPhone iteration, and the invention described in the patent could well become part of a future iPhone or iPad's construction.
While there are several variations on the invention, the solution fixates on enhancing the usual protective mesh layer found in most headphone ports with an "umbrella" so that "potential damage to the mesh and/or internal acoustic device components may be mitigated."
Equally intriguing is a separate patent – filed in March 2013 – which describes a hands-free headphone system based on an internal accelerometer which is intended to improve recorded sound quality.
The patent (spotted by AppleInsider), states that an accelerometer housed inside an earbud would be used to "detect vibration of the user's vocal chords based on vibrations in bones and tissues of the user's head," which, with the assistance of an on-wire microphone, would filter out non-vocal acoustics for the receiver.
A separate variant also notes the possible use of an "inertial sensor" as opposed to an accelerometer, but all of the listed versions focus on separating "voiced speech and unvoiced speech", with the former being recognised and optimised by "bone conduction."
Whether or not we see a 'bone conducting' set of EarPods hit the market, anyone who has been on the receiving end of a muffled, distorted hands-free conversation can find some solace in the fact that developments are at least being considered for hands-free call quality.