Patent News | "The iPhone 5 Headset, Or Something Else Entirely?"

By : Michael Nace
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Category : Patent News

A recent Apple patent filing outlines a plan for a wireless headset, complete with built-in mp3 player. Could this little do-hickey become the proprietary headset for the iPhone 5 — or something else entirely?
I always enjoy checking out Jonny Evans’ musings over on iPhone 5 and iPad rumors over at Computerworld, as he always comes up with a unique angle to write about. His post yesterday highlights a recent patent filing by Apple for a wireless headset with integrated media player, and how he imagines that this device — should it make it to the production floor — could become a kind of proprietary headset for an iPhone. Maybe even this year’s iPhone 5.

Evans explains that the patent is essentially an iPod shuffle with a microphone and built-in set of stereo earbuds, arranged in a headset that would ostensibly wrap around the back of your head when worn.
If we were just talking about an iPod Shuffle with an integrated headset, that would be one thing, but this is something else entirely: the inclusion of a microphone, as well as the ability to listen to voice messages — and of course the paten title — makes this a true headset/media player hybrid. Wouldn’t it seem to have a bit of an identity crisis? Evans doesn’t think so, assuming that the driving thrust of introducing a new headset makes total sense for Apple from a sales standpoint: “there’s approximately 316 million iOS devices in use worldwide. That’s a huge market for an Apple headset, particularly one that integrates strongly with iOS 6, including the capacity to cue up tracks using Siri voice controls if the headset were twinned with an iPhone, for example.” But he also imagines that this headset could become an integral component of the iPhone 5: his post in entitled “The iPhone 5 Headset — the iPod Shuffle,” positing the notion that the design “takes the iPod shuffle and transforms it into an essential item for any iPhone user.” However, why would any iPhone user need a Bluetooth headset with a built in media player? Wouldn’t that be a completely redundant piece of hardware? After all, the device it is attached to would have a much more advanced media player, attached to iCloud. This patent design doesn’t accommodate the ability to connect with iCloud, so it would be a much less advanced, smaller-capacity device for holding media.

Evans suggests that the benefit of a design this because “The headset can be pre-loaded with music over USB, so you get to play music even when you aren’t carrying or don’t own an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.” As an alternative to the iPhone, iPad, or iPod? Maybe. But as an essential item for the iPhone? No. I don’t see a design like this being bound up in the iPhone 5 launch.

There is, of course, that a patent like this could come to integrate into a more complex design that Apple could pitch against the “Google Glasses” concept, with the headphones and microphone forming the audio portion of a mobile device that incorporates a hands-free concept.

Can you imagine how this patent could work for the iPhone 5?

Postscript: I still think that Pranav Mistry’s SixthSense device is a sleeper technology that could rival Google Glasses. His design is still bulky, but who better to slim it down and make it practical than Apple?

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