I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the AirPods are the best product I bought from Apple in recent years, and I don’t see myself going back to wired headphones in the near future. I’m even more interested to see what Apple does next with future AirPods models, and I don’t just mean swapping the charging case for one that can be recharged wirelessly, which is the rumored marquee feature of the upcoming AirPods 2. Thankfully, a discovery reveals that Apple is indeed working on making a bunch of more exciting changes to its AirPods, which would make them even easier to use.
Found by 9to5Mac, US patent No. 10,149,041 was just awarded to Apple after being filed back in late October 2017. The documentation describes technology that would let Apple create AirPods that are able to recognize which ear they’ve been placed into, and “just work” as expected.
I’m probably not the first AirPods owner to have placed EarPods or AirPods the wrong way inside an ear. It’s an easy mistake to make, and you quickly realize they feel uncomfortable. But future AirPods generations may have a symmetrical design, one that would allow each AirPod to determine which ear it’s been placed in and adjust accordingly.
The AirPods described in the Earbuds with compliant member patent would contain biometric sensors that are able to make certain measurements when touching the skin. Furthermore, sensors would determine whether an AirPod has been inserted in the right or left ear and adapt sound delivery and microphone use accordingly. Also, these new AirPods should fit and feel even better than the first-gen models.
Essentially, what Apple is describing in the patent is a technology that would make AirPods as easy to use as the Lightning or USB-C ports. Those connectors and the cables that fit them have symmetrical designs so that the user doesn’t have to consciously decide the right way of inserting the cable into the port. Similarly, a symmetrical AirPod design would let the user place the AirPods inside his or her ears without thinking about which AirPod fits what ear.
Like any other Apple patents, there’s no guarantee that Apple’s next AirPods will get these features, but this particular type of innovation does sound like something that Apple would do.