On July 12, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new iPhone case accessory that will come with a built-in noise windscreen. This may sound like a minor feature but it will be greatly appreciated by consumers of older iPhones. On a personal note, my wife phones me after work at a downtown location every day on her 3G iPhone. Almost every day I tell her that I hear the people talking around her louder than her own voice. It's one of the reasons that I've held back on buying an iPhone for myself. Yes, it's that annoying. So while this patent may be for an iPhone accessory case today, it may also indicate that this will become a standard iPhone feature in the future. One could only hope.
The Problem: Annoying Background Noise on iPhone
Handheld mobile communications devices, particularly mobile phones, have enabled users to engage in real-time two-way conversations while walking, running, riding in a car, or during other activities. In a number of these situations, a user may be conducting a conversation in a noisy environment, such as outside in the wind or inside a moving car with its window down. Background noise, e.g., wind noise, can be picked up by the device's microphone and combined with the user's speech. The other party to the conversation constantly hears the background noise and thus may have difficulty understanding the user. As a result, the user often has to raise her voice and literally shout into the device's microphone to be heard.
Removable cases for mobile phones have been developed for a variety of reasons. Most mobile phone users carry their mobile phone with them wherever they go. Removable cases may have protective features that protect the mobile phone from being damaged when, for example, it is placed in a handbag. They may be designed to allow a user to affix the mobile phone to his person, e.g., a belt clip. The cases may also have aesthetic features, such as an exterior design, that allows a user of the mobile phone to express her personality.
Apple's Removable Case with Built-In Windscreen
A removable case for a handheld mobile communications device is described. The removable case includes an opening that aligns with a microphone port that is built into the device. A windscreen is sealed across the opening of the case. The windscreen is designed to reduce wind noise, air blasts, vocal plosives, and other noise. This may enable the speech of a user of the device to remain intelligible despite the presence of such noise during a call, and without requiring the user to shout into the device's microphone.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shown below illustrates an example removable case 1 (also referred to as a skin, bumper, or cover) for the iPhone. The removable case 1 includes a shell 2 that houses and provides protection to the mobile device 10 that is placed inside the case 1. The shell 2 may be formed from one or more materials such as plastic, acrylic, polycarbonate, silicon, or rubber. The shell 2 may have a front lip 3, a side wall 4, and a back wall 5. The shell 2 is dimensioned to yield a snug fit once installed onto the iPhone. The front lip 3 may provide a securing mechanism for securing the iPhone within the shell 2.
Additionally, the shell 2 includes various openings or other pathways that allow access to switches and connectors and enable the passage of light and sound through the shell 2 to and from the iPhone. One such opening is an opening 6 that aligns with a microphone port 11 of the iPhone which enables the passage of sound through the case 1 to the microphone port 11.
The removable case 1 includes a windscreen 7 that is placed across the opening 6. The windscreen reduces wind noise, air blasts, vocal plosives, and other noise that may be picked up by the device's internal microphone along with the user's voice. The windscreen may also protect against dirt, dust, liquids, and other particles from entering the microphone port 11 of the iPhone. The windscreen may have a mesh structure, a foam structure, or a feather-like structure.
The windscreen may be made of a material that has an acoustic resistivity such that it reduces wind noise without significantly altering the user's voice. Examples of such material may be cloth, acoustic foam, porous plastics, or screen material.
Various Cross-Sectional Views of the Removable Case
Apple's patent FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the removable case 1 with the windscreen that is embedded in the side wall 4 of the case such that it extends across the entirety of the opening 6 (or fills the opening 6) of the case that aligns with a microphone port 11 of the iPhone. The windscreen may be embedded in the side wall by integrally molding the windscreen into the side wall while molding the shell 2.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the removable case 1 with the windscreen positioned on an interior (inside) surface 35 of the side wall 4 and adhesively attached to the interior surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the removable case 1 with the windscreen positioned on an exterior (outside) surface 37 of the side wall 4 and adhesively attached to the exterior surface.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q1 2011 by the sole inventor Jae Lee and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
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In addition to the patent application presented in today's report, the US Patent and Trademark Office did publish a series of older continuation patents dating back to between 2005 and 2008. The continuation patents that we list below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications." Generally speaking, continuation patents represent tweaks made to patent claims in an effort to get the patents granted by the USPTO and don't represent any noteworthy new development from the original patent filing. Here are today's continuation patents should you wish to review them:
1. Originally filed in 2005: Magnetic Connector for Electronic Device (MagSafe)
2. Originally filed in 2008: Power Source having a Parallel Cell Topology
3. Originally filed in 2008: Audio Plug with Cosmetic Hard Shell
4. Originally filed in 2009: Multicolor Lighting System
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