Just last week Apple introduced their new 'EarPods' for iPhone 5. The day prior to Apple's Special Event, the US Patent Office cued up Apple's trademark filing but didn't publish it until after Apple's event. To finalize it all, we get to actually see Apple's patent application detailing their invention today. To top off today's report, we'll take a brief look at a few of the key iPhone 5 patents that were fulfilled last week.
Apple's 'EarPods' Patent Surfaces
Apple's 'EarPods' patent application reveals Seamless earbud structures and methods. Seamless earbud structures can be constructed using an insert molding construction method, which overmolds a cosmetic material over two sub-enclosures that are mated together. The two sub-enclosures form a housing that can encompass a driver assembly (e.g., woofer and tweeter), a conductor bundle, and provide one or acoustic volumes. The housing has a non-occluding member and a neck member, and has a seamless or nearly seamless construction. The cosmetic material is insert molded around the housing to provide a smooth and seamless surface disposed around the periphery of the housing.
Now that the product has hit the market there's no need to dig into this invention to deeply. However, for those wishing to delve in, see Apple's patent application 20120237074. The application was originally filed in Q3 2011 by the sole inventor Jonathan Aase and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
While we're on the topic of an invention that debuted last week during the special iPhone 5 Event, I thought that it would be the right time to tie in a few other patents that came to light during that event.
Special Segment: Some of the Patents Brought to Life with iPhone 5
The original iPhone, according to the late Steve Jobs, began with over 200 patents. It's a point that he even created a special keynote slide for. It was a declaration being made to the world that Apple was going to protect their new invention tooth and nail. And they've done just that in numerous cases over the last few years and have even beaten Korean device maker Samsung this past August.
So when Phil Schiller stated last week that "we've updated every aspect of iPhone 5. Everything has been enhanced, re-engineered, re-designed over iPhone 4S" – you could bet the farm that everything in the new iPhone 5 has been patented to death and ten times over due to their ongoing legal battles.
Unfortunately, Schiller nor Cook officially revealed just how many patents have been filed specifically to protect the new iPhone 5. They should have just for the sake of public record. It would have also acted as a warning to future copycatters.
Patently Apple only covers about 8-10 percent of Apple's patent applications per year so that we could focus on some of Apple's larger concepts and component shifts. There's no way that we could ever find and verify most of the general concepts that Schiller presented last week like "faster Photo capture" or "f/2.4 aperture" or "backside illumination." But a few glaringly clear patents did in fact leap out and here are the most notable:
One of the key technologies that Apple introduced with the debut of the iPhone 5 was Integrated Touch. That technology came to the surface in one of our reports in December 2010 by the very name "Integrated Touch" and not by the description of in-cell display" which is kind of a marketing category of display. Apple's patent was filed in Q2 2010. That's roughly 28 months from the original filing date to market.
Apple introduced 'Beamforming' at their iPhone event last week. The basics of this technology were first discussed in an Apple patent report that we posted in May 2010. That's 28 months from the time we first reported on their published patent. Yet in fact, the original filing was made in 2008. That's roughly 4 years for this invention to come to market. It takes patience for invention to come to market, but they do, well ahead of the actual product in many cases as we've proven over the years.
Phil Schiller stated at around 35: 20 minute-mark of his keynote segment: "We now have not 2 but 3 microphones built-in to iPhone 5: One on the bottom, one in the front and another on the back. This helps in many situations. You're doing a FaceTime call, you're creating a video; you have the perfect placement for your microphones. We can use them for noise cancellation solutions and we can use them for "beamforming" which is important on voice recognition and applications like Siri."
In order for beamforming to work you need more than a single microphone. All previous iPhone's had a single microphone. Schiller made it a distinct point by saying that the iPhone 5 had "not 2 but 3 microphones" proving that this is the first time that beamforming technology has been incorporated into an iPhone. Below are a few excerpts from Apple's beamforming patent:
"Under typical imperfect conditions, a single microphone that is embedded in a mobile device does a poor job of capturing sound because of background sounds that are captured along with the sound of interest. An array of microphones can do a better job of isolating a sound source and rejecting ambient noise and reverberation.
Beamforming is a way of combining sounds from two or more microphones that allows preferential capture of sounds coming from certain directions. In a delay-and-sum beamformer sounds from each microphone are delayed relative to sounds from the other microphones, and the delayed signals are added. The amount of delay determines the beam angle--the angle in which the array preferentially "listens." When a sound arrives from this angle, the sound signals from the multiple phones are added constructively. The resulting sum is stronger, and the sound is received relatively well. When a sound arrives from another angle, the delayed signals from the various microphones add destructively--with positive and negative parts of the sound waves canceling out to some degree--and the sum is not as loud as an equivalent sound arriving from the beam angle."
Next-Generation Image Processing Processor
During Phil Schiller's presentation he pointed to the A6 incorporating a next-generation ISP (Image Sensor Processor) for iPhone 5. A patent application posted in February of this year described just that, a next generation dual image sensor processing (ISP) system.
Other patents fulfilled, such as Apple's classic "Ticket" or turn-by-turn navigation patents, which Scott Forstall reviewed again last week, were actually covered in our June report covering Apple's World Wide Developers Conference.
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