Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) filed a patent application that was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, suggesting that the Cupertino, California, tech titan may be trying to reduce the number of openings on the bottom of a next-generation iPhone.
According to the application, named “Combined Speaker and Audio Jack,” the patented design calls for a single, consolidated port that enables an audio jack port to be used as both a headphone jack and provide a “pathway” for sound to travel out of an iPhone or iOS device.
Apple noted in its application that the primary benefit of the design is to reduce the number of openings on the bottom of an iPhone or other iOS device:
“Since the audio jack can be used for input of an audio plug as well as output of a sound from a speaker, the number of ports or openings formed through an outer case of the associated portable electronic device can be reduced.”
The illustrations in the patent are simple line drawings that don't provide a high level of technical detail, but they do offer insight into how Apple may plan to make more room for other features in a meticulously designed future iPhone.
One effect of the design is that future iPhones may not need external audio grilles, according to a report by Patently Apple. With a reduced number of openings, a future iPhone could pave the way eventually for a water-resistant iOS device.
Apple doesn’t appear to eliminate the audio jack entirely with this design. However, previous rumors suggested that Apple has explored the possibility of eliminating the jack in favor of the lightning port at the bottom of iPhones and iOS devices.
While it doesn’t look like the standard 3.5mm headphone audio jack is about to go anywhere for now, Apple revealed in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference that its lightning connector would support headphones that can connect to apps and newer iOS features.
The “Combined Speaker and Audio Jack” patent application was filed on Jan. 10, 2013, and it names John Raff of Menlo Park, California, as the inventor.
It’s unknown if this audio jack design will make it into the highly rumored iPhone 6, which is expected to ship with a 2.8 GHz A8 processor and 2GB of RAM. The iPhone 6 is also expected to run Apple’s iOS 8 mobile operating system, which is currently being beta tested by app developers.