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Apple patents half-height 3.5mm headphone jack, ready for slimmer future iPhones


While Apple appears to view the Lightning port as the future headphone connector of choice, with some manufacturers already on board, there are plenty of us who’ll be reluctant to replace our existing, expensive headphones. Which poses something of a problem as iPhones and iPads continue to get slimmer, and existing ones barely accommodate the 3.5mm socket.


Apple, however, has a potential solution to this in  a patent granted today (via Patently Apple). It’s essentially a standard 3.5mm jack cut in half, to make it much smaller in cross-section. This could easily be used with existing 3.5mm jacks using an adapter. The clever part is that it’s actually chopped off a little above the halfway mark, so the revised connector would still fit snugly in standard 3.5mm jacks on other devices.


As always with Apple patents, there’s no telling whether it will ever make it into production, but this one strikes me as a neat solution to a problem that could arrive as early as the iPhone 7, KGI suggesting that it will be around 6mm thick.

iPhone 6 photo:

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  1. epicflyingcat - 8 years ago

    The iPad Air is 6mm thick and still fits a 3.5mm headphone jack on it quite easily.

    Seriously Apple, literally NO ONE is asking for thinner phones and worse battery life and more so, no one’s asking for you to change a long-established connector that every headphone this century is fitted with to a new connector that you hold the patent for so won’t work on any other non-Apple devices! If the iPhone 7 has this on it, it’ll be a huge downgrade for me.

    • Max Mars (@devianter) - 8 years ago

      did you even read the article????
      also, what do you expect headphones connector to be in 50 years? STILL the 3,5 jack? are you serious?

    • Julian (@thejulianw) - 8 years ago

      I never understood this argument. Thinner is always more beautiful and more appealing to me.
      If you are willing to trade in design and thinness for battery life, get a Mophie Case. Problem solved.

      • Ever tried a battery case? Please do. Try to live with one and not pretend it’s not something you made yourself out of Lego Technics blocks. They are HUGE (compared to the added battery life), unreliable and just plain shit. I’ve tried 4. Never again.

    • i agree, there’s no need to have a 4mm iPhone, just fill the innards with as much battery as possible

    • Greg Kaplan (@kaplag) - 8 years ago

      Your looking at it the wrong way. This would save space, which creates more room for battery. Whether they make the phone thinner is another question but they could keep it this thickness and increase battery. Or not get thinner but get shorter. The iphone is too tall. If they made it shorter it would be better.

      I would get rid of the jack altogether (at least in one line of iphone). Why waste any space with a jack people have already stopped using in favor of Bluetooth. The wired solution is a lightning adapter or headphones that go right into lighting.

      • csnyderii - 8 years ago

        Unfortunately for many of us our headphones are not bluetooth, nor do I want bluetooth. Every bluetooth headset for calls has inevitably died within months. Plugging into the lightning port is also not a solution since some of like to listen to music AND charge our phones at the same time. I’m not necessarily a fan of changing the plug, but if they do sell an adapter to use a standard plug I could live with it.

    • Greg Kaplan (@kaplag) - 8 years ago

      This also isn’t talking about diameter (thickness) at all! The jacks would still be 3.5mm. The difference is it would be as long as a lightning head instead of being twice as long. This would actually impact internal space and not external like the thickness of the device.

    • ctyrider (@ctyrider) - 8 years ago

      I am certainly happy YOU aren’t in charge of Apple design decisions and engineering roadmaps. I can only imagine what the state of technology be like if people like you were in charge. “we never need a change a long established VGA connector”.. “who needs lighter and more portable computers”.. “those fancy touchscreens?? we don’t need those, slider keyboards work so good”.

      Please.. just stick to what you know – i.e. consuming products that innovators like Apple produce for you, and leave design decisions to people who actually have vision and desire to make things better.

      • epicflyingcat - 8 years ago

        No. There is literally no reason why the headphone jack should be scrapped for a proprietary one except for Apple to make a few $ extra on accessories.

  2. Cory © (@Nardes) - 8 years ago

    2 things….

    1. The picture looks like a sex ed diagram

    2. Could possibly be for future Macbooks, since they are getting thinner and thinner?

  3. Greg Kaplan (@kaplag) - 8 years ago

    This is interesting and. I’m not apposed to this as a stepping stone but they could save even more space without the jack at all.

    The new iPhones have ble 4.2. They skipped 4.1 but are early adopters of 4.2 considering it was only finalized 9 months ago. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing revised wireless headphones coming out with the new apple watch (which will also have 4.2) next spring that will solve the biggest wireless headphone complaints, battery life and lag. I’m also betting any hardware mac updates will include the speck.

    Between ble and thunderbolt I feel like they don’t even really need this solution on the phone. Maybe this is more mac focused?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      There are a couple of issues there. First, Bluetooth is subject to interference – it will never (soon) offer sound as clear as a wired connection. Second, a lot of people have decent chunks of cash tied up in wired headphones, and aren’t going to want to abandon them anytime soon.

  4. It seems odd to me that they would opt for a port that is not reversible after making such a big deal (and consumers appreciating the convenience) of a reversible charging cable. I am sure there is some argument that, in general, users are looking at the phone and headphone jack more closely than when blindly plugging their phone in before bed – but still seems like an odd choice. Couldn’t a jack with a flattened top and bottom be reversible and still work in the standard 3.5 jack?

  5. nutmac - 8 years ago

    While the connector is clever, I would prefer bolder solution. I want Apple to eliminate exposed connectors altogether, replacing them with contact-based connection like iPad Pro’s smart connector or Apple Watch magnetic charging cable. I frankly wouldn’t mind shelling out a small sum for a headphones adapter.

  6. juliancordero - 8 years ago

    This decision by Apple could impact millions of company and people. First, comapnies making headphones are going to be forced to either license or buy Apple headphone connector plugs or essentially loose out on the apple market share – which has been very influential on the growth of headphone companies as most people use smartphones as their music players. Second, because these companeis are going to be forced to license or buy this Apple headphone plug, they are probably going to be passing along the price increase to the customer becuase of the smaller margins of profit they will now have after taking on this cost.

    I wrote an article about this, feel free to check this out at:

  7. Paul Van Obberghen - 8 years ago

    Audio Jack is last century technology. And by that I mean 19th century. What I see is Apple moving the audio connection to the Lightning port, which more likely, will itself go for USB C sometime in the future. You’ll have an adaptator to stick between the port and the charging cable to connect legacy audio-jack headphones. Note that this is not what I wish, but what I think is likely to happen.

  8. mytawalbeh - 7 years ago

    Why don’t they use the Lightning port and get rid of one opening ? As there will be an adapter for the 3.5mm now headphones, it may be possible to make adapter to 3.5 used for lightning port.

  9. As long as it’s not a standard adapter, why bother? NOBODY wants to use their low quality head phones in other devices. The point is to be able to use the decent quality ones with your device. None of those come with this proprietary adapter any more than they do with the others. iPod Touch has 3,5mm and it’s way slimmer than any of the iPhone 6 devices. Mind blown!

    I need the 3,5mm jack to plug the damned thing into my car audio, my stereo set and my (several) headphones, none of which are Apple or Beats (and none will ever be). Am I going to change cars, stereo systems and mod a few thousand dollars’ worth of headphones to work with the new proprietary adapter? Hell no! Am I going to drag around a few new dongles just to be able to connect when I want to? Well, the answer is the same. I’ll stick with my 6+ until it dies and then probably jump into Samsung camp. I can’t say I like their phones but the main point for me to own an iPhone was that it made my life easier. All of this dongle nonsense is anything but that.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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