Rumors about the future of AirPods just don't stop coming out of the woodwork, it seems. Following speculation about an updated model for 2019 and one with an all-new design apparently scheduled for 2020, there's now a recently published patent hinting at the future capabilities of Apple's wireless headphones.
While the AirPods may be the most popular pair of Bluetooth earbuds right now, it's safe to say that they're not for everyone. Because the shape of the inner ear varies on each person, the AirPods simply doesn't fit every type of ear. Worse, wearing them might even cause discomfort for some.
Of course, that's a major no-no for headphones that cost $160. However, a new patent, originally filed last year and awarded to Apple just recently, hints at how the company will solve this problem. The solution? Interchangeable, "universal" AirPods.
The version of AirPods detailed in the patent employ built-in biometric sensors. Not only to perform health tracking, but also determine in which ear a specific bud is inserted. The patent, first spotted by 9to5Mac, illustrates a symmetric earbud design that "can be worn interchangeably in either a left or a right ear of a user."
The patent further explains that this version of the AirPods come with a sensor and circuitry specifically configured to determine and alter operations depending on which ear an earbud is placed in. At least one of those sensors is "configured to be pressed up against a portion of the tragus," in which case the AirPods can perform heart rate monitoring and take body temperature measurements, alongside other helpful metrics.
The Thing About Patents
The most important thing to remember about patents is that they don't guarantee the product will ever be released in real life. Some, for instance, use patents as preemptive strikes against rivals. If a company discovers a technology and is granted a patent for it, other companies won't be allowed to use that same technology without running into financial and legal troubles.
In that regard, what's described a patent may not even be technically achievable, merely acting as one company's safeguarding effort to assure that others aren't going to copy it willy-nilly. As such, this AirPods technology may be years away from the prototype phase, and ever further from being a consumer product. The only sure thing? Apple is hard at work developing its next-generation AirPods, and this patent at least lets everyone know what problems it's focusing on.