With all the patent lawsuits and protection of technology taking place these days i start wondering how much of it is actually benefiting us as consumers. After all it is all about companies playing their games of controlling the balance of power in their market, and not about ensuring that we as consumers have a greater choice.
That little rant aside, the latest Apple patent to surely impact a few current and future headphone manufacturers is the patent for tangle free headphones. Yes, Apple has been granted a patent for their idea of a cable structure that prevents tangling by controlling the rigidity of the headphone cable in key places. Here is an abstract from the patent:
“This is directed to a cable structure for use with an electronic device. The cable structure can include one or more conductors around which a sheath is provided. To prevent the cable structure from tangling, the cable structure can include a core placed between the conductors and the sheath, where a stiffness of the core can be varied along different segments of the cable structure to facilitate or hinder bending of the cable structure in different areas. The size and distribution of the stiffer portions can be selected to prevent the cable from forming loops. The resistance of the core to bending can be varied using different approaches including, for example, by varying the materials used in the core, varying a cross-section of portions of the core, or combinations of these.”
By introducing a core in-between the the outer shield and the inner-wires they can adapt the rigidity of that core to prevent the cables from tangling up. How they will apply this in real life, if at all, will be interesting to see, as users would still want to be able to roll the headphone cable up or twist it around the iPod/iPhone when not in use.
My guess is that this is just another idea that they want to protect so that if any other headphone manufacturer wants to introduce it they will have to pay Apple a license fee. As for us as consumers, tangle free iPod headphones just got a bit more expensive.