A new Apple patent details how future iPhones could decrease and increase speaker volume on its own based on a user’s distance from the device. The patent application, which was published today by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office and titled “Adjustment of acoustic properties based on proximity detection,” describes how the handset’s proximity sensor could control audio and even switch between receiver and speaker-phone automatically.
Take the Apple handset slightly away from your ear and it will slightly raise the volume. Step further away and the volume will raise automatically. Put your smartphone down and the speaker will activate.
How the iPhone of the future will measure your proximity is unclear, but it could be based on infrared light, sound waves or by observing how much light is bouncing of the user and hitting the device’s sensors. The handset could also switch from receiver to speaker-phone based on whether or not a user’s ear is pressed up against the touchscreen.
It’s nice to see Apple pushing forward new ideas, but a comparison to Samsung’s penchant for gimmicky features is inevitable. If Apple really wants to re-conquer the smartphone market it will need real innovation, not just a few new tricks. It may be too late to see this in the iPhone 5S, though we think anything is possible at this point.