Apple’s EarPods haven’t changed much in the past few years, but a new patent reveals how the company could make its iconic white earbuds a whole lot smarter.
The concept, which was filed back 2012 and approved by the U.S. Patent Office on June 2, details a sensor-packed set of EarPods that can tell how many people are using them at once. If you have both buds in your own ears your music will play in stereo, but if you’re sharing the pair with a friend it switches to mono automatically. That way you don’t end up hearing just half of the track.
The technology described would require a ton of new sensors, with some placed in each earbud and others at the base of the wire where it splits in two directions. Those sensors would measure the space between each earbud to determine how they were being used. If the wires are more stretched out it probably means your EarPods are being used by two people at once.
The same concept could come in handy for solo listening as well. If you need to pull out a single earbud but want to keep playing music your EarPods could switch to mono automatically. Apple doesn’t mention this possibility, but we assume it would work without too much extra work.
Of course, there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see the ideas described here show up in an actual product. Apple files tons of patents every year and most go unused. Still, this is a pretty clever one, and we hope it doesn’t just get brushed aside.