Apple has patented a new “D-shaped connector” plug to replace existing 3.5mm headphone jacks. The plug still has the standard contacts for transmitting left audio, right audio and microphone signals, but is flat on one side, meaning it will only fit into the jack one way and would make standard headphones unusable with devices adhering to the new standard. Multiple outlets have speculated that the slightly slimmer headphone jack hints at thinner iPhones to come, since phones can only be as slim as their largest internal components will allow, notably evidenced by protruding cameras on the iPhone 6. Apple applied for the patent in May 2011, but hasn’t publicly discussed changing over the headphone jacks on any of its devices.
The company last made a big change to the cords paired with its devices in September 2012 — going from the 30-pin Dock Connector to the Lightning connector for iPhone charging and data transfers — but changing its headphone jack could have even broader implications since most headphones currently available operate on a single standard size. Apple also supports Lightning cable MFi headphones, but very few of those have been introduced thus far. But having that option doesn’t limit the use of standard headphones — shrinking an iPhone port to only work with proprietary headphones would have huge ramifications, and may be a bridge too far for some users. If Apple went in such a direction, they’d almost certainly develop some kind of connector to allow standard 3.5mm cables to connect properly. [via Apple Insider]