Look at any of Apple’s newest iPods — the new Shuffle, the touchscreen nano, the iPod Touch — and you will find three devices as tiny, svelte or both as Cupertino can possibly make them. In fact, all of these devices are scarcely thicker at this point than the width of their widest single element —the 3.5mm audio jack — which means that if they are ever going to lose any more chunk, that audio jack is going to need to get even smaller.
It turns out that is exactly what Apple is currently working on, according to a recently filed patent. The new audio jacks uses deflectable “pogo pins”, instead of the usual cantilever beams which extend into a jack cavity and are pushed out of the way when your headphone plug is inserted, allowing audio and electricity to be transmitted.
“The contact mechanism for the audio jack only needs to extend in one direction (e.g., in one direction perpendicular to the axis of the cavity, or y),” the patent says. “This may allow an electronic device in which the electronic device housing follows the dimensions of the audio jack for around at least one half of the periphery of the audio jack (e.g., all of the audio jack conductive pads and the movement of the audio jack conductive pads remains in a plane that includes the central axis of the cavity).”
Of course, Apple’s new patent doesn’t actually change the dimensions of the actual audio jack cavity, but it does allow the size of an audio jack to be “greatly reduced in two dimensions,” according to the patent. I wonder if that’ll be good enough for Apple: given their obsession with small form factors, this train-of-thought could easily eventually end up in proprietary, pin-wide audio connectors.