Apple has filed a patent that suggests the company is planning a more interactive version of its popular AirPods case. This theoretically upgraded accessory would include a display for showing track info, incoming calls and other useful information, and could also function as a touchscreen or gesture-based device for accessing more complex commands than is possible through the headphones alone.
The patent, which has application number 17/948083 and was filed last September, is entitled “Devices, Methods, And Graphical User Interfaces For Interactions With A Headphone Case.” It was spotted by Patently Apple and may offer clues to the future development of one of Apple’s most lucrative product lines.
(It’s not immediately clear that Apple is the filing company, but there are nice offers, such as the inclusion among the inventors of William Lindmeier, who works at Apple as an “Interaction Designer,” and the many references to “iPhone® , iPod Touch® , and iPad® devices.”)
The core is simple. There is a need, the patent summary argues, “for a headphone case that … can convey information to a user, through haptics and/or display devices,” and for a bag that can “control actions traditionally associated with headphones,” such as playback controls and the ability to change audio sources and output modes. Apple’s intended solution to this need is an enclosure with possible upgrades such as a touchscreen display, “tactile output generators” (i.e. haptics), and its own processor and memory.
It sounds somewhat similar to JBL’s Tour Pro 2 earbuds, which will retail for $249 later this spring. It also seems like the kind of functionality that could be passed on to an Apple Watch, given that most case actions would be pretty simple and quick.
It’s questionable whether there really is such a need, given that AirPods users already have access to simple controls (namely, pause and play, skip track, and volume control) through the headphones themselves, as well as access to everything else that comes in the patent describes (track info, incoming calls and so on, plus more detailed controls) through the paired iPhone, assuming one is being used. Is it noticeably less of a hassle to take out an AirPods case than it is to take out an iPhone? Maybe, but not by much. If the AirPods are paired with a Mac or other audio source, the application may be considerably useful, but their most common use remains by far as a companion to an iPhone.
And there are clearly downsides to equipping an AirPods case with a touchscreen display. It would be more expensive and heavier, the battery would drain faster and you would have to free up more space for the extra components, which in turn could lead to a lower capacity battery. Plus, it’s an extra thing that can break, especially if you drop the case, which is a pretty durable item right now.
As always with patent activity, it’s important to remember that such developments often go nowhere (because they prove to be impractical, or exist only as a means of fooling rivals), or take a long time to come to fruition. to bloom. The first AirPods model with a touchscreen housing may not hit the market for years if at all. Stay on top of the latest rumors by checking out our regularly updated new AirPods guide.