Microsoft patents a way to fit a 3.5mm headphone jack into less than 3.5mm of space
It’s not exactly graceful, but if you’re a fan of the phono jack, there’s good news: Microsoft may still be one, too. After all, even when it abandoned mobile phones, it kept the 3.5mm jack on them for all that time.
A patent has been published featuring multiple possible ways to fit a 3.5mm headphone jack into spaces on a device less than 3.5mm wide. It would involve aligning the receiver and transmitting pins on one side of the jack while keeping the jack snug with an expandable membrane that is rendered flush when not in use.
Various designs may feature one or two flexible or pleated membranes to create the compartment for the plug head. Pins could be put on the side edges in the latter case.
So, why draft up this convoluted design? Because, as thinness is beloved, manufacturers would be willing to go through convolutions to get there:
Standard connectors may be available with standard sizes. Standard audio connectors or plugs are popular in three sizes based on the outside diameter of the plug: 6.35 mm, 3.5 mm and 2.5 mm plugs. Standard receptacles for such connectors may include an opening having an interior diameter sized so that it can receive and engage the plug and may, for example, therefore exceed 3.5-4 mm for a 3.5 mm audio connector.
For thin electronic devices, the thickness of such a standard receptacle may be challenging to accommodate. The standard receptacle may be thicker than the electronic device, or the standard receptacle may take up so much space within the electronic device that it may be more challenging to fit internal components such as a display, electronics, a battery etc. inside the electronic device.
Of course, this design can be scaled to the right use case, but seeing this on, perhaps, a future Surface device, perhaps we will see a new revival of analog headphones. Or, on the off-chance that this gets licensed out to smartphone OEMs, maybe those complaining about the demise of 3.5mm will be placated.