Being a savior of anything is probably the last thing you will think of when talking about Microsoft. In fact, history would prove it has destroyed more things, dreams included, than saved anything. But if this latest patent filed by Redmond becomes reality, it might just end up turning the losing battle in the headphone jack’s favor. That is, if it can indeed implement a 3.5 mm port that can change its shape as needed and require very little electrical contacts to work.
Manufacturers give a few vague, sometimes conflicting reasons why they remove the venerable port. The two most cited reasons, however, is the space the component takes up inside as well as the minimum thickness it requires for even the thinnest phones. Without the port, some argue, manufacturers would have more room for other internal components and could make phones even thinner.
Microsoft thinks it doesn’t need to be an “either-or” situation. You can have a thin phone and a headphone jack at the same time. The trick, its patents implies, is to have sort of half a port only. Half of the port is more or less solid and round like your typical port, but the top part can be made of a flexible material that would expand when the plug is inserted. The plug might not even need to go all the way in, thereby reducing the space the port will take up inside.
But a headphone jack is more than just a hole. It has contacts that transfer power and signals. In Microsoft’s patent, you only need to have the contacts on one side, the side that’s solid and permanent. That would simplify the design a lot, though it raises the question of a reduction in performance as a trade-off.
Of course, this is just a patent, an intention to develop and dibs on an idea. Microsoft might not even have anything close to a working proof of concept for it. Still, fans of the 3.5 mm jack might derive a bit of comfort knowing that one of the biggest names in tech hdecades-oldiven up on the decades old connector.