Apple patent could transform headphones into loudspeakers

In a new patent filing, the company sketches out headphones that can double as external speakers.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.

Apple has cooked up a design for headphones that can also serve as external loudspeakers.

A patent filed today with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes a "dual-mode headphone" that could deliver sound whether you wear them around your ears or place them on a surface, according to Patently Apple.

The headphones would include circuitry to detect their position. They'd sense when they're around or near your ears so that you're not blown away by the sound.

A built-in amplifier would pipe up the audio to deliver higher output when the headphones are acting as external speakers. In that mode, audio ports could also transmit the sound away from the surface so that it better fills up a room.

The user would also be able to manually change the headphones between the two modes.

The patent was originally filed last year by its sole inventor Edward Hyatt, Patently Apple added.

The invention sounds like a neat idea, sparing people from having to carry around both headsets and external speakers. But since it's just in the patent stage, there's no way of knowing when or if it may come to fruition.