back to article Apple explores auto iPhone audio

What if your iPhone could set its own volume? Today, the US Patent & Tradmark Office published an Apple patent application for an intelligent sound sensor that would adjust a device's audio volume level in relation to the ambient sound in its environment. Originally filed in July 2007, the application - prosaically entitled " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
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    I bet I've seen that technology ages ago somewhere... Anybody remembers?

  2. Piggy and Tazzy
    IT Angle


    My car and my satnav already do this.

    Well, they do in relation to the speed at which I'm travelling, rather than ambient sound. But it's the same principle, surely?

  3. Em

    Prior art?

    BMW, Lexus, Porsche and I'm sure others have had this feature on their cars for years. For example, the Lexus SC adjusts audio levels depending on whether the convertible hood is up or down and based on cabin noise. BMWs do it based on speed. Porsche cars (with the Bose upgrade) do it based on internal noise.

    The only thing 'new' here is they've shifted the logic and sensor into their device but I'm sure that alone doesn't make it an non-obvious innovation.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weirdly, my ancient PowerBook already has a "sound sensor"

    also known as a frickin' microphone

  5. Anonymous Coward
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    prior art

    Far from whiz-bang tech. This has been available in car auto systems for a number of years now.

  6. jai

    car systems

    do the car systems actually listen to the ambient noise and adjust the sound accordingly? or do they just automatically dial-down the volume to what the manufacturers think is a suitable volume for when you're parked?

    cos, the Harmon Kardon hifi in my mini does the adjusting volume thing, but i'm sure it sounds a lot quieter when i start the car in a busy car park than it does when i'm at home

    for that matter, when i've got the music pumping out full blast on the motorway, and then hit a traffic jam and crawl along at 10mph, it doesn't automatically drop the volume to a level where it's still audible above the other traffic noise

  7. Andy Baird

    Prior art, indeed!

    Back in the mid-Sixties, "Popular Electronics" magazine published a construction article detailing how to homebrew a system that controlled the volume of a car radio based on ambient noise level. And I wouldn't be surprised if the idea goes back to the Forties or Fifties. Apple is a bit late to the table with this one. ;-)

  8. Paul M

    I'm sure I saw...

    ... Blaupunkt do this many years ago in an in-car audio system.

    Still, it's the US patent office we're talking about here, right?

  9. Neil Stansbury
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    Another apple patent

    We really shouldn't be surprised, the only prior art Apple seems to be familiar with is theft of other people's innovation. This has been implemented in Audio A4's for at least 4 years.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better Idea

    First, employ an amazingly sensitive audio device popularly known as the human eardrum. Cost - zero

    Then attach a twiddly knob to the sound source and call it... hmmm... I know ... "Volume Control".

    Cost - coupla bucks.

    Naaah.. it's been done.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Startup sound

    Here's another patent idea: A setting switch to get rid of that inane OS X startup sound! It's unbelievable I had to install 3rd-party software for that.

  12. Dan Makovec
    Jobs Horns

    Blaupunkt have done this for ages

    See this link:

    It's about 2/3 of the way down the page, under 'Amplifier Features', called DNC (dynamic noise covering). The US patent office would have to be mad to grant a patent on this.

    Watch this space!

  13. Lee T.
    Jobs Horns

    yet more prior art

    the scala rider bluetooth-headset/intercom-for-motorbikes does this based om ambient noise

    I'm sure other headsets do similar.

  14. eugene

    My old phone had it

    My old Nokia 5140i from years ago had it, plus more. From the manual:

    Automatic volume control — Select On to automatically set the volume of the earpiece at a certain level that you have set with the volume keys. For example, if the environment is noisy, the earpiece volume is increased, or if the person you are talking to on the phone is speaking very loudly, the volume is decreased.

  15. Gary Riches


    And what if you get two people with it enabled sitting next to each other playing music? They will both get louder and louder in some kind of loop.

  16. Paul Simmonds

    Prior Art

    Surely loads of car radios already do this when they increase/decrease the volume in response to the ambient (road/wind) noise and/or speed.

  17. Lozzyho
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    Typical Apple

    Not only does my car do this for hi-fi volume, but it also does the same thing for the sat nav brightness in relation to the outside light. Oh, and the headlights too. And the hazard warning lights come on if I break REALLY hard.

    How can you patent something that has a sensor and reacts to the sensor?

    Apple are patent trawling, end of. Next year they'll file a patent for a Human Touch Interface Device that reacts by turning on a device when it senses the press of a human finger. Just you watch...

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