Reinventing the iPod: Apple is about to slap a display on the AirPods case

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How would you like your AirPods to come with a touch screen on the charging case?

Apple has now made full circle and it’s going back to one of the most beloved gadgets in the last 25 years – the iPod. Nope, the now discontinued standalone music player is not getting resurrected, but it’s going to get reincarnated in a future AirPods case.

If everything goes to plan, the upcoming earbuds could pack a screen that will allow users to play, pause, and skip music directly from the case without the need to reach for their phone.

This isn’t a new idea for Apple: back in 2023, we reported that Apple has filed a patent application for AirPods with touch screen.

Now, Apple has been granted the patent!

Of course, interacting with and operating the AirPods is currently available through a series of touch controls on the earbuds themselves. But that’s not perfect.

While Apple doesn’t directly criticize the touch-sensitive controls on current AirPods, the patent asserts that “deficiencies associated with user control of wireless headphones [can be] reduced or eliminated”.

Although the patent is somewhat vague about these deficiencies, it suggests that the inability to see visual information when interacting with AirPods is a problem.

The patent highlights the advantages of having a touch-sensitive display on the case, which would feature a graphical user interface usable with a stylus or simple touch gestures.

The patent includes 27 detailed drawings, illustrating an AirPods case with a Play button, on-screen volume control, and a Music app icon representing spatial audio. One drawing shows the display with the message “Transfer TV Audio to Headphones”, and another depicts the display functioning as a standalone Siri device.

This suggests that Apple envisions the AirPods case as a potential standalone Siri device, integrating it into the broader Apple ecosystem for controlling music on an iPhone or Apple Watch.

Samsung’s already there… kind of

Back in January, at the CES 2024 expo, Samsung showed off a prototype of a Galaxy earbuds case with an OLED display.

Here it is:

Called the “Earbuds OLED Case,” this display is fully functional, capable of showing the battery levels of both the earbuds and the case. It can also display audio modes and the status of ANC (active noise cancellation). This allows users to adjust many settings directly from the case, eliminating the need to open the earbuds app on a paired phone. Additionally, users can switch to another device right from the display on the earbuds case.


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