As the 3.5mm headphone jack is disappearing at an alarming rate from smartphones, not everyone is on board with its demise. Microsoft may be aiming to solve the issue of physical limitations associated with making phones thinner than ever. A patent granted for "Plug receptacle for an electronic device" details how a 3.5mm receptacle can be partially expandable out the front or back of a device.
By using an expandable headphone jack, the thickness of the body of a device is no longer an issue. A flexible jacket around a TRS or TRRS connector using spring loaded contactors makes the appropriate electrical connections and keeps a firm connection. As space runs out inside of mobile devices, expanding the usable space to outside of the main body seems like an obvious alternative.
In total, Microsoft details three different variations of the design. Either the front, back, or both sides of the receptacle can expand to provide extra room for what some now consider to be a bulky legacy option.
Of course, Microsoft or any other manufacturer of hardware could always make a mobile device slightly thicker in favor of a larger battery and space for more features, but how thin a device is seems to remain a popular statistic among marketing departments.
A major upside to this new patent is that all existing 3.5mm headphones and accessories would be usable. Phones could become thinner without losing a feature that is still important to many consumers. On the flip side, added manufacturing complexity and more moving parts could mean that OEMs are unlikely to make use of this technology.