Apple’s headphones have always been the first things any iPhone or iPod buyer puts in a drawer “just in case” and never, ever uses. So you would think that setting down $3bn earlier this week to buy Beats would mean it was leaving headphone manufacturing to the experts. Not so. It has just filed a patent for smart earbuds that automatically cut off or turn on music based on proximity to a user’s ears. (Note: Apple, like most big tech companies, regularly files patents but it is never guaranteed they’ll ever do anything with them.) While it is easy to mock Apple’s poor history in headphones, it is sitting on a stack of patents that really could by used by Beats to make their products much more intuitive. Which potentially puts a new spin on its big acquisition this week – namely that it has accrued endless patents and needed somewhere to put them to use.