Welcome to the patent that's all about the next generation telephonic MacBook. For Macites who are road warriors, this could definitely be the patent of the year for you. With LTE and other 4G networks rolling out in 2011, it's clear that Apple is preparing to deliver some pretty interesting MacBooks for us to get excited about in the coming months and years. It's equally clear that Apple has been exploring and testing out several next generation antenna technologies since April of 2008. And while Apple's patent shows us a few of the ways that the telephonic antenna could be implemented in the MacBook, the patent also opens the door to some rather interesting twists that could spice things up for the next generation MacBook. Apple touts that they're the leading portable devices company in the world – and this patent shows us once again that Apple's engineers are out to stay number one for many years to come.
Welcome to The Telephonic MacBook
According to Apple's patent FIG.1 we see that "Device 10" is that of a notebook. Therefore going forward, I'll simply reference Device 10 as the "MacBook."
According to Apple's patent, the MacBook may handle communications over one or more communications bands. For example, wireless communications circuitry in the MacBook may be used to handle cellular telephone communications in one or more frequency bands and data communications in one or more communications bands.
Typical data communications bands that may be handled by the wireless communications circuitry in the MacBook include the 2.4 GHz band that is sometimes used for Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) and Bluetooth communications, the 5.0 GHz band that is sometimes used for Wi-Fi communications, the 1575 MHz Global Positioning System band, and 3G data bands (e.g., the UMTS band at 1920-2170). These bands may be covered by using single band and multiband antennas. For example, cellular telephone communications could be handled using a multiband cellular telephone antenna and local area network data communications could be handled using a multiband wireless local area network antenna. As another example, the MacBook may have a single multiband antenna for handling communications in two or more data bands (e.g., at 2.4 GHz and at 5.0 GHz).
Antenna Option 1: Magnetically Coupled
In Apple's patent FIG. 2, the MacBook is shown to have an unextendable removable antenna structure such as antenna structure 27 that doesn't reciprocate or rotate relative to the housing. Unextendable removable antenna structure 27 may be magnetically coupled to the MacBook to allow the antenna structure to be removed without damaging the antenna structure or the MacBook.
In another embodiment, unextendable removable antenna structure 27 may be physically but removably coupled to the MacBook with break-away coupling. The antenna structure could be mounted on the MacBook at any suitable attachment point. For example, antenna structure 27 may be attached to the top or side edge of the MacBook. As shown by dotted lines 48, the antenna structure could be removed in any desired direction excluding directions that would require the antenna structure to pass through the MacBook. A removable antenna structure such as antenna structure 27 may allow a user to utilize antenna structures of any suitable size or shape including those that may not have blended with surrounding portions of the MacBook while still retaining the benefits of a magnetic or other break-away coupling that allows the antenna structure to break away undamaged.
In Antenna structure 26 of FIG. 1, the antenna may translate or rotate from a stowed position (e.g., the position shown in FIG. 1) into an extended position. The extended position of the antenna structure may be used to increase the efficiency of signal reception and transmission. For example, the extended position of the antenna structure may enhance wireless communications functionality by increasing the separation between the ground plane of the MacBook and antenna resonating elements in the antenna structure relative to the separation between the ground plane and the antenna resonating elements in the stowed position.
The antenna structure may be configured such that in the stowed position the antenna structure is flush, or nearly flush, with the surrounding portions of the Macbook. The stowed position of the antenna structure may improve the visual appearance of the MacBook. For example, when the antenna structure is in the stowed position, the antenna structure may blend in with the surrounding portions of the MacBook and thereby reduce visual clutter. In the stowed position, the antenna structure is also generally less vulnerable to accidental detachment.
Antenna Option 2: Superelastic Nitinol
In Apple's patent FIG. 3 we see that the MacBook may have a resilient antenna structure that is flexible and extendable such as antenna structure 29. The antenna structure may be formed from an elastic material that has an original shape such as the shape shown in FIG. 3. The antenna structure may be in the shape of a wire. For example, the antenna structure may be an elastically flexible wire. even after extensive stress or deformation. For example, the antenna structure 29 may be formed from a shape memory alloy, a superelastic material such as a nickel-titanium alloy (e.g., Nitinol), or any other suitable material.
The antenna structure may be mounted on the MacBook at any suitable attachment point. For example, antenna structure 29 may be attached to the top or side edge of the MacBook. The antenna structure may be stowed by bending the antenna structure along line 50 into an antenna receptacle in the MacBook such as antenna receptacle 52. The antenna structure may be extended by removing the antenna structure from the antenna receptacle and allowing the antenna structure to elastically return to its natural position (e.g., the position of FIG. 3).
Antenna structure 29 may be magnetic or may have magnetic portions such as magnetic portion 51. The MacBook may have sensors to determine whether antenna structure 29 is in an extended or stowed position. For example, the MacBook could have a sensor such as sensor 53 that may be used to determine when the antenna structure is stowed in the antenna receptacle. With one suitable arrangement, the sensor may be a Hall effect sensor that senses the proximity of magnetic portion 51 (e.g., senses when the antenna structure is retracted or stowed in antenna receptacle 52). Communications path 24 may be used to convey signals between these sensors and circuitry 18.
As shown in FIG. 5, the MacBook may have an extendable and removable antenna structure such as antenna structure 26. The antenna structure may be physically but removably coupled to the MacBook. With another suitable arrangement, the antenna structure may be magnetically coupled to the Macbook. Both methods of coupling of the antenna structure to the MacBook may allow the antenna structure to be intentionally or accidently removed without damaging the antenna structure of the MacBook.
In embodiments in which the antenna structure is configured to extend by rotating about axis 30, sensor 57 may be used as the sole sensor in determining the state of the antenna structure. For example, the sensor could be able to detect not only the presence of the antenna structure but also the amount of rotation of the antenna structure around axis 30. The sensor may be able to determine when antenna structure 26 has rotated to one or more extended positions.
As shown in FIG. 6 below, we see a non-extendable, removable antenna such as antenna structure 27 may couple with the MacBook. The antenna structure may have a coupling structure such as coupling structure 58 that is configured to couple with coupling structure 60 of the MacBook. The coupling structures may be configured to couple the antenna and the electronic device via a magnetic force. Alternatively, the coupling structures may utilize a physical coupling mechanism. The antenna structure is shown just above its coupled position (e.g., as indicated by line 62).
The antenna structure may have a magnetic portion such as magnet 59 (e.g., as part of coupling structure 58). In one suitable arrangement, sensor 54 in the MacBook may be a Hall effect sensor that detects the presence of magnet 59. The sensor may also be any other suitable sensor such as an optical sensor or a physical switch.
Smart Antenna Alerts
The MacBook may present a user with alerts that indicate the status of a removable and/or extendable antenna. The alerts may be visual alerts displayed on a screen, audio alerts played over speakers, physical feedback such as vibrations generated by a motor connected to an offset weight, any other suitable alert, or a combination of such alerts. For example, when an antenna is extended, retracted, removed, or attached, the Macbook may generate an alert for a user such as a visual alert message displayed on a screen as shown in the patent figures above and accompanied by an auditory beep. Visual alerts may be displayed on the MacBook's display or via LED lighting of some manner.
FIG. 7A: Alert 64 may include a symbol of an antenna with a line crossed through it that indicates that the antenna is not active, is not powered on, or is not in a state where the antenna could be utilized efficiently. FIG. 7B: Alert 66 may be used by the MacBook to indicate to a user that the antenna has been properly extended. Alert 66 may also indicate that an associated radio-frequency transceiver is active. FIG. 7C: Alert 68 may include a warning symbol displayed for the user to indicate that the removable antenna is not attached and that wireless communication activities are currently not possible. FIG. 7D: Alert 70 may indicate that a dual-band antenna is properly configured for dual-band wireless communications (e.g., the antenna is coupled to device 10 and in an extended position). FIG. 7E: Alert 72 provides status information when an antenna and associated transceiver are configured to operate with reduced power consumption.
Antenna Alert Flowcharts
MacBook: Interesting Possibilities!
The MacBook, according to the patent, may have housing 12 which could be formed of any suitable materials including plastic, glass, ceramics, metal, other suitable materials, or a combinations of these materials – though the patent also includes stainless steel, magnesium or titanium alloys.
The wildcard here is that using glass is tantamount to hinting that a virtual keyboard could be an option for the MacBook at some future date as the technology improves and superior tactile technologies come to market. Whoa, would that be radically different.
The patent also points to the fact that the display could be a touch screen: "If desired, touch screen functionality may be integrated into display 16." According to Apple "An advantage of integrating a touch screen into the display is that this type of arrangement could save space and reduce visual clutter. Buttons 14 may, if desired, be arranged adjacent to display 16. With this type of arrangement, the buttons may be aligned with on-screen options that are presented on display 16. A user may press a desired button to select a corresponding one of the displayed options."
To support the virtual keyboard angle noted above, Apple stated in the previous paragraph that Buttons 14 may be arranged adjacent to the display …. so as to reduce clutter. But the patent earlier states that "As an example, buttons 14 may form a keyboard on a laptop computer." So we see that in order to reduce clutter, the MacBook may in fact implement a virtual keyboard. The clutter also includes the MacBook's touchpad, according to Apple's patent.
It sure sounds like Apple wants to dump the physical components of a MacBook at some point in time. If they could successfully pull that off, and that's a big if, then it opens the MacBook to taking on other virtual interface options. That could be a keyboard, gaming controls, a DJ Platter or a video editing console for starters. For now that part of Apple's patent is just Apple hinting out loud. Where you want to take those hints is up to you.
Apple credits Bret Degner, Chris Ligtenberg, Douglas Kough and Paul Gojenola as the inventors of yesterday's Granted Patent which was originally filed in Q2 2008.
Apple reminds us in the patent that although the MacBook is the main focus of these illustrations, the fact remains that any of the technology outlined above could also apply to a future iPad, iPhone or even a future ultraportable computer.
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