There was a series of Apple iPad design patents that surfaced in September, October and November 2010 that clearly hinted that future iPads could very well sport an added landscape connector port. The problem with design patents is that they lack any meaningful detailing that could either confirm or deny oddities found on the design illustrations. Some argued at the time that the so-called landscape port wasn't that at all. Well, the good news has finally arrived in the form of a newly detailed patent application published this week that basically spelled out Apple's position on this feature and even provided us with a little surprise that our report reveals. A second patent application published this week describes a new iPad docking station that could provide sturdier support for iOS devices in the future.
Apple Points to Landscape Ports Coming to Future iOS Devices
The good news that Macites want to hear is that Apple will provide future iPads with a landscape connector port - and today they're going to get their wish fullfilled. For now that promise in only on paper but at least that's a start.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, Apple's patent application states that their invention is about "circuits, methods, and apparatus that allow a portable electronic device to be placed in a second electronic device in more than one orientation. An illustrative embodiment of the present invention allows a portable computing device to be placed in a docking station in both landscape and portrait orientations. In this illustrative embodiment of the present invention, this is achieved by including two connector receptacles, one on each of at least two sides of the portable computing device."
Apple Points to More than Two Connector Ports on Some Future iOS Devices
If news of the added landscape connector port wasn't good enough, Apple then surprises us with the news that they may add yet addtional connector ports. Apple's patent states that "Other embodiments of the present invention may include connections on more than two sides of a portable device. For example, connections may be included on three or four sides of a device. Other connectors may be included on the front or back of a device as well. These connectors may also be used to position a portable computing or other device in other orientations besides portrait or landscape. These connectors may be used to position a portable computing or other device in a docking station or other type of device."
Whether Apple delivers on any of these designs or chooses to shoot for a wireless USB solution remains to be seen at this time. The bottom line for many however, is that they want a landscape solution for the iPad when docked and they'll take it any form that Apple so chooses to provide.
For more details, review Apple's patent application 20110167187 which was originally filed in Q1 2010 by inventors Alex Crumlin and Paul Thompson.
A New Docking System Proposal
In a second patent related to the iPad, Patently Apple has discovered a new docking station patent that will be applicable to all iOS devices – but one that specifically has the iPad in mind. The added height of the iPad almost demands a redesign.
Whether Apple actually acts on this new design alone or combines some of their ideas with those previously presented in their 2009 and 2011 docking station patents remains to be seen. Their current patent is focused primarily on providing a sturdier form factor design. Of course the patent is focused on the functionality of the design rather than the design itself – so don't get too caught up in its plainness.
Yet with Apple's competitors delivering more modern docking station designs that provide features like inductive charging, I think that Apple could do a lot better than their current crop of bland white-plastic bare-bone designs. Hopefully we'll see some progress on this front this fall.
The Current Weak Point of an iPad Dock
Apple states that often docks will have a connector rising out from a surface, with the connector being in a position such that the device can be viewed and/or used. However, connectors could be weak points, especially when devices become large and additional stresses are placed on the connector. The connector may also provide most of the support of the device. Accordingly, the connectors of such docking stations could be damaged by misuse, e.g. being pulled in improper direction.
Apple's Proposed Docking Station Solution
Apple's patent application provides illustrations of docking stations with a connector that is more durable. Some embodiments allow the connector to move when connected to a portable electronic device. This movement of the connector could absorb undesirable forces, thereby reducing a likelihood of the connector breaking from misuse. Examples of movement include sliding, translation, flexures, rotation and/or some combination thereof. In one example, if the portable electronic device is pushed forward, the connector could actually rotate, thereby reducing the likelihood of breakage from such a push.
Additionally, the rotatable connector may be slanted with a slanting mechanism to keep a portable device in an upright position such that the device is supported by a rear reference surface of the docking station, thereby preventing undue strain on the rotatable connector in the upright position.
The slanting or "biasing mechanism" could act by opposing movement forward to keep the electronic device in a position to be supported by the rear reference surface. The rotatable connector may be partly below and partly above an outer shell of a base of the docking station, and pivot at the outer shell of the base, thereby reducing possible damage to parts (e.g. a rotation mechanism) below the outer shell. The rotatable connector may also retract when rotated, which could remove the connector from the device, and thus can stop the force from acting on the connector.
About the patent Figures: FIG. 2A shows a cross sectional side view of a docking station with a rotatable connector that is biased in an upright position; FIG. 2B shows the docking station coupled with a portable electronic device that is supported by a rear reference surface when the rotatable connector is in an upright position; FIG. 2C shows the docking station connected to the rotatable connector where the portable electronic device is moved forward relative to the rear reference surface; FIG. 2D shows the docking station connected to the rotatable connector where the portable electronic device is moved past a vertical position and finally, FIGS. 8A-8C show cross-sectional side views of a rotatable connector that retracts into the docking station during rotation.
For more details, review Apple's patent application 20110164375 which was originally filed in Q1 2010 by inventors Jeff Hayashida, Cameron Frazier and Emery Sanford.
Other Patent Applications Published this Week that May be of Interest to Some
Temporary Link: Patent 20110167181 - This patent is all about the iPad's keyboard Dock.
Temporary Link: Patent 20110164365 – A patent all about the construction of Apple's iPad from the shell to the camera and everything in-between.
Temporary Link: Patent 20110164372 – Display Module. This patent is all about the construction of the iPad's display.
Temporary Link: Patent 20110163971: This patent is all about Photos app on the iPad.
Temporary Link: Patent 20110163970: This patent relates to Mail on iPad.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a brief yet detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest products including the iPod, iPhone, the iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more.
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