Sneaky Apple originally filed their Smart Cover product patent in Canada one year ago this month. It has only recently come to light for public viewing. The credit for the Smart Cover actually goes to Jony Ive's team of designers and engineers. While surprising, it only makes sense. The precision and coherence of the design could have only come from a detailed professional like Jony Ive. Although most of us know what the Smart Cover is, the patent actually surprised me with two new scenarios for using the Smart Cover. Neither had ever even crossed my mind. Those, along with a few other insightful twists, made the discovery of this Smart Cover patent in Canada all the sweeter.
Apple's Patent Background
Recent advances in portable computing includes the introduction of hand held electronic devices and computing platforms along the lines of the iPad tablet manufactured by Apple Inc. of Cupertino, CA. These handheld computing devices could be configured such that a substantial portion of the electronic device takes the form of a display used for presenting visual content leaving little available space for an attachment mechanism that could be used for attaching an accessory device.
Conventional attachment techniques generally rely upon mechanical fasteners that typically require at least an externally accessible attaching feature on the electronic device to mate with a corresponding attaching feature on the accessory device. The presence of the external attaching feature could detract from the overall look and feel of the handheld computing device as well as add unwanted weight and complexity as well as degrade the appearance of the hand held computing device. Therefore a mechanism for releasably attaching together at least two objects is desired.
Apple's Technical Solution Overview
Apple's invention generally relates to a system, method, and apparatus for releasably attaching an accessory to an electronic device. An accessory unit includes at least an accessory body and a magnetic assembly pivotally connected to the accessory body. The magnetic assembly includes at least a first plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent one another in a first relative size order along a first line and arranged according to a first polarity pattern of alternating magnetic polarities, and a second plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent to one another in a second relative size order along the first line and according to a second polarity pattern of alternating magnetic polarities.
A magnetic attachment method suitable for use with an accessory unit could be carried out by providing a magnetic assembly where the magnetic assembly includes at least a first plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent one another in a first relative size order along a first line and arranged according to a first polarity pattern of alternating magnetic polarities and a second plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent to one another in a second relative size order along the first line and according to a second polarity pattern of alternating magnetic polarities, wherein the first and second plurality of magnetic elements cooperate to form a first magnetic sequence.
In the described embodiment, the method could be carried out by placing the sequenced magnetic assembly in proximity to a host unit, causing the creation of a first magnetic surface by the host unit, the first magnetic surface being suitable for magnetic attachment, and magnetically attaching the accessory unit and the host unit at an engagement surface corresponding to the magnetic surface.
An accessory unit in another embodiment includes at least an accessory body having a first magnetic element and a second magnetic element pivotally connected to the accessory body, wherein the second magnetic element magnetically attaches the accessory unit pivotally to a first portion of a host unit and wherein the first magnetic element cooperates with the second magnetic element to magnetically attach the accessory body to a second portion of the host unit, wherein the first and second magnetic elements are independent of each other.
Accordingly, in one aspect, the present invention provides an accessory unit, comprising: an accessory body; and a magnetic assembly pivotally connected to the accessory body, comprising: a first plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent one another in a first relative size order along a first line and arranged according to a first polarity pattern of magnetic polarities, and a second plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent to one another in a second relative size order along the first line and according to a second polarity pattern of magnetic polarities, wherein the magnetic assembly is arranged to magnetically attach the accessory unit to a first part of a host unit with a peak magnetic force.
In a further aspect, the present invention provides a method of forming an accessory unit, comprising: providing an accessory body; and providing a pivoting magnetic assembly; and connecting the pivoting magnetic assembly to the accessory body comprising: a first plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent one another in a first relative size order along a first line and arranged according to a first polarity pattern of magnetic polarities, and a second plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent to one another in a second relative size order along the first line and according to a second polarity pattern of magnetic polarities, wherein the magnetic assembly is arranged to magnetically attach the accessory unit to a first part of a host unit.
The Smart Cover Could be Destined for Smaller Devices
While most are aware that Apple's Smart Cover was originally designed for the iPad, most aren't aware that Apple may extend the Smart Cover to other devices in the future. Apple's patent Fig. 5 shown below illustrates a top perspective view of electronic device 100. Under the description of this patent figure, Apple states that "by way of example, electronic device 100 could generally correspond to a device that could perform as a smart phone, a music player, a game player, a visual player, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a tablet computer" and the like; meaning that the smart cover could very well be destined for the iPhone or iPod touch in the future.
The Second Magnetic Attachment for Apple's Smart Cover is actually under the iPad's Display
Apple states that the magnetic attachment system could include first magnetic attachment feature 108 and second magnetic attachment feature 110 located on different sides of the electronic device. In particular, first magnetic attachment feature 108 could be located in proximity to side wall 102a of housing 102. But interestingly the second magnetic attachment, noted as patent point 110, could actually be placed beneath the iPad's display.
Apple's Smart Cover Hanger Idea
Most people think that folding the Smart Cover is good for setting up an iPad on your desk in different ways. But Apple's patent envisioned other ways to use a Smart Cover that are quite ingenious if you think it through.
Apple's patent Figs. 25A and 25B show the Smart Cover assembly 1300 folded into various hanging embodiments. By hanging embodiments, it is meant that by folding the segmented Smart Cover assembly into an appropriate triangular shape, the tablet could be suspended from above as shown in Fig. 26A in the form of hanger 1900.
For example, the hanger could be suspended directly from a ceiling using a support piece such as a rod. The Hanger could be created simply by folding the segmented Smart Cover assembly in a first direction until embedded magnets magnetically engage magnetically active insert 1324 that could be formed of steel or iron. The magnetic circuit formed by the engagement of embedded magnets 1322 and magnetically active insert 1324 could provide sufficient support for safely suspending the iPad from any horizontally aligned support structure.
Apple's patent Figs. 25B shows hanger embodiments suitable for hanging the iPad from a vertically aligned support structure such as a wall. In particular, the hanger (1910) could be mechanically attached to a wall or other vertical support structure. The Hanger could then be used to suspend the iPad along the lines of a wall mount. In this way, the iPad could be used to present visual content along the lines of a visual display for visual content, or wall hanging for still images such as photos, art, and the like.
Apple's Smart Cover Handle Idea
Apple's idea here is that the triangular arrangement shown in patent Figs. 26A and 26B below could be used as a handle. Apple's first recommendation is to use the folded smart cover as a book handle in order to hold the iPad more firmly while reading. Their second recommendation is to use the handle to better keep the iPad in place while you're filming or taking a picture. Once again, it's about being able to get your hand in a better position to grasp it tightly. I never thought of that before and they have a point if you think about it. It's a vastly superior way to handle an iPad with one hand instead of holding the iPad with just your fingers. It's a much sturdier and safer manner to use the iPad while filming.
The Smart Cover uses a Hall Effect Sensor to Activate the iPad from Sleep
Apple's patent Figs. 27A, B, and C shown below illustrates what Apple calls the "peek mode" of the iPad. More particularly, when a smart cover segment (1304) is lifted from the glass cover, sensors in the iPad could detect that the segment and only that segment has been lifted from glass layer. Once detected, the iPad could activate only the exposed portion 2102 of the display. For example, the iPad could utilize a Hall Effect sensor to detect that the first segment has been lifted from the glass cover. Additional sensors, such as optical sensors could then detect if only segment 1304 has been lifted or if additional segments have been lifted.
As shown in patent Fig. 27B, when the iPad has determined that only one segment of the cover has been lifted it changes operating state to "peek" state in which only the exposed portion of the display actively presents visual content in the form of icons (2104). Hence, information in the form of visual content such as time of day, notes, and so forth could be presented for viewing on only that portion of display viewable.
Furthermore, as shown in Fig. 27C, when additional segments of the cover are lifted from the glass to further expose a second portion of the display, this is noted as being in an "extended peek" state or mode. Once the sensors detect that the cover segment has been placed back on the glass layer, the iPad could return to the previous operational state such as a sleep state.
The Magnetic Attraction: The Smart Cover's Magnetization Vectors
Apple's patent Fig. 31A shown above illustrates a cross sectional view of hinge span 2210 in active engagement with device attachment feature 2300 incorporated into the iPad. In particular, the magnetic attachment feature includes at least magnetic element 2302 forming a magnetic circuit with magnetic element 2228 (shown in yellow above). Magnetic shunt 2304 could be used to re-direct magnetic field lines that propagate from the magnetic element in a direction other than that of the magnetic element. In this way, the magnetic flux density at engagement surface 2306 could be commensurably increased thereby increasing net magnetic attractive force (FNET).
Smart Cover Angles Ideal for Reading and Using the Virtual Keyboard
The final Smart Cover angles illustrated below are ideal for reading and using the virtual keyboard according to Jony Ive and company. By using the triangular structure 1700 of Patent FIG. 23 to support the iPad at the ergonomically friendly angle, the deleterious effects of repetitive movements could be reduced or eliminated.
Apple's patent FIGS. 24A and 24B show another folded implementation of the segmented Smart Cover in a "viewing state." By "viewing state" it is meant that the visual content (visual, stills, animation, video etc.) could be presented in a viewer friendly angle of about 75° from horizontal. In fact, it's considered optimal for a good viewing experience, according to Apple.
Apple credits VP Industrial Design Jonathan Ive and team members Andrew Lauder, Matthew Rohrbach, Daniel Coster, Christopher Stringer, Florence Ow, Jiang AI, Elvis Kibiti, John Ternus and Sean Lubner as the inventors of this recently published patent which was originally filed in Canada in Dec 2010.
The Use of Our Graphics: We'd ask those covering our report to limit the use of our graphics to a single graphic. Thank you.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics 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 product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.