On Tuesday Apple was granted a patent for a two-step unlock screen feature that has yet to be implemented. Today, Apple introduces us to an all-new unlock screen feature that utilizes higher integrated security features via biometrics that could also be used in e-Commerce transactions. In late September we reported on Intel's big push into building biometrics into future Wintel devices – and so it comes as no surprise that we now find that Apple has been refining next wave e-Commerce security features using highly sophisticated biometrics. To accelerate their biometric projects Apple recently acquired AuthenTec in July. The race is definitely on to get consumers ready for the next wave of e-Commerce transactions and to ensure that they're processed securely.
Every once and a while Apple surprises us with a new invention on granted patent day because they filed the original patent filing under one of the engineer's name instead of "Apple Inc." Today, we're treated to a granted a patent that basically reveals that Apple may be thinking of introducing a new hybrid iDevice "Home Button." Since day one Apple had their classic Home Button and more recently introduced a hybrid button for muting audio and/or locking the orientation of your display as noted here. The proposed hybrid Home Button would essentially be constructed in such a manner so as to allow the user to lock the orientation of their iDevice display from the Home Button instead of a side button that exists today. It looks like Apple's reinventing the Home Button for iDevices and it sure makes sense. (Report Updated October 3.)
Last week Apple filed a detailed patent application relating to a new iPhone audio-sharing network concept. While the filing touches on hearing aid technology, it is by no means limited to that narrow definition. Another application applies to teleconferencing, for example. In fact, one of the benefits of this technology relates to a "conference telephone." The technology is designed to cut out background murmurs and general noise while executives discuss business with distant colleagues and/or potential clients. At the end of the day, the patent relates to both students and the enterprise. Yes, the Devil is in the details.
The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of twenty-five newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In today's first granted patent report we focus entirely on a single patent that represents another major iPhone and iOS interface victory for Apple. Some may be bored to hear about it, many will moan, groan and shout that the patent system is broken because of it. Yet to Apple's legal team, it's simply music to their ears. Apple reinvented the smartphone, and today they get another patent victory to celebrate that fact. Wherever you are Steve, Cheers!
Over the years, Apple has dreamt up a revolutionary styled docking station, some smart docks, docks based on straight forward inductive charging methods and some with loopy inductive charging methods and yet we still have Apple's plain old boring dock. But it seems that Apple isn't done just yet with designing new docks and today we see that their design team went over the edge with a dozen or more docking systems. And this time around, most of them involve mating a power-clip to a docking station that could also end up being your MacBook or iMac. One of these designs may end up making it to market one of these days or they'll all simply end up in Jony Ive's toy box to rust with all of the other rejected ideas. C'mon Jony – pick a new docking system and get on with it already.
On July 12, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new iPhone case accessory that will come with a built-in noise windscreen. This may sound like a minor feature but it will be greatly appreciated by consumers of older iPhones. On a personal note, my wife phones me after work at a downtown location every day on her 3G iPhone. Almost every day I tell her that I hear the people talking around her louder than her own voice. It's one of the reasons that I've held back on buying an iPhone for myself. Yes, it's that annoying. So while this patent may be for an iPhone accessory case today, it may also indicate that this will become a standard iPhone feature in the future. One could only hope.
On June 21, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of utility centric patent applications from Apple that cover security, display luminance, flash memory, mobile device simulation and more. In the big picture, the vast majority of Apple's annual patent-count is derived from utility patents. These are the kinds of patents that take care of all the tiniest of details behind Apple's most popular products, processes and manufacturing. They might not represent the visionary side of Apple, but they sure keep the trains running on time. They're also part of Apple's legendary and fanatical detailing process that goes into every upgrade and next generation product. On the flipside, we sure hope that Apple's creative and visionary side reemerges because the volume of patents of late in that area have been nothing shy of anemic. Here's to hoping that Apple is in the process of changing gears and inventing their next generation of knock-out products for us to enjoy.
Beyond the major patent applications that we covered earlier today, there are a few minor patent applications worth noting. The first one covers a new iOS device earphone speaker system for enlarging the effective volume of a speaker using a unique blend of gas and air. The second one covers new and improved Apple Store retail packaging. In a third patent application, Apple reveals that they could be adding a "radiation absorber" to a future iPhone. According to Apple, "By virtue of its radiation absorption characteristics … the absorber may help prevent stray radiation from the emitter that may have been internally reflected." Well, well, isn't that nice to know? And one last thing: one of Apple's engineers who worked on the last patent, briefly points to alternative iPhone design features that are basically passé to begin with. The question becomes, why were these features even being discussed in the first place?
On May 17, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their intention of reinventing the speakerphone system for iOS devices. Although not detailed, the fact is that the new speaker positioning could provide iOS devices with general superior sound, even when docked.
Since the summer of 2010 Patently Apple has been covering Apple's patent applications regarding a strong trend towards the development of a future MacBook with cellular-data capabilities. Just this past week, Patently Apple has discovered yet another new patent application on this subject in a filing that came to light in Europe earlier this year. This time around, Apple has brilliantly invented cellular antennas that could be integrated into a MacBook's Multi-Touch trackpad or directly into the display of an iOS device like an iPhone. That's important if Apple decides to design a future iPhone with a metal back. Now that the iPad offers 4G, the idea of the MacBook offering similar cellular-data capabilities sounds not only reasonable but inevitable.
There's been a lot of buzz over Apple's proposal for a future miniature SIM card. Competitors like Motorola, Research in Motion and Nokia are trying to stop it. The Financial Times stated in their recent report that "one person with knowledge of the committee" said that the "Apple-backed nano-SIM could require a "drawer" to protect it." Today, Apple has been granted their second patent regarding this proposed "drawer" concept and it's because the drawer or ejectable tray could accommodate not only a nano SIM but also an Integrated Circuit Card which is at the heart of Apple's iWallet. A variant of Apple's design could include a tray that accommodates both a Nano SIM card and an Integrated Circuit Card. So now you know a little more of the importance of the Nano SIM card story that Apple is proposing to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
In a Patent Flash Report that we posted last week partially titled "Will the iPhone ever be Waterproof?" – we covered Apple's system for creating a water seal involving the use of both a sealing tape such as DuPont's Kapton and a soldering paste. In today's newly published patent application, Apple reveals that they're working on waterproofing a key device component using silicone rubber as a sealant. The patent also reveals that their solutions could eventually extend on through to the iPad and even the MacBook. Apple isn't there yet, but their definitely working on ways of better protecting us against devastating water damage so that we could keep on working, surfing and enjoying our devices without unnecessary disruption.
While we never found Apple's flying car patent that we keep hearing about, we did discover a tiny eclectic mix of practical patent applications worth noting. If appears that Apple may have at least two app upgrades in the works for iPod + Nike and Cards. Additionally, Apple may have a new Apple TV centric app that will allow us to nicely display our home movies, photos and digital post cards on. And lastly, Apple has invented a new way of wirelessly connecting iOS devices to modern car stereos and other accessories. If we're lucky, some of these ideas should be make their way to us in the not too-distant future.