The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 22 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. The most interesting patent came to us as a complete surprise this morning as it wasn't originally covered. More than likely, the patent was filed in a way so as to escape the regular channels. The good news is that this patent advances Apple's new antenna system from previous applications. We were first introduced to Apple's intentions for a Telephonic MacBook back in August 2010. This was followed up with two related granted patents for a cellular antenna for a MacBook that were published respectively in September 2010 and February 2011. Apple continues to advance the concept of a Telephonic MacBook which will hopefully see the light of day sometime in the future – hopefully sooner rather than later.
The Telephonic MacBook
Once again, Apple has snuck through another new piece of the Telephonic MacBook in relation to its proposed antenna system. Although we've chosen to call it the Telephonic MacBook because it relates best to Apple's illustrations, the fact is that it could also be applied to a future version of an iPhone, ultraportable device yet unnamed and yes, the iPad.
Apple's antenna system would be ideal for a Telephonic MacBook or some form of MacBook Tablet combination. Yet it's the Telephonic MacBook that still remains the favorite for the adoption of this proposed antenna system – especially for when MacBooks leap to LTE or 4G wireless technology sometime in 2012. These next generation wireless networks are geared for heavy data/internet traffic in contrast to today's voice based networks like 3G.
The MacBook's Removable and/or Extendable Antennas
As shown in Apple's patent FIG. 1, communications path 22 may be used to convey signals between antenna structure 26 and circuitry 18. Communications path 22 may be, for example, a coaxial cable that is connected between an RF transceiver (sometimes called a radio) and a multiband antenna. Antenna structures such as the antenna structure may be located adjacent to a corner of the MacBook or in other suitable locations. For example, antenna structure 26 may be located along a top edge of the display, along any edge of the MacBook or may be located in a suitable portion of any planar surface of the MacBook.
The antenna structure may be removable, as shown in patent FIG. 4 above and/or extendable as shown in FIG.1. The antenna structure may be physically but removably coupled to the MacBook so as to allow the antenna structure to be removed without damaging the antenna structure or MacBook. The coupling of antenna structure to the MacBook may facilitate easy replacement of the antenna structure and may facilitate break-away of the antenna structure when a force is applied that could otherwise damage the antenna structure.
The antenna structure may rotate from a stowed position (e.g., the position shown in FIG. 1) into an extended position and vice-versa (e.g., as indicated by line 29 and the dotted outline of antenna structure 26). The extended position of the antenna structure may be used to increase the efficiency of signal reception and transmission.
Unique Magnetic Component
Apple's Patent FIG. 4 also shows us that the Telephonic MacBook's antenna may use a magnetic coupling structure (patent point #53) corresponding to magnetic coupling structure (patent point #55) to hold the antenna in place. It appears that Apple may employ the very same type of auto aligning magnet system which was first introduced with their new iPad 2 Smart Cover.
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.
As illustrated in FIG. 1, the antenna structure may rotate about an axis such as axis 33. The antenna structure may rotate about axis 33 when transitioning between its stowed state and its extended state.
It must also be understood that this is a patent graphic describing an invention and concept and not an industrial design patent. Meaning, don't get caught up into the fact that the patent graphics shown here are illustrating a clunky notebook. I think the majority of Macites understand by now that whatever device that Apple will eventually use this antenna system on, will end up having an impeccably implemented and almost invisible look to it.
The antenna structures and wireless communications devices of the Telephonic MacBook may support communications over any suitable wireless communications bands as follows: cellular telephone bands at 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 1900 MHz, data service bands such as the 3G data communications band at 2100 MHz (commonly referred to as UMTS or Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) bands at frequencies such as 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz (also sometimes referred to as wireless local area network or WLAN bands), the Bluetooth band at 2.4 GHz, and the global positioning system (GPS) band at 1575 MHz. The MacBook could technically cover "these communications bands and/or other suitable communications bands with proper configuration of the antenna structures in wireless communications circuitry.
Using a Shape Memory Alloy Antenna
Apple's patent FIG. 2 shows the MacBook with a resilient antenna structure that is flexible and extendable. The antenna structure 27 may be formed from an elastic material that is capable of returning to its original shape (e.g., the shape shown in FIG. 2) even after potentially extensive stress or deformation. For example, the antenna structure may be formed from a shape memory alloy, a suitably elastic material, a superelastic material such as a nickel-titanium alloy like Nitinol or any other suitable material.
Resonating Element and Overmold Portion
As shown in Apple's patent FIG. 5A above, the antenna structure may have an antenna resonating element such as antenna resonating element 57 and an overmold portion such as overmold 58. For example, the antenna resonating element may be formed from a flex circuit containing a strip of conductor, a piece of stamped metal foil, a length of wire, etc. Overmold 58 may be formed of any suitable material such as plastic. Overmold 58 may be flexible and may serve to protect antenna resonating element 57 from damage. Overmold 58 may enhance the visual appearance of antenna structure 26 and may provide antenna structure 26 with structural integrity.
In patent FIG. 5B, the antenna structure of FIG. 5A is shown in a partially removed or partially coupled state. The position of FIG. 5B may occur as the antenna structure is being removed from or attached to the Telephonic MacBook. As shown in FIG. 5B, elastic coupling structures 62 may be pressed into a flat configuration by a portion of the antenna structure as the antenna structure is removed or inserted.
Coupling Structures using an Electrically Conductive Coating
Apple's patent FIGS. 9A through to 9J illustrate various coupling structures that may be used in the antenna structure to physically and electrically couple the antenna structure to the Telephonic MacBook. The coupling structures of FIGS. 9A-9J may be electrically conductive or may be coated with an electrically conductive coating.
The Three Stages of Coupling
Apple's patent FIGS. 11A, 11B, and 11C show three stages of coupling of an antenna structure with a Telephonic MacBook. Patent FIG. 11A illustrates the antenna structure in a coupled position with the Telephonic MacBook. In FIG. 11B, we see that the antenna structure is flexible and may be removed from the MacBook. In Patent FIG. 11C, we see that the antenna has been completely removed from device 10 or the Telephonic MacBook.
And finally, we see the last two patent figures 12 and 13. FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of an illustrative antenna receptacle in the Telephonic MacBook with the antenna in a stowed state and patent FIG. 13 is a top view of an illustrative antenna receptacle in a Telephonic MacBook.
Apple credits Brett Degner and Matthew McDonald as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,911,397, originally filed in Q2 2008. Apple was also granted another antenna patent that is related to the iPhone under patent 7,911,387.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or Issued Patent should be read in its entirety for further details. Patents shouldn't be digested as rumors or fast-tracked according to rumor time tables. Apple patents represent true research that could lead to future products and should be understood in that light. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.