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Apple Invents New iDevice Power Clip & Docking Station System

1. Apple Invents New iDevice Power Clip & Docking Station System
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.


Apple's Patent Background


User devices such as mobile phones and portable media players are typically coupled to docking devices to transfer data or provide charging. This coupling is typically a plug and socket type connection. For example, a media player containing a battery may be plugged into a docking device to allow for recharging of the battery.


User devices may be portable, capable of being carried or transported by a user. Such devices may include a clip mechanism, used to affix the device to, for example, an article of clothing or exercise accessory of a user. Other than mechanical clamping, the clip typically provides no other function – until now.


Apple Invents New Clip & Docking Station System for charging iDevices


Apple's patent generally relates to systems and methods for using a clip member of a portable user device to provide electrical coupling to a docking device. A clip member may include one or more electrical terminals that may engage with a receiving receptacle of the docking device which may include electrical terminals which mate with those of the portable user device. In some embodiments, a portable user device with a clip member may be clamped onto or otherwise engaged with an adapter device, which may, in turn, be electrically coupled to a docking device.


In Apple's patent figures 5, 6 and 7 below you'll see one of the iDevices, the docking station and the two coupled together. The electrical terminals of both the iDevice and the docking station mate in order for charging to begin.


2. Apple Invents new clip & docking station system for charging devices


A Specialty Clip with Built-In Flash Memory


In some embodiments, Apple states that a clip member (e.g., clip member 802 or 804 patent figure 8) may include solid state memory hardware such as a flash memory card. The clip member may include flash memory card terminals (e.g., flat, exposed metal tabs), coupled to the memory hardware. A docking device may include, for example, electrical terminals corresponding to the flash memory card terminals of the clip member.


3. Apple Presents a Specialty Clip with Built-In Flash Memory


In some embodiments, the clip member may be configured to insert into or otherwise engage a docking device allowing the flash memory card terminals of the first clip member to contact the corresponding terminals of the docking device. In some embodiments, the contact between terminals and corresponding terminals may be maintained by a clamping force between the first clip member and a second clip mem member.  


Alternative Designs


4. Apple presents alternative designs including a dock built-into a MacBook


A number of alternative designs are presented in Apple's patent and in the graphic above we see just a case. Patent FIG. 14 is an iDevice, FIG. 15 is the mating dock and FIG. 16 shows us the two parts coupled together using a pin-like mating system. According to Apple, "docking device 1500 may be a computer." Hence we went out of sequence to illustrate the docking station being incorporated right into a MacBook (though it could be an iMac and so forth).


Alternative Power Clip System Examples Cover the iPhone & 30 Pin Connector


In Apple's patent FIG. 39 we see plug 3950 which may include a nominally 30-pin configuration. In some embodiments, pins 3952 may be inserted or "plugged" (e.g., docked as shown by motion arrows 3970) into pin sockets 3902 to create electrical contiguity between one or more components of portable user device 3900. In some embodiments, pins 3952 and pin sockets 3902 may include a fiber optic coupling such as a TOSLINK (Toshiba Link), or any other suitable fiber optic coupling, or any combinations thereof.


5. Alternative Power Clip System Examples cover the iPhone & 30 Pin Connector


In some embodiments, plug 3950, portable user device 3900, or both, may include a sensor to indicate a plugged condition. For example, in some embodiments, if plug 3950 is not inserted properly into portable user device 3900, the sensor may trigger an alert to a user (e.g., audible, display text, tactile rumble) regarding the improper plugging.


Other Alternative Designs with the Same Principles


6. Design Alternatives

7. Design Alternavites - 2


Apple states that the power supply could include any suitable power sources such as, for example, a solar cell, a battery, a super-capacitor, a wall socket (e.g., coupled to a suitable power transmission network), any other suitable power source, or any suitable combination thereof.


Patent Credits


Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q1 2011 by inventors Jeffery Lee and Scott Krueger and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.


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