Apple continues to Work on iDevices that could Power MacBook-Like Accessories to Extend Functionality
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a continuation patent application from Apple relating to MacBook-like accessories. In one application the accessory would replace Apple's soft and foldable Smart Keyboard with a solid MacBook like embodiment as shown below. A recent granted patent confirms a trackpad mode for iPad Pro keyboards so it supports this current invention.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted below from Apple's current patent application is a clamshell accessory for an iPad that could be an alternative to their current soft cover Smart Keyboard. It would also come with a traditional trackpad many Apple would like to see on the iPad accessory.
This invention was first covered by Patently Apple in a March 2017 IP report that could review here for more details.
Being that this is a "continuation" patent, it means that Apple has added or adjusted their patent claims to better protect this invention. A few of the key changes or additions include patent claims #1, 2, 3 & 8 as presented in full below:
- An electronic accessory device for communicating with a portable electronic device, the electronic accessory device comprising: a housing having a recess, wherein the recess is capable of retaining the portable electronic device in either of a first orientation or a second orientation; a sensing unit capable of (i) determining when the portable electronic device is retained within the recess according to the first orientation, and (ii) providing a corresponding detection signal; and a control interface in communication with the sensing unit, wherein the control interface is capable of (i) receiving the corresponding detection signal from the sensing unit, and (ii) establishing a communication channel between the electronic accessory device and the portable electronic device.
- The electronic accessory device of claim 1, further comprising: an input device.
- The electronic accessory device of claim 2, wherein the input device is a keyboard or a touchpad.
- An electronic accessory device for use with a portable electronic device, the electronic accessory device comprising: a housing that includes a recess capable of retaining the portable electronic device in either a first orientation or a second orientation; an operational component; and a control interface in communication with the operational component that, when the portable electronic device is retained in the recess, is operable to form a communication channel between the operational component and the portable electronic device, such that when the portable electronic device is retained within the recess in the first orientation, the operational component is capable of receiving a first control signal from the portable electronic device that causes the operational component to perform a function that is based on the first orientation.
The second accessory example illustrates an iPhone used to power a larger display for productivity like a MacBook. Back in December 2017 it was rumored that Apple was preparing a huge shift towards common MacOS and iOS apps. This could allow an iPhone to power a MacBook-like accessory to run more like desktop.
Samsung offers a cruder though similar idea with its DeX system that they promote as a phone and PC in one.
Apple's patent application 20190018450 was filed back in September 2018. The invention received its first granted status in September 2016 with its filing being made in 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.