Google Nexus 7 has hidden "Smart Cover" feature

Google Nexus 7 has hidden "Smart Cover" feature

Summary: The Nexus 7 has 'secret' support for a "Smart Cover" built into the tablet that neither Google nor Asus have previously revealed.

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It seems that the Nexus 7 Android-powered tablet has a hidden feature that neither Google nor Asus -- the manufacturer of the tablet -- have revealed.

A video has been uploaded to the internet that shows that Google's new tablet has a sensor located bottom left-hand side of the device -- when held in portrait orientation -- that can put the device into sleep mode when a magnet is bought near.

This is similar to the feature that Apple has built into the iPad 2 and iPad 3 to control the "Smart Cover" used to power down the device when the cover is closed, and it seems that the Microsoft's Surface tablet will also have a similar feature.

It is unclear why the Nexus 7 has the feature built into the tablet yet it has not been advertised anywhere.

Apple has a patent covering its "Smart Cover" technology described as a "magnetic attachment mechanism" that "can be used to augment the functionality of usefulness of the electronic device".

Google does sell a cover for the Nexus 7 called "smart cover" which is described as a "tough, yet snug-fitting polymer case with a non-slip matte texture that protects Nexus 7 from bumps and scratches, and also provides additional grip," but no mention is made that it has the ability to put the device to sleep like Apple's own cover.

Image source: Google.

Topics: Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, Patents, Tablets

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29 comments
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  • Boycott Apple!

    Apple invents stuff and after that boldly dares to require from others to not steal their IP. What a shame, boycott Apple!
    DDERSSS
    • Weak sauce

      Magnetic reed switches and the like have been around for ages. Does the samrt cover really deserve patent protection?
      dsf3g
      • Never existed in consumer electronics

        But I agree, Apple is evil, they should always be developer for the world!
        DDERSSS
        • dresss: we'll ignore the fact that you are wrong

          "Never existed in consumer electronics"

          Let's just ignore the fact that you are wrong. Let's pretend that magnetic switches haven't been used for ages in consumer electronic devices.

          What is your justification for choosing "consumer electronics" as the "right" scope for this patent? Maybe the correct scope is actually "never existed in consumer electronics devices that have 10.1" screens with A5/6 processors and a bitten fruit logo on the back" in which case the Nexus is absolutely fine to use magnetic switches since this doesn't have a 10.1" screen, doesn't use the A5/6 processor, and doesn't have a bitten fruit logo on the back.

          Or maybe the correct scope is "never existed in electronics devices" in which case you would be even more wrong than you already are.

          I've noticed that certain people like you "invent" scopes for anything Apple does to make it seem like Apple was first. Apple has never been first for anything. Sometimes they implement it better but they always look to innovative companies like MS or Xerox to do the heavy innovative work. If MS ever truly gets into financial trouble, I can totally see Apple returning the favor and bailing MS out. After all, Apple can't afford to lose their R&D department.
          toddbottom3
      • Then show us proof how these magnetic switches were implemented on

        tablets and other devices before the iPad. If you can't find any then yes, Apple have every right to patent "smart cover".
        dave95.
        • Blackberry has used this for years

          http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080213220558AAyYjjZ

          4 years ago.

          Ouch.

          Besides, we keep hearing how you can't patent ideas, only implementations. So anyone and everyone is allowed to implement magnetic switches as long as they don't implement them in the exact same way the original patent describes.

          Or is Apple the exception where any Apple patent actually patents the concept and not the implementation?
          toddbottom3
          • Concepts

            "Or is Apple the exception where any Apple patent actually patents the concept and not the implementation?"

            I dunno, to me it looks like the USPTO hands out patents left and right, without really caring if they describe just an ideia or an actual "device". When one can get a patent for a "process", that it pretty much a patent for a concept.
            CarlitosLx
          • I agree

            Apple has managed to patent rectangles with rounded corners and hyperlinks. Pathetic.
            toddbottom3
          • @ Todd - but is it the same as Apple's?

            but is the BlackBerry using the same method as Apple's "smart cover"? Nope.

            Apple didn't patent the general idea of using magnetic sensors. They patented a method of using the magnets to snap onto the iPad, and power on and off the iPad when you lift the covers. And called it "Smart Cover"

            Now here comes Google and Asus naming there's "smart Cover".
            dave95.
          • That was easy to predict

            Your answer was laughably predictable. I even made fun of it before you submitted it.

            As long as Google didn't use the exact precise same implementation that Apple did, even you have to admit that this is perfectly okay. As you said, Apple can't patent the general idea of using magnets to snap onto a tablet and power on and off the tablet when you lift the covers.

            So now we have to ask: are the magnets that Google used the same as Apple's magnets? Are they in the same location on the device? Is the circuitry used to detect the magnets exactly the same as Apple's circuitry. Is the code written to power off the Nexus the same as the code used by Apple?

            No. No. No. No. And No. So Google is fine.

            Now, Apple can try to sue Google over this but Apple has already had several of its patents taken away based on losses to Samsung and HTC.
            toddbottom3
          • Funny how much you know of something that was never released.

            No information was given about how the Nexus 7 uses the magnetic sensors, as for as I know. "No. No. No. No. And No. So Google is fine."

            "As you said, Apple can't patent the general idea of using magnets to snap onto a tablet and power on and off the tablet when you lift the covers."

            When did I say that? How does saying Apple did not patent the general idea of using magnetic sensors turn into "Apple can't patent the general idea of using magnets to snap onto a tablet and power on and off the tablet when you lift the covers." Apple was granted a patent because their unique method of using the magnetic sensors on the iPad was not done before. Not a general idea.

            I don't know (yet) the technical details how this was implemented in the Nexus 7 but again, Asus is calling it "Smart Cover" and Google kept it a secrete. Red flags.
            dave95.
          • Time will tell

            If Google copied Apple's code, bought the exact same magnetic sensors, and put them in precisely the same spot as Apple did, then Google might have something to worry about. Want to bet $1,000 that this didn't happen and that there is at least something different in the exact precise details of the implementation?

            "When did I say that?"

            I'll give you the same answer I gave dresss up above: why do you get to decide the scope of what is considered "general" and what is considered "specific"? You chose to use a certain scope because that is the one that suited your agenda. My scope is just as acceptable as yours. You simply don't like it because it doesn't suit your agenda. The truth is, until Apple files suit and a judge rules on it, your definition of what is "general" and "specific" is complete and utter speculation.

            "Apple was granted a patent because their unique method of using the magnetic sensors on the iPad was not done before"

            There are 2 problems with your statement.
            1. Apple was granted a patent because they filed for one. That's it. Being granted a patent doesn't prove that it wasn't done before or patents would never get invalidated in a court of law. You know, like what happened to Apple recently when they got several patents taken away from them after losing badly to HTC.
            2. Even if Apple gets to keep this patent, Google's implementation is unique too. Just like Apple's. After all, Google used different source code to implement the Nexus power on / power off functionality. Apple can't sue someone because they implemented the general idea of using magnets to snap onto a tablet and power on and off the tablet when you lift the covers just like RIM can't sue Apple because Apple implemented the general idea of using magnetic sensors in a consumer electronic device.

            "Asus is calling it "Smart Cover""

            No. Asus has referred to this as a cover that is smart. No capitalization. The term "smart" has been applied to many things before like smart phone and smart clothes. Just because Adrian capitalized "Smart Cover" doesn't excuse you for not reading the source. Shame on you.
            toddbottom3
          • They did the same thing with multi-touch

            It is an issue of figuring out the likelihood of Apple suing. They did the same thing with the multitouch displays. The G1 had the hardware for multitouch, but Google didn't code it into the OS for a year or so. Others did, but Google choose to wait it out. They didn't have to spend the $$ because by the time Google wrote it into the OS other companies had already proven that Apple's patent was bogus.
            brant@...
          • Just to rub salt into your wound

            "They patented a method of using the magnets to snap onto the iPad"

            And you just lost. The Nexus smart cover doesn't use magnets to snap onto the Nexus. So you admit that this is implemented differently and therefore doesn't run afoul of Apple's patent. After all, Apple can't patent the general concept of attaching covers to tablets, right?

            Ouch.
            toddbottom3
          • Magnetic Switch

            "They patented a method of using the magnets to snap onto the iPad"

            Correct but you are not taking into account some facts

            1) The sensor seems to be in a place closer to where the hinge of the cover looks to be. Therefore it does not look to snap onto the device if it "snaps" at all

            2) the cover will most definitely not be snapping onto an iPad
            DaCaptn19
        • You can't patent eeeeeverything...

          Patents are supposed to cover novel inventions. I personally don't consider the appropriation of 100 year old technology and slapping it on a new device to be particualrly nove. I've neber seen a tablet with wheels, for instance, but I don't thaink Apple should be able to slap a pair of wheels on an iPad and patent the idea of adding wheels to a tablet computer.
          dsf3g
          • Take it out on the patent office, not companies.

            Can't blame Apple or any other company for patenting (protecting) each and everything they develop. A study that just came out shows that Patent trolls is costing the economy $29 billion yearly. Why would Apple set themselves up for patent trolls suites?

            http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/07/new-study-same-authors-patent-trolls-cost-economy-29-billion-yearly/
            dave95.
          • Apple is costing the economy $29 billion yearly?

            "Patent trolls is costing the economy $29 billion yearly"

            After all, Apple is the biggest patent troll of them all.
            toddbottom3
    • What idiot at the patent office approved that

      I had an HP PDA years ago that shut of when unit was put into the holster because there was a magnet in the right place in the case. Also hard a scientific calculator years and years before that which had the same shutoff by having a magnet in the case it the right spot.
      Screw Apple, they think they invented everything including the rectangular shape of tablets.
      jefferyshall
  • Smart covers

    I have a "smart" cover and case for my iPad which do not always work as advertised. Often you have to "wiggle" the cover a bit to put the device to sleep. Sometimes a jolt would turn the thing on even when it is covered and not in use, draining its power. In any "case" I'd rather just turn it on or off the old-fashioned way, with the on-off switch at the top.

    Just to get that out of the way...

    ...My guess is Google and Asus are doing their best not to incur the petulance of Apple, who likes to tell the courts here and abroad to prevent the import or sale of rival products (like Samsung's 10" Galaxy Tab and Nexus Phone).
    Tech watcher