Gallery: 10 Apple patents to watch

Gallery: 10 Apple patents to watch

Summary: has rounded up and rated 10 of the most interesting and absurd patent applications submitted by Apple in recent years.

TOPICS: Legal, Apple, iPhone, Mobility

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  • Perhaps more than any tech company, Apple continues to surprise and delight with its innovative products.

    The concepts behind many of these are patented - so to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the Apple design team,'s Nick Heath has rounded up and rated 10 of the most interesting and absurd patent applications submitted by Apple in recent years.

    Many of these ideas will never see the light of day but they all either amuse or hint at what could be.

    Clamshell iPhone
    An intriguing design for an alternative iPhone, the flip device is essentially a clamshell handset with two touchscreens - one of them transparent. The patent uses the phrase "dual-sided trackpad" to describe the technology for the device. Basically, the lower half of the handset is transparent and can be folded shut over the top half, which represents the as-is iPhone display. The transparent half can be used as a touch control whether it's folded up or not.

    Looking at the diagrams, the lower half is dedicated to input and the top half is given over to the display. Chances are this is one for the bin, as Steve Jobs has complained about devices which dedicate half of their physical 'real estate' to input, whether the function in focus needs it or not.

    Verdict: 2/10
    Sounds a bit complicated and pointless.

    Credit: US Patent and Trademark Office

  • The iPhone 'nano'
    Considering Apple's never-ending quest to make its products smaller, it's possible an iPhone 'mini' or 'nano' might make an appearance at some point. The main problem with this design is the input mechanism. The soft keyboard and intuitive spelling prediction make the iPhone a reasonably good interface for typing.

    However, reduce the display size by half and you're left with a keyboard usable by only the most diminutive of woodland folk. Not to fear, you've clearly forgotten that an iPhone has a back to it, which is an ideal place for a second interface, which you can manipulate while looking at the front.

    Verdict: 3/10
    Sounds bonkers because it is. However, given Apple's minimalist design approach it's likely only a matter of time before a more diminutive iPhone is available.

    Credit: US Patent and Trademark Office

Topics: Legal, Apple, iPhone, Mobility

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  • not so far fetched

    the capslock key on the MacBook has an led which turns on an off to let you know the capslock state. the PC keyboards with similar features put those LED's across the top of the keyboard. IMO, the MacBook design is much better by a leap.

    moreover, if you've watched what Dell has done with "snap-ins," so folks can change the color of the palm rests, etc..., I can envision an OLED on the back of a MacBook which shows a photo of someones kid so when the MacBook is closed, it becomes a photo display, etc...
  • RE: (Gallery: 10 Apple patents to watch )

    This is why the patent system needs an overhaul. A lot of these are just variations os other stuff: dials (have we forgotten how stereos used to work? you turn up the volume by twisting a dial), docking stations, tablet PCs, text msgs, touch pads (drawing pads incorporated into a laptop), software add-ons to the OS, etc. Where is the inovation? I think the patent office needs more eyes to stop this nonsense.
  • Some of these are VERY old...

    Namely the color changing iMac which was ment for the old colored iMacs from about 8 years ago.
  • RE: (Gallery: 10 Apple patents to watch )

    the soft interface is definitely not the way to go here and I can imagine that most touchtypist would hate the soft keyboard to the guts. You don't have tactile feedback from the soft keyboard which make the fast typing almost impossible.

    And *NO*, the audible "clicks" just wouldn't cut it.
    • Yeah, right

      Unless you have done a reasonable survey of touch typists
      to really learn their preferences (nah, didn't think so), it
      seems beyond presumptuous to speak for "most of them".
      You don't like the soft keyboard, fine, don't buy one. But,
      have you tried Apple's fairly intelligent software that makes
      such typing much more efficient? Didn't think so. Does the
      fact of over 10 million people buying the iPhone and
      millions more the iPod Touch have an impact on your
      limited view of the keyboard world? Guess not.

      Again, buy what suits your needs and budget, but don't
      think others necessarily have comparable needs, budget or
  • iMac Docking Station

    I don't necessarily think that this is a bad idea. Not as an iMac-Macbook machine, but rather as a cinema display with built in docking for a Macbook. Right now I have a BookEndz docking station to hold my MacBook Pro to connect to mouse, keyboard, 23" cinema display, etc. It takes up an inordinate amount of room that could be saved by having a docking station built into the monitor. But don't get me started on my current docking station issues beyond footprint and the lack of IO. The same goes for the monitor.
  • The worst part of it is...

    ...that most of these are not valid patents. Most are obvious and trivial.

    But that's our wonderful Patent Office. You can patent just about anything.
    • If they are so obvious and trivial

      then why is it everybody says they are obvious and trivial only
      after someone else has shown them the idea?
  • Didn't Apple tinker with this concept before?

    If my memory serves me correctly, Apple made some sort of computer that had some sort of internal docking station for a laptop. This would have been in the early to mid '90's. Now, it wasn't an integrated AIO (All-In-One) like the iMac, but the CPU had a slot that you would put the laptop into and it would slowly pull the laptop into it - almost like a VHS cassette going into a VHS player. Does anybody else remember this?
    • Duo Dock

      Uou may be thinking of the Duo Dock. It was a similar format to a desktop performa of the era, and the duo slid inside of it. They were pretty cool, but also kind of expensive.
  • RE: (Gallery: 10 Apple patents to watch )

    Apple used to be very good at keeping its innovations confidetail until Steve goes on stage and then shows something people did not expect. I hope that will continue (I love to read all the stuff on MacRumors days before MacWorld...)

    my comments at
    • Same here... But...

      I like to do the same, but for the 'Let's Rock' event and also the new MacBooks, all that info was everywhere on the net. Not only did we see a [most likely] leaked photo/s of the new iPod nano, but I read an entire review on what iTunes 8 was going to include. This included genius, the new grid view and even a video link to the visualization it has!
      Then there where the MacBook pictures and information [no firewire, no mouse click etc.].
      You may disagree but it sort of ruins the pre-release hobby I seem to have. Still cool to see it though, don't get me wrong. Just it sort of rules over the fake stuff which is usually pretty awesome too.
  • touchpad

    I would like to see a combination of pictures 5 & 6. On MB and MBP, using a 2 finger circular scrolling motion gesture. Using 2 fingers to scroll is great unless you have pages and pages of songs/files etc. and you run out of trackpad.
    It would be a good convergence of the iPod style scroll and the MB trackpad gestures, improving its versatility and improving the users experience between apple products.