The stealth smart cover technology in the Nexus 7

The stealth smart cover technology in the Nexus 7

Summary: It didn't take iPad buyers long to discover just how useful the Smart Cover was due to the magnetic technology integrated in the tablet. The Nexus 7 by Google has the same technology, but you've never seen the company mention it.

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TOPICS: Google, iPad, Tablets
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Poetic case

Sometimes the most useful features are the simple ones. Such is the case with the magnetic technology incorporated in the iPad which allows powering the tablet on and off simply by opening and closing properly equipped covers. Apple made a big deal out of this new feature when it unveiled it as it knew it would resonate with buyers.

Google must have felt the same way as the recently released Nexus 7 tablet uses the same magnetic technology. You wouldn't know it from the source, though, as Google has kept very quiet about this "smart cover" feature. It's even absent from Google's own Nexus 7 case and cover, even though the tablet (built by Asus for Google) has the embedded magnets.

Early testers of the Nexus 7 confirmed the tablet uses the same technology as that in the iPad prior to shipping. Third party case makers jumped on the information and many cases now available for the Nexus 7 have the smart cover feature enabled. The Poetic case I bought for my Nexus 7 (reviewed here) has the feature.

So why isn't Google making sure prospective buyers know about this very useful feature? I suspect it's fear of poking the sleeping mountain lion with a stick. Apple has a tendency to sue Android device makers at the drop of a hat, so Google apparently doesn't want to risk the wrath of Apple over technology that has only appeared in the iPad prior to the release of the Nexus 7. I've asked Google for a statement about it but have not received any response.

Nexus 7 buyers should pass on the official Google case being sold in the Google Play Store as it it far less useful lacking the smart cover feature. That would seem to be an intentional omission by Asus/Google. Grab a third party case while they are available before Apple decides to make an issue over the smart cover technology in the Nexus 7.

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Topics: Google, iPad, Tablets

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17 comments
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  • Did you read the smart cover patent?

    It was extremely specific. It detailed a very specific polarity distribution, a specific magentic jointed attachment to the device, the exact types of folds in the cover, etc.

    Apple had to make their patent extremely specific or it would lose the patent the very first time it sued anyone over it. So while no one can make a SmartCover (tm) clone (and nor should they) anyone can make a smart cover that uses a magnetic sensor.
    toddbottom3
    • Copy

      Copy, copy, copy. That's all Apple does.
      Liverack Dovidson
      • Well they FAILED this time!

        There have been Coded Magnetic Switches used for quite some time in home alarm systems. Magnetic switches themselves go back decades (40's) and also include many Windows Notebook computers that put the screen to sleep when you close them up.

        Automotive industry went to coded magnetic switches ages ago. So I doubt very seriously if this iPad patent will stand the test of re-examination. Especially since the other company you love to hate on (Google) has already requested all Apple's patents in suit, against Android OHA members, be re-examined by the USPTO. But this will no doubt benefit Microsoft too, if they all fail to pass the Prior Art Test there!!! .....invalidating all these bogus Apple Patents!

        Prior art can be found in ABB Sense 7 coded magnetic switches!

        And that's just one example. This is not just a simple magnetic switch either, like those used in old door and window alarm switches. It's a coded magnetic array that puts Apple's patent as infringing or in violation of the feature! ....a patent the USPTO had already granted, prior to Apple's so called Smart Cover (trademark only applied for with it being a confirmed generic term)!!!

        Prior art doesn't have to be for Tablet PC's only either. It's a matter of fulfilling the same functionality of the it's patent claims as being for a coded magnetic switch!

        The folds? .....how in the world can Apple expect a patent on the specific number and size of a cover to stand against any screen cover maker for it's competitors devices? hahaha... Even the name smart cover hasn't been granted (trademarked, it's a generic term) that many 3rd parties have used for ages to describe a cover's switch function!
        KronJohn
    • Does Google infringe or not?

      I haven't seen the patent, but if it is including both the magnetic cover and the tablet's embedded switch in every patent claim, rather than claiming them separately, then Google is expecting to be free from infringement since they only provide the device, not the cover. I'm not so sure that will indemnify them though. A court or judge may decide that by including the embedded switch, Google was enticing 3rd party makers into selling infringing covers and therefore hold Google responsible.
      RCS_hkt
  • Oh, and I turned off the "iPad Cover Lock / Unlock"

    It simply isn't implemented well at all. I have a Logitech-Zagg keyboard case and with that setting on, it unlocks my iPad whenever I pry it out of the case. However, since this frankenstein solution is so awkward to use, it is impossible not to touch the screen with your hand while you are prying it off and putting the iPad in the slot. What I found is that I'd always end up running some kind of app every time I took the iPad out of the case. Terrible, terrible frankenstein implementation. The only solution was to disable this "innovative" feature.

    Remember folks, a feature that is poorly implemented isn't a feature at all.
    toddbottom3
    • To be fair, that's more of Logitech's problem

      If a third party accessory doesn't work well with a certain piece of hardware, that's the fault of the third party. I'm not particularly fond of Apple or its products, but point the finger where it needs to be pointed.
      Aerowind
      • It is an Apple feature

        Apple licensed Logitech / Zagg, they approved it, they designed the feature, they take the blame when the feature doesn't work. Apple even carries it in its own store and advertises this as a feature:
        http://store.apple.com/us/product/H9460LL/A?fnode=3e
        "Auto wake and sleep
        Instant On/Off conserves battery power by automatically waking your iPad when you open the cover—and sending it to sleep when you close the cover."

        Apple clearly didn't think this one through.
        toddbottom3
        • Logitech is not Apple

          Works extremely well for me with Apple's Smart Cover. Maybe the Frankenstein is the keyboard you choose.
          gkpm
          • But Apple recommended this solution to me

            Yes, I agree that the frankenstein solution is the one that Apple recommended I go with. Says a lot for Apple.
            toddbottom3
    • Nokia and Samsung Pioneered magnetic screen switches!

      So it appears their Patent for having the coded magnetic layer under the screen rather than a single magnet under the bezel like Nexus 7 (which is an old feature both Nokia and Samsung both had in early 90's) is causing problems.

      Which I didn't understand, because part of Apple's patent is on a claim for coded magnetic array. This is partly so the patent improves on all it's prior art and makes the code distinctive to iPads. If it's just any old magnet it won't switch the screen on and off!

      That's been proved because you can't use an old Smart Screen Cover even from Apple on the new iPad 3! ......but even here, they can't have a valid patent on the feature, because the Automotive industry has already beat them to it! ....door switches in cars have been using coded magnetic switches for some time now. Because they are much more reliable than mechanical switches ever have been. Appliance manufacturers have also been applying the use of magnetic coded light switches in doors as well.
      http://www.cultofmac.com/155551/why-your-smart-cover-or-magnetic-case-doesnt-work-with-the-new-ipad/

      btw... is already submitted this and over a dozen other Apple patents (including Notifications) to USPTO for re-examination! :DDD .....Automotive industry has Coded Magnet switch patents as does Home Appliance Industry. Although Nexus 7 does not use coded array, they could in the future if Google is successful at providing Prior Art to invalidate all of Apple's generic patents! ;-P
      KronJohn
  • Not Every one

    Liverack Dovidson you have to admire this not every one can copy :D
    markbrook1
  • Old feature reborn...

    Agreed. The patent had to be extremely specific, especially with regard to other functions because Apple did not invent the magnetic on/off cover functionality. Blackberry and others used the same magnet technology in covers to turn device screens off and on years before the iPad "introduced" this feature.
    OJMc
    • Yup

      Two I can think of... the original Motorola RAZR used a magnetic sensor to power down when closed. I know that well, as I dropped mine one (well, it was actually launched across the room in a freak Scouting accident) and that specific sensor broke. The O.G. Droid had a couple of magnetic sensors, to tell it what kind of case or dock was in use.

      Of course, plenty of prior art doesn't mean plenty of prior patents. And certainly, if Apple's patent is very, very specific, it may well be a different spin on the same technology, worthy of a patent.
      Hazydave
  • Have one

    It's neat, though I have to be sure it doesn't come too close to my Nexus when I'm using it. I've accidentally put it to sleep 4 times since I got it yesterday. Learning curve.
    chrisbd1
  • Bit vague James?

    Doesn't the SmartCover(tm) patent cover the magnetic fixing of the cover rather than the sleep/wake function? If I was going to write an article on possible infringement, I'd sure as hell want to read up on what it's meant to infringe! Magnetic on/off sleep/wake is not new hence apple haven't patented it (bet they tried). Whether it infringes on someone elses patent, now that would be be more of an article.
    Little Old Man
  • Magnets & Sleep Mode

    Okay, I've tried sweeping the entire Nexus 7 front with small magnets and have yet to see any results of "sleep mode"? What's the secret?
    312capri
  • Nexus 7 Smart Covers

    I think Google's silence on this issue has more to do with functionality than with Apple patents. I've already returned one auto on/off cover because the magnets swamped the tablet's built in magnetometer and disabled or crippled functions using it. A star chart app (Google Sky Map) and a simpler compass app failed when the tablet was installed in the cover but were fine once removed. Google wouldn't want to endorse the use of 'smart' covers and face a backlash later.
    mikenoel