The US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) has granted Apple a mobile hotspot device patent application, which the company filed last year, that describes a battery-powered device designed purely to provide wireless connectivity to other hardware.
The patent, granted yesterday, shows several configurations of the mobile hotspot, including three different-sized units in the shape of an AA battery. Apple envisaged one end of the cylindrical device containing up to a 1000mAH battery, while the other houses electronics like a SIM card.
Apple notes the device could alleviate the battery drain caused by using a phone as a hotspot. Also, phones aren't ideal to lug around just for mobile connectivity while doing sports or other activities when, for example, the Apple Watch might be used.
Apple was also granted patent number 9,397,387 for an "electronic device with isolated cavity antennas". It was granted a similar patent in 2012, giving rise to speculation at the time that Apple might embed a mobile chip in its MacBook. Four years on and Apple still hasn't put a 4G chip in any of its OS X devices. However, hopes are being kept alive by several patents that suggest Apple might do it in the future.
This patent describes a device that may have "wireless communications circuitry that operates in long-range communications bands such as cellular telephone bands" as well as Wi-Fi circuitry.
Another patent the USPTO granted Apple in May was for an "electronic device with dual clutch barrel cavity antennas", which contains the exact same wording regarding cellular circuitry.
However, in both patents, the devices used to describe the cellular capability include phones, a media player, a gaming device, a laptop, a tablet, a desktop computer, a display containing an embedded computer, and a television or set-top box.
While many people would appreciate a cellular option for the MacBook, it would be interesting to see if they're willing to fork out the extra $100 or so for not having to rely on their smartphone for connectivity. Then again, as Apple's mobile hotspot patent demonstrates, you wouldn't need to rely on the iPhone's already short battery life for your connection.