Apple is exploring helping users work seamlessly across devices

A recently discovered Apple patent filing offers more details on how this could work.
Written by Don Reisinger, Contributing Writer

Apple is one step closer to significantly improving cross-device productivity for consumers and businesses alike, if a recently discovered patent filing is any indication.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently published an Apple patent application that describes "continuity of applications across devices." The application, which Apple filed in December 2023, describes how someone can open an application on one device and then seamlessly transfer the item they're interacting with to another device, which will recognize the item and open the relevant app.

"For example, if email is being drafted on the external device, the electronic device may launch an email editor showing the draft," Apple wrote in its patent application. "In this way, a user can seamlessly transition from the use of one electronic device to another electronic device."

Also: Apple's macOS Ventura focuses on multi-tasking across devices

Apple first showcased moving applications across devices at WWDC 2021, when Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi (who is also named as a co-inventor of the technology) dragged a file from his iPad, through his MacBook, to an iMac, to open it in Final Cut Pro. But this latest patent application appears to take things a step further, allowing devices to intelligently recognize the files that users want to interact with, and share them across products with ease.

The move makes sense. Now more than ever, tech users are juggling smartphones, tablets, computers, and even AR/VR devices. Letting users seamlessly transition to the device where the experience would be best could be extremely useful. It would also enable decidedly interesting — and more efficient — use cases.

"The user may power-up a laptop, launch an e-mail application, find the specific e-mail for which a response is needed, and begin to prepare the response," Apple wrote. "It would be helpful if the user could transition from use of one device to another, such as transition from reading an e-mail on one device to drafting a reply on another device, in a seamless and cognitively continuous manner."

Apple devices already offer some cross-device functionality. Users can copy text on their MacBook, for instance, and then paste it to iMessage on their iPhones. They can also share screens from an iPad to an Apple TV. Apple's Continuity concept lets users transfer a lot between devices.

As with anything else in Apple's realm, it's impossible to know whether the technology described in the patent application will ever become reality. While it certainly sounds promising, only Apple knows what software features are coming to its hardware. As always, Apple is staying tight-lipped.

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