/>
X

Your next iGadget? Check Apple patents (images)

While Apple is shrouded in secrecy over its upcoming devices, there's one place that can give clues: The US Patent and Trademark Office.

|
zd-defaultauthor-andy7718.jpg
|
Topic: Apple
01newipad.jpg
1 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Wraparound iPhone

What is Apple's next great feature or device? You can waterboard Apple execs and they won't tell. We know that Apple is doing something exciting behind the scenes with its to $1.1 billion over the last three months. But there's one source of information that can give us some hints at what Apple is thinking: The US Patent and Trademark Office.

Last year alone, Apple was awarded 1,136 patents — good for 22nd place on the top 50 IFI patent list. Other notables include Google, which was just ahead of Apple, with 1,151 patents. BM was the leader, as usual, with 6,478 patents, and Samsung took second place, with 5,081 patents.

With its new and innovative products, Apple believe that it must protect them from competitors, such as Samsung, at all costs. That's why it keeps the patent office busy. Here, we'll look at a dozen recent awards that should give us an idea of what Apple is thinking.

Perhaps the most interesting patent award recently earned by Apple was for a smartphone design that "could include a full wraparound display and have no buttons". Enclosed within "transparent housing", a flexible display panel would be configured to "display content at any portion of the gadget's frame", . Sounds like a next-generation iPhone.

01iwatch610x384-v2-610x384.jpg
2 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

iWatch

Here's what we mean about Apple's patents giving a hint of the future: While news of began to spread, ZDNet's Liam Tung looked up watches on Apple's list of patents and found one that was awarded in 2011 for a with a flexible screen. Could it be ""?

09solarpoweriphone.jpg
3 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Solar touchscreen

A patent was award to Apple in February for a . This new patent has been associated with a potential watch, as it would provide a power source. In any event, it does sound cool and could be a huge boost for wearable computers.

Here's how it was described in the patent application: "solar cell stack-ups may include electrodes that are used both for collecting solar energy and for sensing on a touch sensor array". Plus, it further says, "the integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations may also be used for optical sensing".

dropphone.jpg
4 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Drop phone protection

Do you frequently drop your iPhone? It might become no problem. In March, Apple was granted a patent that would use two ways to protect your iPhone from a fall. Sensors in a protective mechanism (right) could detect how far and fast it is falling and turn it mid-air to land on a safe spot on its frame. Kind of like a cat. Here's the patent application.

The other way has the protective mechanism actually slow its decent by triggering an "air foil" that would act like a parachute that uses gas instead of silk. Here's a description from ZDNet's sister site, CNET.

03cleaning.jpg
5 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Cleaning

Patents even involve cleaning. Apple was awarded a patent this month for polishing surfaces of a three-dimensional object, including a curved surface.

04autorecogniton.jpg
6 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Spam recognition

This is a spam-recognition engine that could turn the tables on someone who is virtually "stalking" others by spamming them with numerous friend requests. This patent, granted in March, would give users a way to determine friend or foe.

05calllerson-hold.jpg
7 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Callers on hold

Do you like hearing music, informational messages, or ads while you're on hold? This patent would allow you to do that, and more, on your own phone. You can send photos, messages, or even local news and weather. You can also target your hold message for individuals, time of the day, or location.

This patent will even allow users to sell advertising space to help pay for the cost of the call. There's more info from CNET.

06augmentedreality.jpg
8 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Augmented reality

With this augmented-reality display patent, you could point your iPhone to a real object and have it show a video or information about it. You can write or plug in your own information and display it on a split screen, as shown above.

Read more on this patent from CNET.

11pageturning.jpg
9 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Page turning

Some patents don't put a claim on technology itself, but are placed to protect the look and feel of a device to ward off potential patent lawsuits. This 2011 patent for a page-turning process granted to Apple is one of several similar patents from companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Samsung. Here's more from CNET.

07ipadcover.jpg
10 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

iPad cover/charger

This recent patent application called "Integrated Inductive Charging In Protective Cover" would turn the cover of an iPad into a wireless charger. This would work with the cover, gaining power from inductive power coils or a battery to recharge the iPad effortlessly.

Read more details from CNET.

08proximitydetection.jpg
11 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Proximity detection

In February, Apple was awarded a patent for a proximity sensor for the iPhone and iPad. The proximity sensor patent, first filed in 2005, covers technology related to detecting one or more touches and differentiating between whether the touches are light or hard, among other capabilities. This could have been a clue to the introduction of the iPad in 2007. Check out more on CNET.

10slidepatent610x258-610x258.jpg
12 of 12 US Patent and Trademark Office

Slide to unlock

No patent is permanent. Apple was originally granted a slide-to-unlock patent in Germany in 2011. In February 2012, Apple was awarded a permanent injunction against several Motorola mobile devices for violating the slide-to-unlock patent. But that was delayed in March, pending a court review.

In April, a German court invalidated the patent, ruling that the slide-to-unlock feature lacked the technical innovation to be granted a patent.

In addition, the US Patent and Trademark Office approved Apple's patent application for "ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof with a graphical user interface". It refers to the rounded corners found at the bottom of locked iOS screens. A judge with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled last October that Samsung had violated Apple's iPhone design patent.

And this legal mess is sure to drag on until a final decision is made.

Related Galleries

iOS 15's "all-you-can-eat" iCloud storage offer
Transfer or Reset iPhone settings

Related Galleries

iOS 15's "all-you-can-eat" iCloud storage offer

4 Photos
First look: 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro
It's here!

Related Galleries

First look: 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro

20 Photos
Apple Watch Series 7: Unboxing and first impressions
Hello QWERTY keyboard

Related Galleries

Apple Watch Series 7: Unboxing and first impressions

17 Photos
First look at the YubiKey Bio
YubiKey Bio

Related Galleries

First look at the YubiKey Bio

10 Photos
First look: iPhone 13 Apple event [in pictures]
california-streaming-2.jpg

Related Galleries

First look: iPhone 13 Apple event [in pictures]

72 Photos
iOS 15 Tips app teaser
Available in the Tips app.

Related Galleries

iOS 15 Tips app teaser

11 Photos
Nomad Rugged Leather Moment case: MagSafe, 10-foot protection, and advanced lens support
nomad-moment-iphone-12pm-1.jpg

Related Galleries

Nomad Rugged Leather Moment case: MagSafe, 10-foot protection, and advanced lens support

7 Photos