Your next iPhone may be able to protect itself from falls and ward off intruders using a biometric fingerprint sensor. Your future MacBook could come with a detachable display that gets charged by its base wirelessly. According to Apple’s portfolio of patents, these are just a couple of possibilities that could become a reality. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a slew of new patents in recent months, offering a glimpse of what's to come. There’s no telling which innovations will actually debut in the Apple Store, but these are 15 exciting ideas we’d love to see come true.
Full Wraparound Display for iPhones
It’s no secret that modern smartphones are debuting with bigger displays, but a future iPhone screen may extend around the entire device. A recently published patent application from Apple titled "Electronic Device With Wrap around Display"showcases a prototype for such a device. According to the filing, this phone would come with a form factor that is thicker in the middle and thinner near its edges. This wrap-around design could theoretically allow users to display two apps at once and could also enable easy content sharing, whether it be video or photos.
Rumors about an Apple “iWatch” have been spreading like wildfire in recent months, all thanks to a patent discovered earlier this year. The application describes a “wearable accessory device” with a “flexible display coupled to a bi-stable spring.” The text never explicitly states that Apple is patenting a smart watch, but the description sounds like one. In its claims, Apple says the device is meant to be “worn by an end user” and will have “a flat state and a curled state.” Apple reportedly has 100 developers working on the project and would attach to your wrist like an old-fashioned snap bracelet. The iWatch is expected to feature a curved glass face and could run iOS, according to Bloomberg.
The Self Protecting iPhone
Imagine if you never had to worry about cracking your screen after dropping your iPhone. Well, Apple seems to be making that notion a reality. In its patent titled “Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device,” Apple describes a system that would change the orientation of your iPhone while it is airborne. This would prevent the handset from falling on areas that are most sensitive or subject to damage, such as its display. Wouldn't it be nice to say good-bye to bulky cases forever?
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Fingerprint to Unlock
With its next iPhone, Apple may be looking to ditch password security in favor of biometric fingerprint protection. According to the diagram included in its patent, the phone would read your fingerprint as you swipe to unlock the device. The patent application, titled “Devices and Methods for Providing Access to Internal Component,” continues to describe scenarios in which this fingerprint sensor would be used. For example, your future iPhone could prompt you to swipe your finger before completing bank transactions as an added security measure. We also see Apple letting users substitute a fingerprint for a password when making purchases from iTunes or the App Store.
Navigating inside buildings
Apple CEO Tim Cook promised that the company would revamp its Maps app, and it looks like the iOS team could be working on some new features. A recently published patent application that was originally filed in 2011 describes a system that would map indoor environments, which makes sense given Apple’s acquisition of indoor mapping company WiFiSlam. Additionally, the patent details motion-controlled Street View navigation that treats the environment as a panorama.
Apple's Laptop-Tablet Hybrid
Convertible touch-screen laptops have become commonplace for Windows 8, but it looks like Apple could be crafting a hybrid device of its own. A recently published patent application describes a device with a base and display that are selectively removable. The touch screen would also be able to rotate with the ability to be “positioned in any matter” by the user. Interestingly enough, Apple notes that the alleged MacBook base and its display would be able to transfer power to one another wirelessly while detached.
Augmented Reality for the iPhone
Who says you need to wear a headset to experience augmented reality? Apple’s patent for “synchronized, interactive augmented reality displays for multifunction devices” describes how iPhones could implement this technology. According to the patent, the AR system would pull up facts and information about the world around you, turning your surroundings into a pPop-up video. Additionally, users would be able to interact with the computer-generated info to correct facts or add missing data.
The Solar Powered iPhone
Forget wireless charging — Apple may be plotting to pack its next iPhone with a touch- screen display that doubles as a solar charging panel. An application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes “electrodes that are used both for collecting solar energy and for sensing on a touch sensor array.” Although the patent was publicly released earlier this year, the document dates back to 2008.
View Personalized Content While on Hold
No one likes waiting on hold, but Apple may be exploring ways to make that process less painful. A newly published patent describes technology that would display sets of information while you’re on hold during a phone call. According to the filing, information displayed on the screen would be adaptive and vary based on the caller. So, for instance, your future iPhone may pull up details referring to your last conversation with the person on the other end or it could display future appointments.
It doesn’t take much to smudge up your smartphone’s display. However, a patent from Apple hints that this may not be a problem for future iPhone users. Titled, “Intuitive, Gesture-Based Communications With Physics Metaphors,” the filing describes a function that lets you make a physical gesture that will be picked up by onboard motion sensors. Additionally, the patent describes ways in which the front-facing camera could analyze your moves to execute tasks. These innovations sound similar to those offered by the Samsung Galaxy S4, whose Air Gestures will allow users to scroll through photos, advance music tracks and more.
Remote Control Functionality for iDevices
The Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and LG Optimus G Pro all come with infrared ports to effectively replace your TV remote control, and a patent hints that Apple could be crafting a similar feature. In its patent application titled “Portable Media Player As Remote Control,” Apple describes technology that would allow you to use your iPod to control other electronic devices. The document doesn’t specifically limit this technology to the iPod, but seems to focus on using Apple’s MP3 player to control surrounding stereos and speakers. We can easily see this functionality extending to the iPhone and iPad lines, along with deep integration for the rumored Apple iTV.
More: Top 10 Smartphones
Display Tech That Uses Temperature to Detect Color
Apple appears to be experimenting with new ways to display colors on mobile devices. According to its patent “Systems and Method For Display Temperature Detection,” this technology would detect temperature in different areas of the display to create a gradient map. It would then associate white point values to this map in order to more accurately display colors on the handset’s touch screen. (These white point values are used to define how the color white should look on the device’s display, since color can vary from image to image.) Understanding how temperature affects the appearance of colors on a display can help improve overall image quality, the patent says. “Temperature variations in the display panels may produce color maladies, such as producing more blue in higher temperature areas and producing more yellow in lower temperature areas,” the filing read. “Thus, understanding the temperature variations in the display panels may help manufacturers to counteract these color maladies.”
A Desktop UI That Integrates Contacts
While most of Apple’s most buzz worthy patents seem to focus on its mobile developments, the company hasn’t forgotten about its Mac desktop OS. A patent published at the end of March describes a new user interface that would integrate with your contacts. Titled “Contact Graphical User Interface,” this feature would let you assign a photo to each contact and rank them, similar to the “Favorites” feature on most smartphones. Theoretically, you would be able to drag any file from your computer and drop it over one of your contacts to share content easily.
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In-Store Customization Kiosks
Apple could be working on a kiosk system that would allow buyers to customize their products before even opening them, a patent suggests. According to the filing, a customer would choose an Apple device and bring it to a station inside the store to load apps, sync iTunes and more. Additionally, buyers could use the kiosks to print out personalized messages such as “happy birthday” to label the device.
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An iPad Cover That Charges Your Tablet
According to a patent titled “Integrated Inductive Charging in Protective Cover,” Apple may be working on a Smart Cover that would double as a charger for iPads. The cover would include a built-in inductive-charging element and a battery to wirelessly power your iPad. “Although a variety of standards have been developed for providing wireless communication with electronic devices, these devices continue to be plagued with a need for corded power supplies,” the patent reads. Apple notes that this technology wouldn’t be limited to iPads, and vaguely adds that it will be compatible with “electronic devices of many forms.”