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Apple exploring iPod nano clip that doubles as docking contact

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Apple has shown interest in having the rear clip on the iPod nano double as a quick-and-easy way of recharging and syncing the media player.

The concept was revealed in a new patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Portable User Device with a Clip Having Electrical Thermals," it describes different ways that a device with a clip could be used to secure, charge and sync it.

In particular, the application includes illustrations that show a device extremely similar in design to Apple's current iPod nano, which features a multi-touch display on the front and a clip on the back. Currently, the clip is used to make the device wearable for activities like exercise.

But if Apple's new patent application becomes a reality, that clip could also include charging contacts. With a new charging base, users would simply clip the iPod nano, or any other clip-equipped device, onto it to recharge its battery or even transfer data.

The filing notes that portable media devices usually rely on a plug-and-socket connection for charging and syncing. This is also the case with the current iPod nano, which features Apple's standard 30-pin dock connector.

Patent 1


Apple said that clips on portable devices can be used to affix them to an article of clothing or an accessory, but aside from mechanical clamping, the clip does not provide any other function.

In Apple's concept, the clip would be "electrically coupled to the rechargeable battery." The clip would also provide a "clamping force which aids in maintaining contact between the receiving receptacle and the clip member."

Apple's application even goes beyond the iPod nano itself, and describes how an accessory could even be clipped to another device, like a MacBook, for charging and syncing. In one illustration, a notebook computer features an indentation to the right of its display where an accessory could be clipped.

In a more traditional example, Apple shows a regular iPod charging dock with an adapter that would allow the clip to be securely fastened and connected.

The illustrations accompanying the application suggest Apple could apply its concept on devices beyond the iPod nano. In one image, a phone with a rear clip featuring charging and syncing contacts is also shown.

Patent 2


The proposed invention, made public this week by the USPTO, was first filed in January of 2011. It is credited to Jeffery T. Lee and Scott Krueger.

The filing comes as a new rumor published this week suggested Apple is working on a new iPod nano that would ditch the current square design and rear clip for wearability. Instead, it claimed the device will feature a rectangular touchscreen and a dedicated home button, much like an iPhone or iPod touch. It was also said the device would have a dedicated built-in iTunes service for accessing content.
post #2 of 13
That looks like an interesting expansion of the MagSafe design to me...
post #3 of 13

I don't get what's so novel about this, I have a Fitbit (www.fitbit.com) that charges this way.  The Fitbit either clips onto a pocket or belt...or it's battery charger, and it charges via a series of contacts on the inside of the Fitbit.  And you can put in the charger either way, there's is no wrong way to put it on the charger.  What's so great about this patent?  It's a good idea (works great on the Fitbit to keep size down), but this has been done already.

post #4 of 13

Seems like a smart way to make the nano thinner

post #5 of 13
Looks interesting but in terms of the iPhone and perhaps iPad it won't happen. They would still have to have a USB connecting version to keep the EU happy and Apple doesn't do two designs in such ways.

As for the nano frankly I could see the going the route of the shuffle where it all goes through the headphone port before this idea.

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post #6 of 13
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Originally Posted by dsr1122 View Post

I don't get what's so novel about this, I have a Fitbit (www.fitbit.com) that charges this way.  

Just because FitBit released a product before we heard about a granted patent filed 19 months ago, doesn't equal to them definitely coming up with the idea on their own or even first. They may be using the tech with permission from Apple. It almost makes sense that they are since Apple is known for making wearable, rechargeable tech. If you are looking for expert advice and company buy in, who else would you turn to.

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post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Looks interesting but in terms of the iPhone and perhaps iPad it won't happen. They would still have to have a USB connecting version to keep the EU happy and Apple doesn't do two designs in such ways.
As for the nano frankly I could see the going the route of the shuffle where it all goes through the headphone port before this idea.


1) So long as they provide a charger with a USB-A port aren't they following the law?

2) Does the law apply to PMPs at all?

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post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dsr1122 View Post

I don't get what's so novel about this, I have a Fitbit (www.fitbit.com) that charges this way.  The Fitbit either clips onto a pocket or belt...or it's battery charger, and it charges via a series of contacts on the inside of the Fitbit.  And you can put in the charger either way, there's is no wrong way to put it on the charger.  What's so great about this patent?  It's a good idea (works great on the Fitbit to keep size down), but this has been done already.

If Apple uses this design you I feel sorry for fitbit. Somehow or other Apple will sue fitbit and force them to give the design over to Apple.

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dsr1122 View Post

I don't get what's so novel about this, I have a Fitbit (www.fitbit.com) that charges this way.  The Fitbit either clips onto a pocket or belt...or it's battery charger, and it charges via a series of contacts on the inside of the Fitbit.  And you can put in the charger either way, there's is no wrong way to put it on the charger.  What's so great about this patent?  It's a good idea (works great on the Fitbit to keep size down), but this has been done already.

The exact design look very different. This isn't unlike MagSafe being a specific way to use magnetics with a charger even though that idea had existed in products at least 2 decades earler.

I'm no expert but i"m not seeing anything that looks like a blatant ripoff of their design.


PS: I would love to use FitBit Ultra and these other suck devices but the tech just isn't ready. I really hope Apple can make something that does work better and is easier, like they've done with so many other industries they've re-invented. Honestly, I'm thinking this tech won't be truly useful until there are more accurate and useful ways to measure the body with internally planted sensors.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

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post #10 of 13

Re: "Apple has shown interest in having the rear clip on the iPod nano double as a quick-and-easy way of recharging and syncing the media player."

 

Quick-and-easy, yes.  But looking at my iPod nano, I'd suspect that another reason for moving the dock connector away from the edge of the device is to allow for making it even thinner.  Right now it looks like the height of the 30-pin dock connector (and even that of the rumored 19-pin "mini" dock connector) is the limiting factor.  Moving the connector off the edge could allow a thinner design.

 

Interesting that Apple doesn't seem to be interested in inductive charging of any of their devices.  I can think of two reasons why not.  First, every single inductively charged device I've ever seen, from electric toothbrushes to LED flashlights, gets hot when charged.  Heat is wasted energy.  And Apple seems to be moving away from wasting energy.  (Hear that, Intel?)  

 

Second, it's quite likely that the electromagnetic field created by the charging pad could cause interference with many features of iOS devices.  Including wi-fi iCloud syncing, cell phone voice and data reception, compass direction detection, bluetooth reception, ad nauseam.  So maybe iOS devices will always need a physical connection for charging.  For efficiency and to prevent loss of signal in wireless connectivity.  And since you need to physically connect iOS devices to charge them anyway, Apple might as well keep data connections in the docking connector.  Just a thought.

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post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by lamewing View Post

If Apple uses this design you I feel sorry for fitbit. Somehow or other Apple will sue fitbit and force them to give the design over to Apple.

 

Or they won't. Because Patents are about specifics. If the patent is specific enough to entail a particular way to make this kind of charging happen and it isn't the same as what FitBit is using, specifically speaking, then Apple has no law suit

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post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

1) So long as they provide a charger with a USB-A port aren't they following the law?

I'm not sure how the law reads (and, frankly, don't care enough to look). It comes down to whether the law requires a USB port on the device itself or if it's enough to have it on the charger.

Of course, the iPhone suggests that as long as it can connect to USB that it's OK, so your solution might work. If they can get away with a 30 pin connector connected to a USB port, I don't see why they couldn't get away with a 4 pin connector (which is essentially what this device would be) connected to a USB port. However, that seems to get around the entire intent of the invention. The invention seems to be that you can clip the device directly to your computer to get it charged without requiring a separate charger. That is not likely to be acceptable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

2) Does the law apply to PMPs at all?

Don't know.

In the end, though, it's nothing but an R&D project at this point. Apple will undoubtedly resolve any issues like that before selling it (if they ever do). If they were forced to continue selling the old one in Europe, it wouldn't be the first time Apple sold a specific product only in one region.
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
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post #13 of 13

Apple really is the leader in integration. I think this might work great not only for docking but also as a form of portable passbook. It can be another revolution. Other companies would soon be creating micro terminals that will lock and unlock their other devices.

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