Apple investigating iPhone dock with integrated display, touchpad, sensors, inductive charging, more

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2015
A patent application published on Thursday reveals Apple's interest in a docking solution for iPhone and iPad that supports multiple accessories and incorporates a display, advanced gesture controls, wireless communications and even inductive charging.


Source: USPTO


Apple has in the past manufactured simple docks for iPhone and iPad, which can perhaps be more accurately described as glorified stands, but the company has not yet released such an accessory for its latest iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus handsets. Today's patent application could be the basis of a more evolved product, one that includes features seen on docking solutions from third-party manufacturers.

As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's application for a "Docking station with audio output" details a dock that integrates a display, proximity sensors, a wireless communications package for transferring data and remotely controlling Internet connected devices, touchpad control and more.

In its most basic form, Apple's invention is a basic charging stand that charges an iOS device via a Lightning connector insert. Like the most recent iPhone 5/5s dock, audio is passed through a digital-to-analog converter and sent out through a headphone jack, while a rear connector accepts power from an adapter. Along with the main portable device, however, the dock also supports one or more accessories.

Certain examples allow for an accessory to be powered via wired or inductive charging, while others build in support for data transfer and user control. Although specific accessory hardware goes unspecified, the document language leaves room for a device like Apple Watch to be attached, charged and synced directly from the dock.




Other embodiments add in displays and LED status lights. For example, a built-in display can be used to present a user with data taken off an attached iPhone or iPad, including the time, device mode, weather, news and other information. Alternatively, the dock can pull data from another accessory or a wireless router using onboard communications hardware. Both wired and wireless functions are supported.

Built-in Wi-Fi capabilities can also be used to control connected devices like coffee makers, thermostats, locks, lighting and appliances. Apple is already prepared to tap into this so-called "Internet of Things" with HomeKit, an iOS framework that will let users control compatible connected home devices via Siri.

Apple's imagined dock also includes gesture control, an area in which Apple has shown intense interest as of late. Using proximity sensors, users would be able to a perform range of operations through midair hand gestures, including turning the display on or off, and selecting onboard functions like cycling through news content.

In another embodiment, the invention serves as a docking station with data receptacles covering a gamut of interconnect technologies, such as USB, HDMI, DVI, Thunderbolt and more.




Finally, multicolored LED lights can inform users of a docked device's mode, such as do-not-disturb and airplane mode, as well as charge status and other critical information. In conjunction with proximity sensors, LEDs may also play a convenience role and light up when a user's hand nears portions of the dock, illuminating hard to see buttons and ports.

It is unclear if Apple intends to build its advanced docking station, but with an expanding stable of connected portable devices and the upcoming Apple Watch, such a product would address the needs of a quickly growing market.

Apple's docking station patent application was first filed for in September 2013 and credits Gerhard A. Schneider, Scott Krueger, Robert D. Watson, Alexei Kosut and Tony Chi Want Ng as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    Glad to see that Apple haven't given up on the idea of docks. 

  • Reply 2 of 15
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Agreed.

    Seriously didn't enjoy getting my dock cut off by Apple.
  • Reply 3 of 15
    I use Belkin's lightning dock at home and work and it is down right awesome.

    But I would like to see Apple come up with a conductive recharging system similar to Mobee's magic mouse recharger, BUT include a spot for the Apple Watch on the same dock.

    No one wants a dock for each and every device.
  • Reply 4 of 15
    This is good news.

    Apple should never have stopped the dock.
  • Reply 5 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    gtr wrote: »
    Agreed.

    Seriously didn't enjoy getting my dock cut off by Apple.

    That made my eyes water! ????

    Seriously though I am hoping Apple have a small area Wi-Trcity type charge solution for iDevices in the not too distant future. No wires and no induction pads required. A few feet is all that is required so devices may be charged within that area. Most folks I know would simply plonk such a charger in the kitchen. .... And no, people with pacemakers do not need to worry and no Tesla didn't invent the current tuned system (although obviously the broader concept) and yes it works, check out the MIT alumnis' web site. http://witricity.com

    edit: to to too :no:
  • Reply 6 of 15
    The 5S dock seemed stupid since it cut off TouchID. This looks like it would solve that issue, and enable Apple to keep making the same dock.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    All you guys just have Dock envy....;-)
  • Reply 8 of 15
    larrymagoo wrote: »
    All you guys just have Dock envy....;-)

    This news will put me into dock-giving mode for my female friends. ????
  • Reply 9 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    This news will put me into dock-giving mode for my female friends. ????

    But ... but ... the dock is white!
  • Reply 10 of 15
    This news will put me into dock-giving mode for my female friends. ????

    But ... but ... the dock is white!

    White can be fine in some incarnations, such as the iPhone I am currently using. Also the dock.

    On a watch-strap? Naff.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    The 5S dock seemed stupid since it cut off TouchID. This looks like it would solve that issue, and enable Apple to keep making the same dock.
    Absolutely ridiculous design for the 5S.

    And where's the 6 series dock? Released with the 6S perhaps? Not really expecting to see these changes implemented though.

    I do have to think that with the ?Watch inductive charging for iDevices can't be far behind ...
  • Reply 12 of 15
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post



    I do have to think that with the ?Watch inductive charging for iDevices can't be far behind ...

     

    I think it's only a matter of time before we see an iPhone with no ports. Wireless charging and only wireless connectivity.

  • Reply 13 of 15

    What's the point of inductive charging on a dock where plugs are already being used?  At worst, a power-plug adds stability to the docked device. I see no benefit of inductive charging on a dock.

  • Reply 14 of 15
    krreagankrreagan Posts: 218member
    They need to dock the iPhone... Now that the iPhone has a multi-core 64bit processor they should make a dock connected to a Mac where you put your phone on an inductive charging base that senses it and then brings up an OS X style desktop of your phone so you can use the Pages/Numbers... apps (which have both interfaces built in) on the "desktop" with a mouse and full keyboard. When you are done simply pick it up and move on... get to work put it another inductive interface and continue right where you were...
  • Reply 15 of 15
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    I hope Apple is looking into a stand-alone version of the new keyboard and trackpad they're putting into their new laptops. Quite a few people, including me, like to use a keyboard with the same feel for laptops and desktops, iDevices too.
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