Apple explored iPhones and iPads that dock inside larger devices like MacBooks

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2020
A newly published patent reveals that Apple has explored iPhones and iPads that could be docked inside larger devices similar to a MacBook Pro in order to provide extra functionality when needed.

Detail from patent covering the docking of devices such as an iPhone to a casing similar to a MacBook Pro
Detail from patent covering the docking of devices such as an iPhone to a casing similar to a MacBook Pro


A future iOS device may be able to physically become part of a larger computer such as a MacBook Pro in order to provide extra features and capabilities, according to the filing; a concept somewhat similar to the PowerBook Duo of decades past, which could slot into a unit to create a desktop Mac.

"The appearance of a portable computing device, including its design and its heft, is important to a user, as the outward appearance contributes to the overall impression that the user has of the portable computing device," writes Apple in "Electronic Accessory Device", US Patent No 10,545,542. "However, due to restrictive amount of available space, the portable computing device can require additional resources to provide extended functionality."

One drawing included with the patent show a seemingly MacBook Pro-like device where the trackpad has been replaced with a slot for an iPhone to go into. Another shows the same larger device but this time with an iPad slotting in where the display usually is.

The device has the form factor of a MacBook Pro but Apple's patent describes it as merely being an "accessory device" to the iPhone or another small "host device."

"[An] accessory device can have limited or no data processing resources," it says. "The accessory device can have a form factor corresponding to a laptop computer and as such can include data output resources such as a visual display and input resources such as a keyboard."

"The accessory device can also include memory resources," it continues. "The accessory device can include a port having a connection mechanism arranged to facilitate a communication channel between the accessory device and a host device. In this way, the host device utilizes resources provided by the accessory device."

One such connection mechanism can be a dock where the host device can utilize all the features of the accessory. As with the old PowerBook Duo dock, Apple describes such electronic accessory as not being usable by itself.

Detail from the patent. It looks at first like a regular laptop, but that's an iPad docked where the screen usually is.
Detail from the patent. It looks at first like a regular laptop, but that's an iPad docked where the screen usually is.


"[The] electronic accessory device can be considered a 'thin' device, in that it extends the functionality of another device but is inoperable by itself as a stand-alone device. As such, the accessory device can have little or no independent processing resources in the form of a CPU or similar comprehensive processor," says Apple.

"The accessory device, however, can provide auxiliary processing resources, such a graphical processing unit, or GPU, or other processing resources that can support the functions of the portable computing device," it continues.

While most of the descriptions and all of the drawings show iPhones and iPads, Apple sees this docking facility as something many devices can used.

"[It] is anticipated that the accessory device is not a stand-alone computing device but only acts in concert with a host device. The host device can be a portable computing device, such as, for example, a smart phone, media player, tablet computer, or other portable computing device," it concludes.

The sole credited inventor on the patent, Brett W. Degner, has more than 100 other patents, most recently including one to do with Apple's potential curved-glass iMac redesign.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    Since when does submitting patents mean “planning”? Misleading headline. It should read “experimenting”. They keep doing this... ridiculous.
    edited January 2020 thtSpamSandwichmike1mjtomlinwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 36
    jasonfjjasonfj Posts: 556member
    Surely this is a concept from twenty years ago. What’s the point of wasting the space when any connectivity can be wireless. 
    spice-boytjwolf
  • Reply 3 of 36
    jasonfjjasonfj Posts: 556member
    Surely this is a concept from twenty years ago. What’s the point of wasting the space when any connectivity can be wireless. 
  • Reply 4 of 36
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 801member
    jasonfj said:
    Surely this is a concept from twenty years ago. What’s the point of wasting the space when any connectivity can be wireless. 
    The point is to use the iPhone as the trackpad, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth clients, and the computer. Docking the iPhone would change the apps from the iOS mode to the macOS mode. Undocking the phone would change the apps back to the iOS mode.

    You need at least 20 Gbps to be able to push video wirelessly, which is not possible with today’s technology. 

    Docked phone would become the foundation of the MacBook, and Apple would be able to justify a higher price of the phone because a phone and a relatively inexpensive dock would equal a MacBook. 

    This is my idea of 3 years ago, of which I wrote extensively in several Apple centric forums. I should have patented it then. 
    edited January 2020 myopiarocksGeorgeBMacGG1watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 36
    wozwozwozwoz Posts: 253member
    Maybe they can make a place to put your coffee cup too.
    spice-boy
  • Reply 6 of 36
    This docking idea is old school and cumbersome. I want my MacBook to be independent of iPhone in case I misplace my iPhone or needing to use both devices at the same time. Plus my iPhone has protective sleeve on. This definitely will not happen.
    edited January 2020 SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 36
    No, they're not planning on this invention. Like most inventions, they develop scenarios where products could be developed just to cover the basis of future ideas someone else might want to `patent' and sue them over.
    thtSpamSandwichFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 36
    wozwoz said:
    Maybe they can make a place to put your coffee cup too.
    That went away when they stopped including cd/dvd drives.
    Fred257mwhitewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 36
    gordygordy Posts: 1,004member
    jasonfj said:
    Surely this is a concept from twenty years ago. What’s the point of wasting the space when any connectivity can be wireless. 

    The ol' heads here at AI will remember this as "Killer Bee's" rumor years ago.  It was the first thing I thought about, which means Apple has been planning this for over 10-15 years.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 36
    sirozha said:
    The point is to use the iPhone as the trackpad, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth clients, and the computer. Docking the iPhone would change the apps from the iOS mode to the macOS mode. Undocking the phone would change the apps back to the iOS mode.

    You need at least 20 Gbps to be able to push video wirelessly, which is not possible with today’s technology. 

    Docked phone would become the foundation of the MacBook, and Apple would be able to justify a higher price of the phone because a phone and a relatively inexpensive dock would equal a MacBook. 

    This is my idea of 3 years ago, of which I wrote extensively in several Apple centric forums. I should have patented it then. 
    Agreed. Like many patents this might never happen, but I agree with you on the proposed premise and function. I think the image of a phone fitting neatly into the trackpad slot is a red herring (this'll work great so long as apple never changes the dimensions on their phones! ...um...). My guess is this patent is additional protection for a not-yet-released ipad [pro] dock. I think this because the processing power needed to approximate macbook speed is something we'd see first from the iPad. The clamshell shown would be keyboard, trackpad, additional battery, with the ipad as monitor. ...and maybe the shell has additional ports to support a 2nd monitor or whatever (like sidecar in reverse).
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 36
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 940member
    Wasn’t this an April Fools article a few years ago? 
    spice-boyFred257
  • Reply 12 of 36
    @Sirozha: Sorry to beat you to it. I had this idea close to a decade ago and wrote an extensive note to Apple on their Contact Us page in the hopes that they might actually do something along these lines (though I suggested a built-in component incorporating a lot of what is already built into the iPod). I had always wondered if Apple ever took the idea seriously. In any case, having a smart trackpad that supplements touch input with visible feedback would be a welcomed feature in many circles (think of how it could do with painting in Photoshop, or how it could be applied in assistive technology, to name a few).
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 36
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    hucom2000 said:
    Since when does submitting patents mean “planning”? Misleading headline. It should read “experimenting”. They keep doing this... ridiculous.
     
    How much of the stuff Apple patents becomes a product?

    10% ?

    15% ?

    And I think I'm being generous.

    The headline is clickbait.
    spice-boyhucom2000GG1watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 36
    This reminds me of Razer's Project Linda concept.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gKu-T13vXs
  • Reply 15 of 36
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,450member
    My iPhone XS would double the weight of a MacBook. This is a joke right? 
    Fred257
  • Reply 16 of 36
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,339member
    If this ever became a product it would be a kludge and look very dated by modern standards. At least from a 'docking' perspective.

    I think the future is basically here now with devices that can virtualise their hardware under the umbrella of a modular OS.


    edited January 2020 Fred257
  • Reply 17 of 36
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,450member
    When someone steals your MacBook you are truly screwed. Great idea. 
    Fred257ravnorodom
  • Reply 18 of 36
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    This is almost an inevtibable evolution.
    The iPhone actually has more power than most MacBook Airs already.  So:

    The iPhone could supply the:
    -- CPU Since the A12 is already faster the Intel garbage!
    -- The RAM  (might have to be boosted a bit)
    -- The Storage -- already greater than the base MBA
    -- The trackpad -- its already better than that of the MBA
    -- FaceId for security.

    All the MacBook has to supply is a decent keyboard and screen -- and maybe an eGPU.  [added:  and a front facing camera & power]

    It's an idea who's time has come.  Not only does it save on resources, but eliminates a lot of problems sharing data and resources like software.
    edited January 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 36
    A bit of future think: but it seems logical for the Apple watch to eventually be our only "personal" computer, and we merely come in the proximity of different interfaces to use it differently.

    E.g. Need a workstation? Then approach a monitor/keyboard/mouse, where the Watch uses these devices as the display output and input devices.
    We've actually already seen a bit of this attempted (poorly) with some prior smartphones, and to a limited extent the iPad already does this in a less-automatic way. Apple have a significant cache of technology (and patents like this) to make such an idea a reality.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 36
    Fred257Fred257 Posts: 191member
    The next invention to have any significance is wireless and screenless computers.  By using a projector with a projected back screen. Whoever invents it first will be the next large computer company.  Apple, please, no more different screen sized products that are all alike.  This patent is nothing more than an idea.  
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