Forget the iPhone 8 (or “X” or “Edition” or whatever it’ll be called) that’s coming later this year. As tech obsessors, we want to know what Apple’s cooking up in its secret Cupertino labs for the future.
As with all patents, the description is broad and vague. In a nutshell, the patent describes a thin laptop-like shell (referred to as an “accessory device”) without a processor.
Instead, you’d dock a “smart phone, media player, tablet computer, or other portable computing device” into the accessory device to power it.
“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.”
The patent comes with two different illustrations for how this would work for phones and tablets. For phones, there’d be a slot on the accessory device instead of a trackpad. Tablets, however, would dock right into the space where a laptop’s screen would normally be.
Though the patent is light on specific use-case applications, it’s not difficult to imagine how practical such a device would be for some users.
For example, instead of using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to perform “hand offs” between iOS and MacOS devices, you’d simply be able to pop your phone or tablet into the MacBook shell and access all of its data with the benefit of a larger screen, keyboard and trackpad inputs.
With smartphones now the most-used and most personal computers, it’s a no-brainer for Apple to create a way to let users better access the device that has all their personal data. Sure, you could always use cloud services, but it’s not always so easy.
Longtime tech nerds should notice this isn’t exactly a new idea. Many companies have made similar devices that dock your phone into a larger device to add computing power, and all of them have failed. Motorola tried this idea with the Atrix 4G and laptop dock in 2011 and Asus tried to get people to dock their phones into a tablet, too.
That said, like all patents, the ideas that are described may never make it into commercial products. They’re just that: ideas. So don’t get too excited just yet.