The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday published Apple’s patent application for an “Electronic accessory device” acting as a dock that would turn your iPhone or iPad into a touchscreen-enabled Mac notebook, something many people have been craving for. The patent application outlines an ultra-portable MacBook of sorts with a special dock into which an iOS device could be inserted to provide compute power, software, storage and other features.
As with many other Apple patents, there’s no telling when this particular invention might see the light of day, if ever.
Apple proposes a special dock with an embedded GPU, keyboard, ports, a built-in screen and more. Your docked iOS device would lend its CPU, RAM, touchscreen and software. The dock itself would be incapable of functioning without a host device.
Here’s an excerpt from the patent abstract:
The present application describes various embodiments of systems and methods for providing internal components for portable computing devices having a thin profile. More particularly, the present application describes an electronic accessory device available to extend and expand usefulness of a portable computing device.
Your iPhone could be docked in a slot beneath the keyboard.
The handset would double as a trackpad, complete with Force Touch input (via 3D Touch) and haptic feedback (via iPhone’s Taptic Engine). As noted by AppleInsider, the surface area of the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is “very similar” to that of the enlarged trackpad on Apple’s new MacBook Pro models.
An iPad version of the dock would come without a built-in screen because your docked tablet would become the display with multi-touch input. The patent application does not define whether the dock would run iOS, macOS or a hybrid operating system that could support both touch interactions and pixel precision provided by a trackpad.
Of course, we’ve seen docks that turn smartphones and tablets into laptops before.
Motorola’s Atrix smartphones, for instance, were one of the first devices to ship with its Webtop platform, allowing them to be placed into the company’s HD Multimedia Dock or Laptop Dock accessories to access an Ubuntu-based desktop.
Apple’s patent application, originally filed for in September 2016, credits engineer Brett W. Degner as its inventor.
Should Apple turn this idea into a real product?