Here we go. Hurry up and breath all that fresh air in, because this is the last weekend before Apple takes wraps off the next iPhone (tentatively called the iPhone 4S/5).
Will it have that 4-inch screen? Will it have that teardrop aluminum body? Will it have that faster dual-core A5 processor with 1GB of RAM and a spiffy 8-megapixel rear camera? Maybe that elongated multi-gesture home button? That's anybody's guess.
The next iPhone will no doubt attract a lot of attention and coverage next Tuesday, so to get the train rolling early, we've collected some of the craziest patents in Apple's portfolio that might make it into the new smartphone. Hey, Apple owns the patents to build the tech, who's to say it won't surprise everybody with a few of them?
U.S. & World
The lovable and tuggable magnetic power cords used on MacBooks would be a perfect fit on the iPhone. I can't tell you how much I hate the 30-pin cable on the iPhone. It has scratched the bottom of my iPhone way too many times when I blindly plug it in the dark. A magnetic cable would make attaching and detaching the iPhone from docks and computers a simple breeze. It works on the MacBooks, why wouldn't it on the iPhone?
The current iPhone 4 uses a beautiful 3.5-inch IPS LCD. It has wide viewing angles and decent blacks, but it's no match against a brighter OLED display. OLED displays have the advantage of low power management, faster response times, and can produce deeper blacks with even wider viewing angles. The only caveat? They're expensive as hell to make right and sell cheaply (although Samsung does sell some nice smartphones with Super AMOLED screens).
The original Palm Pre was ahead of its time with a built-in induction charging system. It's a shame HP decided to kill it along with webOS-based hardware. There are wireless systems available like the Energizer Inductive Charger, but those require special cases and charging pads for your iPhone (not exactly pretty ones either). This particular patent requires no special docks. It's like Wi-Fi. As soon as your iPhone senses the near field magnetic resonance, it will start charging — right there on your sofa, in your pants, or wherever.
This one is crazy. For all the confetti Apple loves to toss around about the iPhone 4's rich Retina Display, it's still a lousy device to use in direct sunlight — as is the case with any glass screen. A hybrid E Ink / LCD display would give the iPhone a major boost while using it outdoors (think Kindle E Ink) while keeping battery life down when in E Ink mode.
Thanks to the Internet, most of us sit in front of computer screens and communicate through some kind of instant or text message on our mobile devices. Calling is overrated now. Why talk when people can
sext text? Well, if Apple has its way, it could include parental controls that would censor or block naughty words from sending. Great way to keep sexting under control for that teenage kid you have? Absolutely.
For as long as science fiction has been around, holographic and 3D displays have been around with it. Why should we be limited to physical control inputs if we can manipulate functions on a projected display system. Think Kinect or Minority Report-style interfaces. That's what this patent is. In theory, an iPhone would be able to project a 3D display and be manipulated with your fingers or gestures. Hello 3D gaming!
It goes without saying that the bigger the battery the longer the device will last right? But what if you could have an infinite amount of energy, so long as you have access to sunlight? With Apple's patented solar-coated film, it could apply that tech onto the back of an IPhone or even the front bezels and if you wanted to charge it up, just let it shine on the window sill. It's clean energy and it'll save you a few bucks on your electricity bill. What's not to love?
Buttons? Who needs physical buttons? It's a race to the bottom and buttons need to die. If you've ever used a BlackBerry PlayBook, you'll know what I'm talking about here. Flick any border around the screen and it'll activate a different function. Smart bezels are intuitive and it's hard to go back to pressing buttons after you become accustomed to using them. Apple needs to copy that and bring it to the iPhone.
As powerful as an iPhone is, it's no MacBook Pro or iMac. You can't share data between one iPhone and an iPad. Both have to sync up to a computer and then the transfers made manually. An easier solution would be to simply tap the devices together to swap data. HP's done that with its now dead TouchPad and Pre smartphone. Apple has a better idea: pour it. It's the perfect gesture metaphor and even grandma will understand it. To move a photo from one iPhone to an iPad, just pour the photo into it. Simple.
Apple's obsession with turning audio menus into visual ones is pretty far reaching. First it revolutionized the super boring audio voicemails with visual voicemail so you don't need to cycle through robot operators and now it wants to improve ringtones. Yes sir, instead of just hearing a ringtone, Apple thinks it might be a better idea to see a video clip with the ringtone. Lame and annoying? Sure, but it's the little touches like this that make iPhones feel special.
It sucks to lose your precious iPhone. iPhones aren't cheap so it hurts real bad when someone steals it or you lose it in a bar. Trust me, I know, I've lost mine before, but luckily was able to recover it with the Find My iPhone feature. It's not perfect, but it does tell you in which vicinity your iPhone is at. If someone finds it and returns it, great. If someone finds it and doesn't return it or doesn't answer when you dial the iPhone, then you're screwed. The next logical step is to remotely trigger the cameras and record the finder and or see where it's aimed at. Then shoot that feed over to the police and you should have a better lead on who jacked your phone.
I don't know how Apple does it, but somehow its engineers and designers always seem to design products that are even thinner than the previous models. In the mobile world, every millimeter shaved off counts towards a thinner and lighter device. For the iPhone, you'd think Apple would hit a technological limit of thinning it down until it becomes as thin as the headphone jack, right? Nope, Apple's already working on a solution to that as well. Using unique sockets, hinges and micro doors, Apple might have figured out how to make iPhones thinner than a headphone jack, without changing the spec for a standard 3.5mm plug.