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Apple patent reveals how future iPhone cases could morph your interface

Catalyst Vibe Case is the best iPhone 13 Pro case
(Image credit: Catalyst)

Apple could be gearing up to sell you cases that are good for more than protecting your phone. But we’re not talking about cases with simple things like credit card slots or even MagSafe

Instead a new patent application (opens in new tab) (via Patently Apple (opens in new tab)) details cases with NFC built-in, designed to alter and optimize your iPhone’s interface for a specific purpose.

iPhone case patent showing camera case and gaming case

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Say, for instance, you have an iPhone case for sports. Putting your iPhone into that case would change the interface into something a little more sport focussed. Likewise, a camera or gaming cases would adapt your screen into something more intuitive — while potentially adding extra buttons.

It’s not difficult to imagine a gaming case could come with triggers and other specialized controls. All while causing the phone to enter a dedicated ‘gaming mode’ that boosts performance and frees you from distractions.

Likewise, a car mount could offer something a little better than what Apple’s Driving Focus currently has to offer. Driving Focus launches when your phone connects to your car’s Bluetooth, suspending notifications to keep you focused on the road ahead. 

A car mount with this new tech could kick Driving Focus into gear, while also displaying a driving friendly interface. In fact, the patent details this, with the inserted iPhone launching CarPlay and Apple Maps instead of the standard iOS UI. It’s pretty similar to what Amazon’s Echo Auto can do, automatically telling the Alexa app to launch Driving Mode.

iPhone case patent illustration showing car case and bike case

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Other examples in the patent include speaker docks, alarm clocks, bike docks and one specifically designed for smart home automation — which also includes a TV remote. 

That last one is particularly interesting, given how Apple hasn’t followed the trend of selling a smart home display. A specialized case might be able to fill that void, without forcing users to buy an expensive new device.

It’s all quite interesting when you think about it. Smartphones are incredibly useful, but they can’t be optimized for every possible scenario all the time. Special cases or docks would be a great way to offer improved functionality to those that want it. The wireless aspect means it shouldn’t be too difficult to swap between cases either.

The downside is that this is a patent application. There’s no guarantee Apple will be granted the patent, and or that it will release any of these cases — much as we’d like to see these cases hit Apple Store shelves. So we’ll just have to sit tight and see if Apple can pull something off in time for the iPhone 14 or if it will be 2023 or later.

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.