Imagine if your iPhone could replace your MacBook Pro's traditional trackpad, or if your iPad could dock and double as your laptop's screen. Apple has patented a host computer that could potentially do both.
The patent, reported by AppleInsider (opens in new tab), details an "Electronic Accessory Device" that would let future iOS products become a part of a larger hardware system to "extend the functionality of a portable computing device."
"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," Apple writes in US Patent No 10,545,542 (opens in new tab).
One sketch attached to the patent shows a MacBook Pro-like computer with an iPhone slot in leu of a trackpad. Another variation shows the same shell accessory but with an iPad housed where the MacBook Pro's display would be.
Apple anticipates that the patented accessory won't work as a stand-alone computer and will need a host to operate.
"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," the patent reads.
Although the iPad version of this gadget sounds a bit like a pretentious keyboard case, I would be interested in seeing how it works with an iPhone. It seems the iPhone's touch screen would work as the trackpad, but I wonder if the display would mirror to a larger screen, too.
Brett Denger is listed as the device's inventor. He's credited on a number of Apple's patents, like the curved iMac display that looks straight our of Star Trek.
Apple patents variations of its devices all the time, and very few see the light of day. Like an Apple Watch with a camera in the wristband and foldable iPhone, for example. In other words, it's unlikely this iPad-iPhone housing device will be unveiled with the iPhone 12 or the next iPad Pro.