Apple is certainly no stranger to innovation, and with the expectations running higher than ever, the company may be gearing up to steal yet more thunder from the tablet market it already dominates. According to patent documents filed Aug. 2 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and first discovered by the Mac-centric blog AppleInsider, Apple is working on a type of smart cover for its popular tablet that could include touch sensitivity and feature a magnetic connection to the device to share information on the screen.
Under the filing title Cover Attachment With Flexible Display, the component is described in the filing as a bendable flap configured to present visual information, including a data connector, which can pass data information between the flap and the tablet. Thin flexible display technology can be integrated into the flexible cover without affecting the overall form factor of the cover or tablet device. Adding the integrated display to the flexible cover greatly enhances the overall functionality of the tablet device, the filings abstract stated.
The patent claim notes that while tablets can perform an extensive variety of tasks, the overall functionality of tablets still has room for improvement, such as increasing the display area, which could lead to a significant expansion in functionality. The flap would be powered through wireless means and offer a method for passing information between the flap and the tablet. Other features could include the ability to use a stylus on the flap, according to the filing.
Unfortunately, since displays already dominate a majority of one side of tablet devices, device manufacturers generally choose between making the display, and therefore the device itself, larger, thereby reducing the portability or making the device and display smaller with the result of a less functional device, the filing said. Neither solution is desirable; therefore, a way to extend the usability and functionality of a tablet device without making it any larger is desired.
The idea, first filed in August 2011 and credited to Fletcher Rothkopf, manager of product design at Apple since December 2011, would directly challenge the Surface tablet, which features a thin keyboard, called the Touch Cover. When folded up, it serves as a protective cover that connects to the Surface via a magnetic strip, and adds only 3mm to the tablets thickness. For tablet users who prefer tactile style, Microsoft will also offer a Type Cover with a full track-pad and clickable buttons.