Photo Source: AppleInsider
This story of a new patent potentially combining two Apple devices into an interesting hybrid has been circulating for over a week now, courtesy of AppleInsider. iPad news is fairly slow at the moment so I finally had a chance to circle back to it this weekend.
Before saying anything else, as with all Apple patents, there is no guarantee that this product or anything like it will ever come to market. However, these patent applications can be an effective way to track things that Apple is interested in and putting research dollars into.
This new patent, which is titled “Modular multiple display electronic devices,” covers taking two Apple devices and combining them with a hinge that will facilitate communication and coordination between them. The hinge would have to either connect to the ports on the devices, connect to a new Smart Connector or similar port, or it could potentially use wireless, although that isn’t described in the patent.
As for the devices this hinge would apply to, that is left non-specific if you read through the patent application or AppleInsider’s description of it. However, the illustrations included with the patent certainly make it look like it is geared toward iPads. Considering the many keyboard accessories available for the iPad and Apple’s own premium Magic Keyboard, that certainly makes sense.
While this dual screen setup of two separate devices is fairly unique among Apple’s patents, the company has definitely looked into using touchscreens as keyboards before. In fact, there have been a couple of Apple patents in the past covering a clamshell laptop-like form factor for both iPadOS and macOS. So this isn’t a complete new concept for the company, but more of a fresh spin on it.
The concept behind this patent certainly isn’t revolutionary. There are already dual screen folding devices on the market and anyone who keeps an eye on tech has seen Microsoft’s announcement of the Surface Duo, which hasn’t been released yet. However, the difference with this patent proposal is that it would take two separate devices and allow them to work together using a removable hinge. As you can see from the picture below, the hinge also allows devices to work in both landscape and portrait orientations.
Photo Source: AppleInsider
The inevitable question with this interesting concept is who has a spare iPad laying around to pair up? If so, how many have one of the same size and type? That said, there is nothing in the patent that precludes the use of different types of devices, or different size devices with each other. While that could be awkward in portrait orientation, it could still work well in landscape, with the larger device becoming an anchor and keyboard accessory. The potential to use this hinge with different devices that you may already own does add versatility and makes it seem a little more reasonable to invest in.
While I know Apple patents often don’t come to market as we see them, they are an interesting window into R&D and things the company may be prioritizing. However, in this case, we have a proposed device and software integration that seems more feasible to deliver than others I’ve written about in the past. I’m not saying that Apple will ever make a unifying hinge like this, but I do think the concept is interesting and I don’t think it would be prohibitively expensive for Apple to produce and sell.
If nothing else, we know that Apple has been looking into folding devices for a while now. Maybe this hinge design is a part of that research. Maybe this is a contingency plan if folding devices turn out to be a fad that only the hard-core tech fans end up caring about. If they continue to be very expensive, this hinge could be research into a way to provide a similar experience with devices that users already own. In my opinion, it’s interesting enough to think about as a real possibility considering where the market is going with dual screens at the moment.
What do you think of this Apple patent for a hinge to join two Apple devices? Would you have a use to pair up a couple of their devices? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.