Patent report: future Smart Covers for the iPad could have their own built-in displays

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are today’s patent highlights:

A new patent filing (number 20160224238) shows that Apple has at least mulled over the idea of offering Smart Covers for the iPad that have built-in displays. Yep, I mean covers with small screens built-in.

The invention is for a tablet with a flexible cover into which a thin flexible display technology can be integrated 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, according to Apple. 

How so? Increasing the display area could lead to a significant expansion in functionality. Unfortunately, Apple says that 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 company thinks a Smart Cover with a built-in screen could be the answer.

Apple has also applied for a patent (number 20160227600) for “multi-device wireless disable and enable” with the goal of allowing one of two powered iOS or OS X devices to actively enable or disable another device.

According to the invention, one wireless device can mirror the settings of a paired device such that when the paired device is set to airplane mode, the wireless device can automatically be set to airplane. What’s more, when the airplane mode is disabled in the paired device, the wireless device can automatically disable its own airplane mode. (Airplane mode disables a device’s cellular radio, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth — the wireless transmission functions.)

Apple says that when a user possesses multiple devices on their person and wants to set each and every device into an airplane mode (if they are traveling, for instance) “it may become cumbersome and tedious to set each and every device individually to an airplane mode.” The company wants to alleviate this problem.

Finally, Apple has applied for a patent (number 20160225551) for a “sealed button for an electronic device” that gives hope that future iPhones and Apple Watches might be waterproof.