Apple may call it the “Smart Cover,” but this particular accessory is nothing more than an expensive addition that may or may not fully protect your tablet if it drops.
That’s not saying much, but it appears that Apple has a range of ideas to smarten it up. In a patent application just made public, Apple detailed how it wants to make the Smart Cover a ridiculously useful accessory that could dramatically change the way iPads are being used.
The iPad’s screen is the main input and output device. While that’s not necessary a bad thing most of the time, it can be limiting when you’re performing certain tasks, such as extensive writing. Microsoft’s Surface showed us that it’s possible to have a thin Smart Cover-like cover that could double as a keyboard.
Apple may be taking that idea further by turning the Smart Cover into a touch-enabled secondary display that’is flexible, both physically and in terms of function. The same thinking was applied to the iPhone, where the company got rid all but one button on the device’s surface to allow more efficient use of the area.
What does that mean? The next-generation Smart Cover could be used as a keyboard (unlikely to provide any tactile feedback, though), or a display when you need to view two documents side by side, or even as a drawing and writing surface with a “Smart Pen.”
In some of the patent application’s figures, the Smart Cover is shown providing very specific functionality, such as video playback controls or the display of social network status updates. On the outside, an additional display could be used for notification purposes, such as incoming emails or even handwritten reminders. That’s not unlike the notification display found on older flip phones, like the Razr.
As with many of Apple’s patent applications, there’s no guarantee that this will be put into production. But I do hope it will make it passed the drawing board, even with just one or two of its described features. It could make the iPad a much more sophisticated device.
Third-party accessory makers may not be pleased, though. With the Smart Cover being such a huge part of the iPad experience, Apple will be on its way to dominate the iPad case market. Well, at least the third-parties could still make some back covers.
- United States Patent Application: 0120194448 [USPTO]
- Apple Invents Mind Boggling Next Generation Smart Cover with Multi-Touch Flexible Display, Solar Panels & Built-in Keyboard [Patently Apple]