A patent by Apple that showcases dual-screen iPad design is making rounds of the internet. The concept sounds very familiar to the Microsoft Neo, a folding Windows tablet with dual screens. Upon closer inspection, Apple’s patent is a little different.
It is not one device with two screens but preferably two screens connected via a hinge-like accessory. Sure, the Neo also has a hinge that connects the two devices, but it is not detachable. Apple’s patent focused on the iPad seems to have a little more flexibility considering its implications.
Apple’s Dual-screen iPad design
The patent filed to the USPTO goes by the name “Modular multiple display electronic devices.” The name itself sounds more than a dual-screen iPad for starters.
The patent outlines how two tablets could connect and make one device through a unique hinge mechanism. The hinge would connect the devices and allow them to work in a laptop-like fashion. It acts as the key accessory, which makes the mechanism, mentioned by the patent, work.
The hinge will plug into both devices and act as a connector to facilitate two devices to work together. The connections could facilitate display connection, keyboard input, second screen, or data transfers. The primary function of the accessory would be to connect the two screens to act like one device.
Implications of the design
The most obvious use case, as mentioned before, would be a laptop-like behavior. The lower device could act as a keyboard for the upper device. Functionality like the MacBook’s touch bar could work with the content presented on the upper device.
Both screens standing upright would see the device in portrait orientation. In this mode, the device could behave like a book for tasks like eReading or video conferencing.
But diagrams in the patent point to even more productive video conferencing sessions. There are uses cases shown where the hinge connects a bigger device and a smaller one. The smaller device looks to be able to connect in both landscape and portrait orientations. Think of an iPad connecting to an iPhone. Most users would have those two devices and would need an additional unique hinge.
The name of the patent containing the word “modular” adds more implications to the idea. With the hinge, any supported devices could connect to provide the functionality of one. For example, an older iPad could act as the lower device to a new iPad Pro.
Possibility of the design
While the hinge mechanism patent is an interesting one by Apple, there is no confirmation about it being a possibility. Apple files a lot of patents every year, and most of them do not make it to the market. This patent, too, could meet the same demise and not see the light of the day.
If the design is to make it to the market, the iPad and iPhone will have to include a port to support this unique hinge. The current magnetic connectors used by iPad Pro to connect to the keyboards will not support the weight.
The patent was filed on September 7, 2018, and was granted by USPTO on July 28, 2020.