Apple patents can offer an intriguing glimpse at what the Californian tech giant might be working on for the future. You may have noticed that we're big fans of Apple products here at Creative Bloq. Aside from the occasional exception to the rule, we love their combination of stunning design and outstanding performance. But a lot of Apple's main products have been around for some time now, coming in for updates of varying degrees of significance every year or two.
The iPhone's been around since 2007, the iPad since 2010 and the Apple Watch since 2015. The newest completely new product category was the HomePod, released in 2018. But that doesn't mean Apple's given up on completely new products. There's the Apple Car reportedly on the way, and every year Apple files a range of patents that allow us to glimpse what could be possible future products or features added to existing ones.
Of course, companies file patents for a number of reasons, not only because they're actively working on a concept. All the same, a look at the most exciting Apple patents can at least give us an idea of the possibilities that could be in store – and feed our imaginations. Many of these developments may still be a long time coming, mind, if they even become reality, so check out our guide to the best Apple Prime Day deals if you're looking for the best prices on Apple's current range.
01. An Apple game controller
Gaming is one area that Apple's not ventured into since the Apple Bandai Pippin way back in 1996, but it has filed a patent for a game controller. And it's not just any controller; it's an iPhone game controller. The design patented describes a device that can attach to the iPhone magnetically (presumably via MagSafe). And there are several possible configurations, including versions that can fold up.
The Magnetically Attachable Gaming Accessory – we guess that won't be the final name – would "readily attach to an electronic device, can be easy to use, and can have a small and efficient form factor." It could also be used in two different ways – either attached to the phone or separately, which makes it sound like Apple's taken a little inspiration from the Nintendo Switch. The use of magnets would be new, however.
It's too early to tell if this will see the light of day, but it does at least suggest that Apple hasn't ruled out gaming products. See our guide to the best Nintendo Switch deals and best Nintendo Switch accessories if you can't wait to see if this materialises.
02. A Mac/iPad hybrid
Several brands have produced successful two-in-one tablet/laptop devices in recent years, most notably Microsoft's Surface range. They offer a range of advantages, allowing you to use fully fledged desktop software on a super portable device. It's a format that Apple hasn't gone in for, but can you imagine a device that combines the power of a MacBook with the portability and tactile screen of an iPad? Well, it seems that Apple can based on this Apple patent.
This Apple patent, which was revealed by the site Patently Apple (opens in new tab), describes a modular design that could be formatted in multiple ways, with multiple screens and removable keyboards. It looks like if it came to fruition it would be Apple's most versatile device ever, and it would go further than the existing hybrid devices on the market since it could "morph into various types of computing devices by adding various accessory components," such as keyboards and extra screens.
The modular format could allow the flexibility to use the device, for example, as a traditional laptop or tablet or as two screens with no keyboard. The possibilities would be almost infinite. For the nearest thing at the moment, see our roundup of the best Microsoft Surface deals.
03. Magic keyboard
Not all of the latest Apple patents are for devices that would be completely new. One recent patent suggest Apple may have plans for its Magic keyboard. The filing describes a "Sliding Input Device Cover" that would act much like the current Magic Keyboard, with a key difference – that "sliding" part.
The design shown in the filing completely does away with the current Magic Keyboard's cylindrical spine (it isn't clear where the USB-C port might go). When opened, the keyboard would be 'pushed' towards the user. It seems like it could provide a little more space between the tablet and the keys, making the number keys easier to access than on the current design. But most notably, it could allow for a larger trackpad, or even for a larger iPad to be attached.
"A portion of the input device can extend laterally away from an edge," reads the patent. It's not such a radical concept as those described in the Apple patents above, but it's interesting to consider what it could mean for the iPad. After all, a bigger keyboard could mean bigger tablets – and we've already heard rumours that Apple is working on iPads as large as 16-inches.
04. Apple Pencil 3
Another existing device that might get a big upgrade according to patent filings is the Apple Pencil. Two new patents suggest that a future Apple stylus (the Apple Pencil 3?) could have a VR use. The patents describe a next-generation stylus with haptic feedback – a first for the Apple Pencil.
But, at the same time, there were also updates made to Apple's VR/AR patents, and it's exciting to connect the dots and imagine haptic feedback being used to create a virtual reality stylus that allows us to write notes and paint digital art in VR, feeling the response as we waft the Pencil around in the air. If this worked like other haptic-enabled devices, such as PlayStation 5's DualSense controller, then we'd be able to feel when the Pencil crosses a line in a piece of artwork.
The second patent is even more exciting. Titled 'Stylus with touch input and compressive force sensors', it suggests a new Apple Pencil could add sense swipes and squeezes to the current double-tap sensitivity used to swap tools on the Apple Pencil 2. The idea that we could swipe a finger up or down the stylus to alter its function is interesting, perhaps to zoom in and out of an artwork, and being able to squeeze the stem of the stylus gently would be a great way to be able to quickly change modes, for example, to switch the thickness.
Time will tell whether any of these latest Apple patents actually see the light of day. For the moment, if you want the best of Apple's current tech, be sure to take a look at our main Apple deals page to find the best prices.