Apple patents strange iPhone-MacBook hybrid charging dock

A recently published patent revealed that Apple has been exploring the idea of a new iPhone and iPad dock. But this would be no ordinary dock — according to the patent filing, the accessory would look a lot like a MacBook.

The patent depicts a couple of versions of the dock: one for an iPhone, and one for an iPad. In both cases, you place your device into the housing of the dock, which then charges your device and incorporates it into a MacBook-like experience.

In the iPhone version, the phone is slotted into the palm rest area, taking the place normally occupied by a MacBook’s trackpad. In such a situation, the iPhone itself would become the trackpad. The iPhone’s display is mirrored onto the charging dock’s screen, and you can control it with the in-built keyboard. The other version depicted in the patent uses an iPad as a display, fitting it into the vertical side of the dock.

The interesting thing about these ideas is that both the iPhone or iPad and the charging dock would work together, each shouldering different workloads. Apple explains in the patent that the dock could have “limited or no data processing resources,” allowing the processor in your iPhone or iPad to power the whole setup. At the same time, the dock could include a GPU, memory, speakers and a display to enhance and extend the typical iOS experience.

As the patent explains, “The electronic accessory device [i.e. the charging dock] can be considered a ‘thin’ device, in that it extends the functionality of another device but is inoperable by itself as a stand-alone device.” This is not a new kind of laptop that pairs up with your phone — it’s a strange, hybrid device that sits halfway between an iPhone and a MacBook.

That sets Apple’s patent apart from a similar idea tried a couple of years ago by Razer. The company’s Project Linda also incorporated a phone into the body of the “laptop” but in Razer’s case, the phone was intended to be a trackpad-touchscreen hybrid (sort of like the Touch Bar in Apple’s MacBook Pro). All the processing power in Project Linda was to be provided by the laptop.

Seeing as this is a patent filing — and a very experimental one at that — it may never see the light of day. If it does ever get released, it’ll be one of the most unusual devices Apple has ever produced. Keep your eyes peeled.

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