A Surface hotspot? Microsoft patent reveals plans for a mobile modem

surface
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
A patent application may have revealed the existence of a new piece of portable hardware from Microsoft — but unfortunately for users eagerly anticipating the rumored Surface Phone, it’s probably not a smartphone. Instead, it’s likely a wireless hotspot intended to help laptops and tablets connect to the web when you are out and about.

The patent describes a “folding wireless communications device” that lends LTE capabilities to another device while occupying a small, lightweight form factor, according to a report from Pocket Now. It is said to measure 90 mm by 57 mm, which would make it easy to stow in a pocket or throw in a bag.

Many modern laptops have built-in LTE support, but older models rarely offer this kind of functionality. Having a separate accessory to bridge the gap would allow users to gain reliable internet access wherever they are without having to invest in a brand new system.

microsoft patent mobile lte modem accessory hotspot surface drawing

Given that there has been so much hype about the possibility of a Surface Phone, some observers believe that this patent might be evidence that Microsoft is considering a clamshell design for the as-yet-unannounced device. For instance, the design was assumed to be related to the smartphone project in a report from MSPoweruser.

However, the small display pictured in the drawings submitted by Microsoft seems to suggest that this is some kind of hotspot, rather than a smartphone. The accompanying description states that the screen would be used to communicate battery status, signal strength, the name of the current carrier, or the current network throughput, all of which point to a modem accessory rather than a Surface Phone.

Of course, the fact that this patent sent tongues wagging over the prospect of the Surface Phone demonstrates just how much interest there is in that project. Even though various iterations of the Windows Phone never really set the world alight, the Surface brand is so strong that there is a lot of curiosity about how it might carry over to the smartphone arena.

There is no word on what the current status of this hotspot hardware might be. The patent was submitted in January 2016, but was only made public in July.

Photography

This device backs up DSLR photos using 4G and works as a wireless tether

What if you could back up your photos as you shoot, instead of at home? The Cambuddy Plus is an accessory that uses 4G and high-speed Wi-Fi to automatically back up photos to a cloud service.
Mobile

Declutter your life with our favorite wireless chargers for Android and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Mobile

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Gaming

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Photography

Forget painting-style transfers, this A.I. creates realistic portraits of fake people

Do these images look computer-generated? Nvidia researchers recently published a paper on a new variation on style transfer artificial intelligence that's able to generate entirely new portraits.
Computing

Leaked HP laptop listing reveals entry-level Nvidia MX250 GPU

Alongside powerful graphics cards, Nvidia may have more mobile GPUs to show off at next year's CES show in January. The MX250 has been spotted in a listing for an HP laptop, potentially replacing the entry-level MX150.
Computing

ZSpace’s laptop brings education to life with its own 3D technology

The ZSpace laptop wants to overhaul education and training by offering affordable access to 3D mixed reality through a bespoke screen and glasses technology that is already supported by a wide array of applications.
Computing

Former Microsoft intern claims Google may have sabotaged Edge browser

Google's Chrome web browser has been able to establish such dominance that Microsoft is abandoning its web rendering engine, switching Edge over to Chromium, but did Google play dirty in an attempt to force Microsoft to make the decision?
Computing

ViewSonic’s 1080p gaming monitor lets you experience the action in style

ViewSonic is catering to gamers with its latest monitor, the XG240R. Featuring a 1080p 144Hz panel, RGB lighting, and a fast 1ms response time, you can conquer your opponents and do it in style.
Computing

Here’s why you might still be using Wi-Fi after cellular 5G launches

Cellular 5G might be around the corner and promising to deliver lightning fast speeds, but the folks over at the Wi-Fi Alliance have a few reasons why they think you shouldn't dump Wi-Fi just yet.
Computing

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.
Computing

Detangle your desk with a mighty wireless mouse. Here are our six favorites

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. These six models have something for everyone, whether you're a hardcore gamer or simply looking to ward off carpal tunnel.
Web

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.