What Apple patents say about the Apple Watch 2
Apple's first smartwatch, the Apple Watch, is arrived in April, and is likely to be the first generation of many. Here, we bring you some smartwatch applicable patents that could hint at future wearables from the company. (If you're keen to read about Apple Watch 2 rumours, remember to check our dedicated article: Apple Watch 2 rumours and features wish list.)
Apple Watch patents: Interchangeable wristbands
With the new Apple Watch, Apple wants to combine high tech, style and comfort.
Having previously been granted patents for three different wristbands - Sport Band, Classic Buckle and Link Bracelet - Apple has followed this up with a patent for a three-contacts system that sits on the band attachment and ensures a smooth and quick exchange between different wristbands.
Although this is not a revolutionary idea, we're sure that Apple Watch users will appreciate the stylistic flexibility this offers.
Read next: Best Apple Watch straps
Apple Watch patents: Heart ID
A patent filed by Apple in 2009 and published in December reveals that Apple is looking into a new way of confirming that you are who you say you are, and we're not talking about the fingerprint sensor that arrived with the iPhone 5s.
Apple has gone further still, suggesting that a heart rate monitor could be built in to a device to not only provide health and fitness tracking capabilities but also the ability to identify or authenticate the user based on the detected signals.
Apple Watch patents: Liquidmetal
In late November 2013, five new Apple patents were published relating to Liquidmetal, a material that Apple has the exclusive license to. So far, Apple has only used Liquidmetal in the iPhone SIM ejector tool, but the new patents suggest that Apple could be working to use Liquidmetal to build iPhones, iPads and also the smartwatches.
Liquidmetal is extremely strong and durable, and therefore can be used in smaller quantities to get the same level of build quality as aluminium. This could mean lighter, thinner devices are on their way from Apple in the future.
Specifically, Apple's patents list many products that could benefit from the use of Liquidmetal, including a telephone (namely, the iPhone), an "electronic email sending/receiving device," a digital display, a TV monitor, an e-reader, an iPad, a computer monitor, a DVD player, a video games console, an iPod, an Apple TV or accessories such as a keyboard, mouse or speaker.
Interestingly, Apple also notes that Liquidmetal can be used in a device such as "a watch or a clock" which could hint that a future Apple Watch that takes advantage of the material.
While we don't expect Apple to launch products made from Liquidmetal just yet due to the struggles that come with manufacturing with the material, it's likely that the future of Apple devices will involve Liquidmetal on a much bigger scale than the current SIM ejector tool!
Macworld poll: What do you want from the Apple Watch 2?
We've offered a glimpse of future developments Apple is considering for its smartwatch line. But what would you like to see in the next Apple Watch?
Have your say by entering our poll:
What Apple patents say about new Macs
What about the Mac? In this section we examine clues to future Mac developments that can be gleaned from Apple's patent activity.
Apple Mac patents: Advanced MacBook keyboard
Apple's Mac keyboards could be getting a pretty cool upgrade if a patent spotted at the end of June 2014 is ever put into use. It describes a method of building mini displays into the keys to provide customisable keys and the ability to change the symbols displayed to suit different languages, musical notes or coding functions, for example.
The keys could also offer haptic feedback, including vibration or increased resistance, where applicable.
Apple Mac patents: Wireless mouse/keyboard charging
Future Apple keyboards and mice could be charged wirelessly using a magnetic transmitters and receivers.
Apple has been awarded a patent that aims to create "efficient and friendly interaction between peripheral devices in a wirelessly powered local computing environment," using a wireless near-field magnetic resonance (NFMR) to transmit power to mice, keyboards and other peripherals with built-in magnetic receivers.
Apple Mac patents: Touch-sensitive MacBook chassis
Apple could eliminate the need for some of the physical buttons found on the MacBook using this next patent. It describes a laptop that has a touch-sensitive chassis that would allow Apple to introduce touch input to the bezels of a MacBook for the volume and brightness keys, for example.
Another use described in the patent relates to the ports on the side of the MacBook. A user could touch the USB port, for example, and the MacBook would inform them that it is indeed the USB port they've located by saying "USB" or displaying a USB-related window.
This patent even suggests that squeezing the MacBook chassis could be an alternative method of input. The user could squeeze the left side of the MacBook between their fingers to lower the volume, for example, and the right side to increase the volume.
Apple Mac patents: Touchscreen MacBook
In February 2013, a newly published Apple patent application led to speculation that Apple is working on a touchscreen MacBook.
The patent application clearly states that the advanced 'Integrated Touch' In-Cell display first used in the iPhone 5 could be applied to the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMac.
Apple Mac patents: MacBook-iPad Hybrid
Despite Apple CEO Tim Cook's comments that a MacBook and iPad hybrid product would be like combining a fridge and a toaster, Apple has filed a patent for such device.
Apple's patent describes a device that would have a touchscreen display that can be removed from the keyboard and trackpad-equipped base, and can also be rotated when attached to the base.
Additionally, power could be wirelessly transferred from the base component to the detached display.
Apple Mac patents: Solar-powered MacBook
A rather adventurous patent published by USPTO in January describes a MacBook display that acts as a solar panel and also a double-sided screen.
According to the patent, the invention would have the normal MacBook screen on the front, and a secondary touch-display that has the ability to act as a solar panel on the back.
This patent combined with the patent described above could hint that Apple is investigating a new type of device that combines the iPad and the MacBook.
There have been rumours about an upcoming 'iPad Pro', which some believe will be Apple's first foray into tablet and laptop hybrids.
Find out more about the patent in our Apple patents solar-powered MacBook article.
Apple Mac patents: Siri for Mac
Several patents relating to Siri on the Mac have been published by Apple, leading us to believe that the voice-activated personal assistant is on its way to OS X soon. You can find out more in our Siri for Mac release date rumour round-up.
Continue on to page 4 to find out what Apple patents say about the rumoured Apple Television, upcoming Apple accessories and futuristic tech.