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Apple is working on iPhone designs like nothing we’ve seen before – here’s proof

Published Feb 18th, 2021 9:00AM EST
MacBook 2021
Image: Apple

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  • Apple recently patented a new design that could see iPhones and iPads sport a secondary display on the back.
  • Another patent showcases a redesigned MacBook Pro with a curved display and a new Touch Bar configuration.
  • There have been rumors, however, that Apple will abandon the Touch Bar on new MacBook Pro models later this year.

In 2006, Creative Technology sued Apple and alleged that Apple’s iPod interface infringed upon its own media player patents. Apple settled the dispute for $100 million in a relatively quick manner, but the lawsuit itself ultimately had a huge impact on how Apple protects its intellectual property.

Following the settlement, Steve Jobs was reportedly furious and subsequently told the company’s top managers that Apple, going forward, would patent every single idea and innovation its engineers came up with. Before long, Apple engineers were having meetings with IP lawyers on a regular basis to determine if anything they were working on merited patent protection.

In light of the above, Apple today still has a tendency to patent everything under the sun. Consequently, the company routinely files patents for ideas and technologies that quite literally have little to no chance of ever showing up in a shipping product. So while it’s important not to get carried away with Apple patents, it’s also true that the company’s patent filings can sometimes provide us with clues as to where Apple envisions taking its existing product line.

That said, PatentlyApple reports that the USPTO this week published 77 patent filings granted to Apple that encompass interesting technological developments and a handful of novel MacBook, iPad, and iPhone designs.

One patent application, for example, envisions an iPad or iPhone with a secondary display on the back that could be used to provide users with information about a subject being photographed. This is obviously a design that’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before on an iPhone. Per the patent filing, the display would also boast multitouch technology.

PatentlyApple adds:

One of the key-focuses of the secondary display is that it could provide the photographer with “stimulus features” that could make subjects being photographed pay attention to the camera, to smile, laugh on cue as the shot is about to be taken.

Moving along to the Mac, it’s no secret that the Touch Bar wasn’t exactly the revolutionary feature Apple made it out to be when it was unveiled a few years ago. In fact, there are even rumors Apple will abandon the Touch Bar entirely later this year.

That notwithstanding, some of Apple’s patents detail new configurations for the oft-maligned Touch Bar. In one patent drawing, the Touch Bar — which is designated in yellow — appears at the bottom of a somewhat curved display. This implementation would arguably be a bit more ergonomic than the current implementation, but again, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple axed the feature altogether, similar to what it did with 3D Touch on the iPhone.

To this point, reputed Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently released a new investor note claiming that Apple is planning to introduce two new MacBook Pro models later this year. Both models will reportedly boast a slightly new design and will include traditional physical function keys as opposed to a Touch Bar.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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