New patents point toward a very interesting new Apple invention – electromagnets installed on the edges of the iPad. Why would Apple be so interested in extra magnetic components? The answer appears to be a revolution in how Apple treats magnetic cases and accessories.
If you’ve tried one of Apple’s folding magnetic smart covers, you know it’s held on by a magnetized strip at the bottom that latches onto the side of the iPad. It’s a serviceable design, but it isn’t very protective, and doesn’t do any good if your iPad slips or you drop your iPad while using it.
A new border of electromagnets outlined in Apple’s patent would completely change that for the better. You see, the great thing about electromagnets is that they don’t always exert magnetic force – they have to be charged in order for them to work. That means that an accessory like a smart cover can act normally… until the iPad sensors detect unusual movement, jostling or other signs that something is wrong.
Then the iPad can go into sort of emergency mode that activates the electromagnets and locks the case onto the iPad. It may not stop severe shock damage, but it does increase the likelihood that the screen will survive undamaged.
But that’s not all! These electromagnets could have other purposes as well, especially if they are built with embedded sensors that let the magnets know when certain devices are nearby. This could allow for many interesting applications for both existing and brand new Apple accessories.
For example, the Apple Pencil may be able to activate such electromagnets and attach directly to the iPad, allowing you to instantly “store” your Pen when you need a spare hand or won’t be using the Pencil for a few minutes.
However, the patent drawings also show an example of a keyboard sheet, which is designed to lay on top of the iPad when in use. It’s a cool idea, but it only works because of the electromagnets that allow the sheet to lock into place. You can quickly see that a whole new family of accessories is possible where they “lock” onto some part of the screen to do their duty (think of something like a Microsoft Surface Dial, for example).
It’s also worth noting that the iPad was conspicuously absent from the last Apple Event, and if Apple really is preparing some major iPad announcements, whether this year or next, it could be an excellent time to introduce new accessories as well!
So far, these ideas are only patent blueprints. That means we don’t know precisely what sorts of products Apple is thinking about using these electromagnets with, or when they might be released. However, it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t the first time Apple has been spotted thinking about new versions of the smart cover. The company has also filed patents for smart covers that have digital areas that can show important information (like alerts) on their own without needing to take the cover off. Exciting stuff!