By Greg Mills, Associate Editor
Black holes are massive stars that — due to their own gravity exceeding their structural strength — suck light back in instead of generating light. Apple is sort of the industrial equivalent of a black hole, at least as far as R&D is concerned. The rubber dagger patents we see anymore make trade secrets far more viable a way to protect new product that have not been released yet.
One of the problems with the US Federal Communications Commission, which publicly releases information about new radio frequency devices (often against the wishes of device certification applicants) sometimes spills the beans prior to launch.The US Patent Office does exactly the same thing by publishing patent applications after they have been filed. This “outs” things Apple would rather keep under wraps.
Apple files thousands of patent applications a year, so keep in mind that, not wanting competition to do something they can patent, often isn’t indicative that an Apple product along those lines is coming out. Since there is precious little light coming out of Apple, the press keeps a close eye on patent applications and FCC filings.
There has been a lot of speculation that Apple has an “iWatch” on the way. A patent application was published this morning that gives a bit of information regarding some at least preliminary concepts Apple has played with. See: 20130044215 Apple calls the device a wearable video device but the title of the patent application is “BI-STABLE SPRING WITH FLEXIBLE DISPLAY.”
Keep in mind also that patent applications tend to be cast broadly and issued narrowly. Some concepts that even pass the scrutiny of the Patent Office never make it into the actual product. The basic concept is to use a steel spring “slap bracelet” wrapped with electronics and a flexible color display. The slap bracelet form factor makes one size fit all and adds to the coolness of the device.
I colorized a couple of patent application pictures to show the “slap bracelet” form factor the application attempts to patent. Form factor has turned out to be a major element of new products at Apple. Design patents are certainly also in the works for this. Utility patents protect how things work while design patents protect how things look.
Per the patent filing, the device wirelessly connects with an iPhone or iPad and can display information from the memory of the larger device. As I predicted in a previous post, there is too much volume under the hood of an iPhone to fit in a watch form factor so the watch will connect sort of like a BlueTooth ear phone.
Features include a continuous display system where the end of the bracelet knows where to merge the displayed image to make the bracelet show a continuous image. The watch has a sensor that tells it when to turn on and off. When you hold it up to your face, as in viewing a common watch, the display comes on automatically and kills the display when you put your arm down.
This conserves battery life. The device might have solar cells hidden in it that help keep the watch charged. There is a battery in it that can also be charged by movement of the device. The patent application talks a lot about powering the device.
The color display is flexible to allow the device to be flat or curled and not be damaged. The display also has a touch layer to allow an iPad-like interface with the user. The interconnection to a “portable electronic device” (think iPhone or iPad) is described in the following paragraph pasted directly into this article:
“A slap bracelet configured to display information wirelessly transmitted from a portable electronic device, the slap bracelet comprising: a communication link, allowing two-way communication between the slap bracelet and the portable electronic device; a flexible display disposed over a portion of a first surface of the slap bracelet; a touch sensitive user interface disposed over the top of the flexible display; and an electronic module disposed on one end of the first surface of the slap bracelet; wherein information generated on either device can be displayed on either the host device display or the flexible display.”
Although a speaker isn’t mentioned, the device might have one. This watch will be connected at the hip to an iPhone or iPad but is not likely to work with an Android device. Apple will certainly want to keep everything in the family.
That is Greg’s Bite.