Apple imagines shells that change the interface of the iPhone for photography, music, video games…

Apple has filed a patent application relating to iPhone cases and docking stations; the brand would like to change the operation and the user interface of the iPhone according to usage.

The iPhone 13 Pro // Source: Unsplash Howard Bouchevereau

Apple regularly files patent applications for its innovations, such as those which recently attest that the Apple brand is working on a foldable OLED screen. This time around, Apple wants to change the user interface (UI) of your iPhone based on the case you put on it or the dock you plug it into. A way to adapt the phone’s UI according to your uses, for even more practicality and intuitiveness.

A new patent from Apple for cases and docking stations

the US Patent and Trademark Office (the US Patent and Trademark Office) received a patent application from Apple (it’s application number 20220150347 for the curious). It relates to electronic devices and accessories that have near-field wireless communication systems. When a device (iPhone, iPad) detects it, it dynamically changes its operation by switching from one graphical user interface to another.

The interest is to adapt these user interfaces to the different uses that we can have of the iPhone. The goal is to make them simpler than the iOS interface we all know today: fewer buttons, fewer clicks.

This is what can be read in the summary of this request. We concede it to you, it is a bit abstract. But where Apple is generous is on the examples of uses given in this patent application.

An iPhone that changes its interface if you put it in a special shell

For example, if you place your iPhone in a case for sports, like the pouches you put on your arms, it could very well change its interface to a UI designed for sports use. We can imagine that Apple put forward a step counter, music control, GPS display, etc.

This can also work for docking stations. If you place an Apple phone on a dock with speakers, you might see the interface change to show mostly audio playback controls. We might also see a docking station made for the alarm clock appear.

Apple imagines shells that change the interface of the iPhone for photography, music, video games...
A docking station concept for iPhone // Source: patent application “Dynamic User Interface Schemes For An Electronic Device Based On Detected Accessory Devices”

You can use the iPhone on the move, in the car or on a bicycle. Apple thought about it: if you plug your iPhone into a Car Dock, the interface could change and only display CarPlay, Maps. Likewise on a bike where you could see the GPS and sports data appear (speed, heart rate, length of the journey).

Apple imagines shells that change the interface of the iPhone for photography, music, video games...
The iPhone could change its interface if it is connected in a car or if it is fixed on a bicycle // Source: patent application “Dynamic User Interface Schemes For An Electronic Device Based On Detected Accessory Devices”
Apple imagines shells that change the interface of the iPhone for photography, music, video games...
Two iPhone case concepts dedicated to photography and video games // Source: patent application “Dynamic User Interface Schemes For An Electronic Device Based On Detected Accessory Devices”

Apple also imagines specialized shells for certain uses. For example: a shell made for photography, which could display functionalities relating to the camera (modes, settings). On the video game side, a shell designed for the game could see the light of day, with triggers; instead of having them integrated into the phone like on the Xiaomi Poco F4 GT, they would be in a shell. When you equip your iPhone with the latter, the interface could also change to a screen dedicated to video games. We can imagine settings for the triggers, the display of your video game library, etc.

Finally, Apple is presenting an iPhone case concept dedicated to home automation and the connected home, with an interface including a remote control, controls for connected objects, music and widgets: weather, calendar, etc.

Apple imagines shells that change the interface of the iPhone for photography, music, video games...
An iPhone case that changed the interface for home automation // Source: patent application “Dynamic User Interface Schemes For An Electronic Device Based On Detected Accessory Devices”

On this, we would see the iPad more suitable for home automation control, by its larger screen and by the fact that it is a product that stays more at home.

A UI change system that’s just in concept

Warning: these shells or docking stations for iPhone are only in concept: we are still far from seeing them arrive on the market or from seeing an upcoming iOS update with this system. It is unlikely that it is Apple that actually produces these shells and docking stations: there is a greater chance that this mission will be reserved for accessories manufacturers with MagSafe certification in particular. But some products could be designed and sold by Apple: the brand already sells accessories for iPhone.

Besides, we are not even sure that this dynamic user interface will see the light of day in the future. Nevertheless, the concept remains intriguing and interesting.

Among the other patent applications filed by the Apple brand, we can note a patent for a car sunroof or one related to pressure sensors for its future products.


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