The last day of February was a big one for Apple at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, as the USPTO published 35 patent applications filed by the electronics manufacturer on Thursday. Apple has been preoccupied with the world of handheld electronic devices for a long time now, and they’re still devising improvements to battery systems and other utility features. This week, we also see some of Apple’s planned improvements to one of the most basic forms of computer software: the spreadsheet program.
Magnetic Stand for Tablet Device
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130050973
The ability to keep an electronic tablet device nearby so that a user can easily interact with it is an attractive feature to device consumers. Many manufacturers have attempted creating tablet device stands in the past, but Apple believes that they’ve fallen short until now. This ambitious stand design aims to help tablet owners position their device to improve their ability to multitask.
This stand, which Apple is hoping to protect, includes a magnetic element that fits within a stand shaped to fit the tablet device. The stand’s exterior provides a friction force to hold the tablet steady, and the magnetic element keeps the device in place with the aid of a metallic shunt that focuses the magnetic force. Descriptions of the invention’s embodiments focus on vehicle mounts, but schematic images attached to the patent document suggest a much wider range of applications.
Claim 1 of this patent application seeks to protect:
“A stand for magnetically securing a tablet device, the tablet device having a magnetic attachment system disposed within a first portion of a tablet device housing, the stand comprising: a cupped portion, comprising: an interior having a size and shape arranged to accommodate the first portion of the tablet device by providing a friction force to an exterior surface of the tablet device housing; and a magnetic attachment mechanism, comprising: a magnetic element for magnetically interacting with the magnetic attachment system, the magnetic interaction causing the cupped portion to secure the tablet device.”
Acoustic Systems in Electronic Devices
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130051601
Device manufacturers are trying to outfit their smartphones with better speakers for media playback. As the functionality of these devices grows to include video and audio playback, consumers want improvements in sound quality. Shortcomings in current smartphone speakers include the ability to pick up and transmit vibrations from other electronic components and easy dislocation leading to degradation of sound quality.
Apple hopes to protect a new method of installing speakers into its iPhone devices to both reduce speaker dislocation and the transmission of electronic signals from other components. The microphone component of the iPhone would be attached to the enclosure with the use of a “resilient member” coupled to the enclosure. Elsewhere within the device, the audio output speaker is held in place with a contact arm.
Claim 1 of this patent application simply describes:
“An electronic device comprising: an enclosure; a microphone operably connected to the enclosure; and a first resilient member coupled to the enclosure and a first side of the microphone.”
Mass Ingestion of Content Related Metadata to an Online Content Portal
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130054548
The online marketplace is still a frontier that’s up for exploration by retailers. From websites to smartphone applications, many types of online stores are available to consumers. However, listing items on many different online retail portals can be a very time-consuming task, as the product’s name, its price and any descriptions must be entered manually for each portal.
Apple’s system of tagging metadata for mass ingestion by content portals, such as online stores, aims to make this process much more efficient for retailers. Retailers can simply submit a single metadata file to an online portal and the store will update its inventory accordingly. In this way, metadata for in-app purchases, online subscriptions and even in-game achievement awards can be updated.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent application describes:
“A computer-implemented method comprising: ingesting, by a networked server computer, a compilation of metadata values being arranged according to a specification and defining a plurality of consumables, the consumables being made available to a user through one or more channels and which require support from the server; and validating, using a processor, the compilation of metadata values for conformance with a server policy relating to the consumables.”
Providing Spreadsheet Features
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130055057
Spreadsheet software is a basic feature that’s included with most office suite software packages. This relatively simple program provides a multitude of features for computer operators, including the ability to organize large data stores, reorder that information if necessary and perform mathematical equations on that data. A single cell could hold the instructions for a number of equations. However, when these features are implemented on large stores of data, the program’s effectiveness degrades and processing speeds slow down, resulting in obvious latency.
Apple’s system of improving spreadsheet feature functioning helps the computing power of the processor by analyzing the spreadsheet and allocating resources accordingly. For example, if a section of cells contains too much data, causing heuristic degradation, dynamic updates to the data won’t occur until the user selects one of those cells, even if a user changes a different cell that alters the data going into the cell with excess data.
As Claim 1 describes, Apple is hoping to protect:
“A computer program product for providing a feature, the computer program product being embodied in a computer readable storage medium and comprising computer instructions for: determining that a threshold associated with a feature is satisfied with respect to a set of cells; and at least partially degrading the feature for the set of cells.”
Management of High-Voltage Lithium-Polymer Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130049702
Lithium-polymer batteries that are currently being installed in smartphones and other handheld devices can reach amazing voltage levels for their size. For example, a six-cell lithium-polymer battery pack can reach a voltage of 12.6 volts, comparable to vehicle batteries, with 6 amps of current. This offers a lot of power to the electronic device. However, excessive heat caused by operation can degrade the electronic connections of the battery or even cause it to swell in size.
This system of analyzing battery performance is devised by Apple in the hopes that it will reduce the physical damage caused by swelling and heat. The system monitors the battery’s temperature, charge-discharge cycles and voltage and compares them against recognized thresholds for each. If any of these thresholds are crossed, the system may change the charging technique, stop charging or take other system actions to reduce battery heat.
As is described in Claim 1 of this patent application, Apple wants to protect:
“A computer-implemented method for managing use of a battery corresponding to a high-voltage lithium-polymer battery in a portable electronic device, comprising: monitoring a cycle number of the battery during use of the battery with the portable electronic device, wherein the cycle number corresponds to a number of charge-discharge cycles of the battery; and if the cycle number exceeds one or more cycle number thresholds, modifying a charging technique for the battery to manage swelling in the battery and use of the battery with the portable electronic device.”