Apple has created a dock that could turn a future iPhone or iPad into a MacBook.
The idea is explained in a patent application published on Thursday, which details an ultra-portable notebook into which an iOS device is placed to provide software and power.
Apple might be trying to patent it, but this isn’t an entirely new idea; we’ve seen docks that turn smartphones and tablets into laptops before. But it’s incredibly exciting that Apple is exploring this idea, and it could give us a glimpse at the future of its portables.
Dubbed an “Electronic accessory device,” the dock is essentially a MacBook. It has its own keyboard, GPU, and ports, but harnesses the processor, RAM, and other components — as well as the software — of the iOS device.
Apple explains that the dock could also pack its own display, but in cases where an iPad would be used instead of an iPhone, the iPad would become the display. When an iPhone is used, it would be docked beneath the keyboard and act as a trackpad.
This would turn your iOS device into a notebook in an instant, extending its capabilities and allowing you to become more productive on the move.
With 2-in-1 laptops that can also be used as tablets becoming increasingly popular, this could be the route Apple takes to compete with rivals like Microsoft, Dell, and HP. A desktop mode baked into iOS would finally provide the hybrid platform many have been calling for.
But you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up.
Apple has stated that it sees the iPad and the Mac as completely different devices that serve different needs, and it has been pushing to make the iPad more capable as a standalone device with accessories like the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil.
It seems unlikely, then, that Apple would create a dock that turns an iOS device into a MacBook.
Having said that, it’s interesting that this patent was originally filed in September 2016. This suggests it’s a very recent idea Apple is likely still exploring, and if iPad sales continue to fall, it could well be a move it makes in an effort to breathe new life into its tablet business.