Some of Apple's more interesting recent patent applications and grants for iPad and iPhone include spiraling, radial menus, an actual radio app, 3D displays without the need for annoying glasses. As always, just because Apple patents something doesn't mean we'll ever see it in production hardware or software, so just take these for what they're worth -- glimpses into Apple's thinking about the future.

Radial menus would be use in lieu of drop downs and possible in place of popovers:

“…The novel radial menu techniques of some embodiments include (i) non-uniform spacing of menu items, (ii) the use of shading or highlighting within a region associated with an item to indicate the present selectability of the item, and (iii) the use of radial gestures for opening sub-menus and the subsequent display of the sub-menu.” [unwired view]

The Radio app is just another hint that Apple might one day activate the FM radio built into the iPhone's chipset, but this time with handy location-based station mapping:

In Apple's patent FIG. 6 noted below, we see that an FM radio receiver (104) is associated with a future version of the iPhone. The iPhone's smart radio program is capable of presenting you with an FM radio list or a unique map with icons of the primary FM stations (e.g., 204a, 204b, and 204c, collectively referenced as 204) in the neighborhood. [Patently Apple]

Manufacturers and content producers are desperately trying to make us excited about 3D but the need for special glasses might keep it from being mainstream. Apple specializes in mainstream so is it any surprise they're looking into 3D sans goggles?

Apple's invention provides a three-dimensional display system having a projection screen having a predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function. Three-dimensional images are respectively modulated in coordination with the predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function to define a programmable mirror with a programmable deflection angle. [Patently Apple]

Any of these have you particularly excited about the future of Apple devices and apps?