Apple takes aim at the Surface Neo and Duo with multiple display patent

Apple Patent Folding Device
Apple Patent Folding Device (Image credit: USPTO)

What you need to know

  • Apple has published a new patent documenting how multiple devices could be used in one system.
  • Applications include joining two devices in a multiple-display configuration much like the Surface Neo.
  • There's also a suggestion it could pave the way for a folding Apple device.

A newly-published Apple patent has revealed how users could configure multiple devices to work in a single system using a feature called "joint operating mode".

The patent is titled 'System with multiple electronic devices' and its abstract states:

Multiple electronic devices may be used together in a system. The electronic devices may use sensor measurements and other information to detect when an edge of a first electronic device is adjacent to an edge of a second electronic device. In response to detection of adjacency between the edges of the first and second devices, the devices may transition from an independent operating mode in which each device operates separately to a joint operating mode in which resources of the devices are shared. In the joint operating mode, images may extend across displays in the devices, speakers in the devices may be used to play different channels of an audio track, cameras and other sensors may be used in cooperation with each other, and other resources may be shared. Magnetic components may hold devices together in a variety of orientations.

The devices could be used in multiple orientations and control circuitry would pass on user input, sensor measurements and more between devices.

As some have noted, the patent could also pave the way for Apple to solve the problem of foldable displays and hinges in devices, which have proven to be something of an Achilles heel in the earliest iterations of folding mobile tech. For example, rather than having an iPhone with a hinge or fold to make it smaller, imagine two iPhones joined together that could fold out into a tablet-style form factor.

The patent wording definitely gears this tech towards the coming together of multiple, separate devices rather than a folding iDevice of sorts, but it's still a cool idea. As always, patents are no guarantee that a product of this nature will ever see the light of day.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9