We all know Apple for the famous products it has brought to the market including the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. Having all those busy brains at the technology giant means the company is constantly applying for new patents. But it’s not always business as usual. Some of those patents are downright bizarre. Join us as we take a stroll through some of Apple’s odder patents, including a bag, a staircase and a smart-bike system.
The Apple bag
In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on a bag. Yes, it is just a bag. There’s no LCD screen or electronic guts involved. The patent’s abstract is a masterpiece of brevity: “A paper bag is disclosed. The paper bag may include a bag container formed of white solid bleached sulfate paper with at least 60 percent post-consumer content.”
While it’s easy to laugh at the idea of Apple patenting a simple bag, there’s actually quite a bit going on under the surface here. This particular bag makes maximum use of recycled materials by using a cleverly robust design with reinforced folds. That means you could stuff several new iPads in here, haul them around, and not worry about the bag giving way.
The handle is especially interesting. Here’s what the patent says about it: “...the handle's feel and flexibility may be similar to that of a hollow textile tube, like a shoelace. To [affect] this feel and flexibility, the handle may be formed of knitted paper fibers in a tight-knit pattern with a large diameter.” This unusual paper handle is designed to droop down so it doesn’t get tangled up or accidentally catch on objects around it. There are enough innovations here that it does make some sense for Apple to patent a shopping bag.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is listed as one of the inventors on a patent for a glass staircase designed for use in Apple Stores. The abstract describes it as “a monolithic glass member for supporting loads.” We know that better as a “staircase.”
Here’s a fun tidbit: This isn’t the only staircase-related Apple patent. The tech company also received a patent for the cylindrical glass staircase entry to its Shanghai store. Some of Apple’s most iconic stores, including the massive cube on Fifth Avenue in New York City, rely heavily on glass to create a futuristic-looking retail experience, so it’s no wonder Jobs was enamored with the glass staircase as an interior feature.
Apple Store display stand
In other retail-related news, Apple filed for a patent for display stands meant to hold devices in Apple Stores. The round, slanted pucks are described as an “ornamental design.” The concept drawings aren’t the most exciting images you will ever see. They show the stand from various angles, but it’s really just a utilitarian creation designed to hold an iPad or other gadgets at a slight angle for customers’ shopping enjoyment. You would have to be a diehard Apple fan to get excited about this patent, but it is an amusing peek at the small, seemingly inconsequential items Apple feels the need to patent on occasion.
If Apple made a smart bike, would it be called the “iBike?” An Apple patent filed in 2009 gives details on systems and methods “for interfacing an electronic device with a bicycle system.” It gives us a glimpse at what an Apple iBike might look like. The patent involves the use of sensors that generate riding data for display to the biker.
A charming patent drawing shows a stylized bike connected to a device that looks a lot like an iPod music player. This conceptual bike would monitor information like distance, speed, altitude, elevation, heart rate, location, and cadence. It would also be able to share this data with other riders, which would be helpful for cycling teams or even just casual riders who roll together in a group.
The patent is focused on integrating existing Apple devices like the iPhone with a bicycle. We have yet to see any sign that Apple wants to make this system a real product, but the patent at least shows the tech giant has given it some thought.
Apple’s popular new wireless AirPods earphones have left some fans worried about losing one or both of the expensive listening devices. That may not be much of a concern in the future if new models incorporate some of the ideas from a 2016 Apple patent application for “Earphone assemblies with magnets for anchoring to a user.”
Some of the patent illustrations show a pair of magnets with one on the inside of the ear and the other on the outside. Those magnets would be attracted to each other through the ear tissue and would help hold the earphones in place to survive the rigors of vigorous exercise or other activities. This could also be a welcome solution for people with ears that simply don’t hold earbuds in place well. It’s all a matter of your anatomy.
We have yet to catch sight of an actual prototype of this idea, but it would be interesting to find out if the magnets would be comfortable to wear.