Apple Patent Applications Reveal Antenna-Clip, Power, and Oleophobic Technologies

Information regarding a few patent applications recently filed by Apple has surfaced. The applications feature designs for a clip-on antenna mechanism, portable devices with multiple power interfaces, and an advanced oleophobic coating application technique.

The antenna clip application can be viewed here. The application essentially outlines a number of scenarios where an external, separate antenna clip can be added to an electronic device (like an iPod, iPhone, etc.) with a metal housing. The metal housing would in-turn be connected to the device's internal circuitry. A quote from the application states, “The antenna is positioned in the attachment clip to facilitate receipt of data transmitted as waveforms by positioning the antenna at least a threshold distance away from the metal housing acting as a ground plane. The threshold distance may vary based on the frequency band, sensitivity, and/or efficiency for which the antenna is designed to operate.” That’s a long, convoluted way of saying the external antenna clip can be tuned and positioned for optimal performance depending on the target frequencies. This could be a relatively easy way to minimize or eliminate situations like the initial iPhone 4’s “grip of death” and potentially enhance reception, but we’re just speculating on how the antenna-clip can be used, of course.

The second application for portable devices having multiple power interfaces can be viewed here. This patent application covers a number of circuit designs by which power can be delivered to a device using multiple power sources. Solar power is specifically mentioned a few times in the application. “A solar power package for use with an electronic device, the package comprising: at least one solar cell operable to derive solar power from solar energy; and a power charger operable to provide the derived solar power to the portable electronic device, wherein the derived solar power is provided in a plug-and-play fashion when the portable electronic device is coupled to the package.” This isn’t necessarily a revolutionary idea, as many devices have existed that use solar and battery power. But Apple is applying for patents on their specific circuit designs.

A third application deals with an advanced oleophobic coating application technique. “This is directed to a liquid vaporization process for depositing an oleophobic ingredient on a surface of an electronic device component using a PVD process. A raw liquid material that includes the oleophobic ingredient can be placed in a liquid supply system coupled to a vacuum chamber. The liquid supply system can be pressured by an inert gas to prevent undesired chemical reactions between the oleophobic ingredient and air. The liquid, including the oleophobic ingredient, can vaporize upon reaching the vaporizing unit, and the oleophobic ingredient can be deposited on the component.”

Oleophobic coatings are used to help prevent oils (like those that comprise fingerprints) and other elements from sticking and collecting on a surface. Oleophobic coatings are not new, however. And their effectiveness typically fades over time. It is for the advanced physical vapor deposition process that Apple has filed the patent application, not the oleophobic coating itself.

Since most mobile device users will likely have screen protectors on their tablets / smartphones, we wonder if Apple’s process may be used not only for screens, but for device enclosures as well. While it makes sense to have an anti-oil coating on a device’s screen, its usefulness is obviously diminished by a screen protector, that itself may feature an oleophobic coating of its own. But not having to worry about fingerprints and other nastiness building up on a device’s lid or back would be a definitely plus. The images from the patent application seem to indicate this is a possibilty.