Two new Apple patents have come to life which shed an intriguing light on its plans for future iPads. It looks like we could be looking forward to hybrid E Ink/LCD screens for more comfortable ebook reading, as well as a smart bezel that shows customised soft buttons outside the screen according to what you're doing at the time.
The first patent is catchily titled 'Systems and Methods for Switching Between an Electronic Paper Display and a Video Display', and according to AppleInsider describes a device capable of switching from LCD to E Ink mode at the touch of a button.
Its screen would have 'multiple composite display regions', where a translucent E Ink display sits on top of a standard LCD or OLED screen. When watching video or playing games, the E Ink screen would be completely see-through, but you'd be able to switch to it for reading ebooks.
It could be a great thing indeed, if it's ready for the iPad 3's release next year (or even this year). There are many happy Kindle users out there who still swear by their E Ink display when it comes to reading ebooks, in comparison to the iPad's screen. Apple, it seems, is looking to offer the best of both worlds.
The second patent filing puts flesh on the bones of previous reports that Apple is planning to make more of the bezel in future iPads. Right now, the bezel is just for holding, but in the future, it could effectively double as a second, frame-shaped 'screen' that will display illuminated controls depending what you're doing at the time on the device.
The potential is considerable. "Apple could include gaming pad-like controls only when the iPad is in landscape mode or added iBook reading features when in portrait mode," explains the report. "If you pull up a game, the controls may just appear instead of calling them up. If you use a painting program, third-party developers will be able to create unique tools to be illuminated in the smart bezel area. The possible combination of icons and applications are endless."
As ever with patent filings, there's no guarantee we'll see this technology in the iPad 3 (or even the iPad 4, 5, or 6...). But we can see both these technologies improving Apple's tablet considerably if and when they are implemented.