According to two new patents recently granted to Apple, cellular connectivity could be coming to the MacBook. One patent was granted for "isolated cavity antennas" in the MacBook, while the other was for a standalone, battery-powered hotspot.
Both patents were granted on Tuesday, July 19, from the US Patents and Trademarks Office. And, while both could be a major upgrade for business travelers, or rural users, the embedded antenna seems to be the more unique of the two.
Basically, it would work by transmitting through "slots" that are created in the housing of the machine when it is open or closed. In addition to 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, it also could work with Bluetooth, wireless local area network bands, near-field communications (NFC), light-based wireless communications, satellite navigation system communications, 60 GHz communications, or "long-range communications bands such as cellular telephone bands."
This particular patent was filed on June 8, 2015, but it's not the first time Apple has considered additional connectivity for the MacBook. As noted by Digital Trends, Apple was granted a similar patent back in May for an "electronic device with dual clutch barrel cavity antennas," and the company briefly considered cellular connectivity for MacBooks back in 2007.
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The patent for the mobile hotspot was originally filed on November 21, 2013, and it references a battery-powered device that exists solely to provide connectivity to other devices. While there are a host of images associated with the patent, most seem to allude to a cylindrical device that looks somewhat like a portable phone charger that houses a SIM card.
The abstract of the patent refers to the hotspot as "a compact device for providing Wi-Fi connectivity for an electronic device. The compact device is rotatably activated and includes interchangeable batteries and indicia indicating activation."
Currently, the de facto method of many road warriors and frequent travelers who need connectivity is to tether to their smartphone to get online. While this works well most of the time, it isn't always convenient, and can kill the battery on your phone. ZDNet's Liam Tung pointed out that this device could alleviate the battery drain, and be ideal for campers or joggers.
Both of these patents are interesting and useful, but they are just that—patents. Apple hasn't made any announcement about incorporating the technology into future products, and there is no telling when, or even if, they will make it to market.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Apple was granted patents for a mobile hotspot and "isolated cavity antennas" in the MacBook, both of which could bring easier cellular connectivity to Apple laptops.
- These technologies could help alleviate battery drain from users who tether their MacBook to their smartphone for connectivity.
- Both patents are simply ideas at this point, and Apple has announced no plans of using the technology just yet.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.