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How Much Thinner? Apple’s Microslot Antenna Patent and Its Impact

Apple antenna patent

[Credit: Apple Insider]

Apple is no stranger to patents; the Cupertino, California company is always in the media when it comes to filing numerous patent applications (many that have not yet come to light under the Apple brand). A new patent application granted this past Tuesday (February 12, 2013) may make Apple’s devices thinner and lighter than they currently are. The patent provides a “Microslot antenna for electronic devices” that will weigh “microns” and provide Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, and cellular connectivity. For many consumers, you guessed it: your iPhone, iPad, and even MacBook laptops will get smaller. The device centers in on laptops, suggesting that Apple will implant these new micron antennas into its 2013 MacBook laptop lineup. Sources also say that Apple plans to incorporate Gigabit Internet technology (or 802.11c) into its 2013 lineup as well.

How much smaller can Apple’s devices become? That is a question that the company is not asking, as of the moment. It is aware that its consumers like slim devices that they can place in their pockets or carry, and Apple has become adept at making any iDevice slimmer and thinner. Still, there comes a point at which the California Fruit must ask itself, “When do we reach the threshold?”. With its latest, fifth-generation iPod Touch, Apple eliminated the ambient light sensor, and looks to eliminate the camera from the iPod Touch in its next iteration of the device. This goes to show you that the “thinner and lighter” mindset brings sacrifices of its own.

The iPhone 5 is thinner than the previous iPhone 4S, and the iPad 4 is thinner than the iPad 3 with Retina display, Apple’s first tablet to feature the eye technology. Apple’s 2012 Macbook Pros are thinner in size than Apple’s 2011 MacBook Pro lineup, and its iPods have been thinning out for the last few years. At some point, I’m afraid that the iPod Touch will start to resemble the iPod Nano.

As for me, I’m not sure if this patent is necessary for Apple’s devices. It may be a small help for the company as it looks to make devices smaller and thinner, but this isn’t going to impact consumers much at all. After all, with the iPad, it’s not the antenna that needs to slim down, but rather, the heaviness of the iPad itself. In the future, I do not think “thinner and lighter” will be a technology wave that many companies will follow. I think that what matters first (above thinness and lightness) is the hardware and software of the product. Apple must concentrate on that if it looks to gain a foothold and grow in popularity, as it once did back six years ago. No other company obsesses over thinness and lightness quite like Apple; on the other hand, Microsoft did not care about the weight of its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets — a fact that shows in its 10.6-inch display, a display that many think is too heavy to sit in your lap or hold in your hands. If the third-generation iPad is heavy, the Surface tablets are even heavier than the iPad! Microsoft’s tablets and Apple’s devices are both presenting two extremes to the consumer. There needs to be a third, middle-of-the-road option where devices bear some weight but not as much as Redmond is willing to give in its devices.

Finally, notice that the aim of Cupertino in receiving this latest patent is pointing in the opposite direction of many smartphone manufacturers. At this point, smartphone and tablet manufacturers are making smartphones with 5-inch displays (Apple’s 4-inch displays are falling behind all other manufacturers), and they are making laptops a little bigger (if they must) in order to accommodate LTE, WiFi, and other Internet technologies. This is in the opposite direction of Cupertino, but is paying off (pun intended) very well for other manufacturers. Maybe it’s time that Apple sit up and pay attention to the world outside of Cupertino or Silicon Valley.