Apple exploring iPhone-powered modular Macbook

Apple's latest iPad launch may have been little more than an incremental upgrade, but the Cupertino company isn't bereft of fresh ideas. Take this latest patent filing, for instance, which presents a potential marriage between the Mac, iPhone and iPad lines.

Spotted by Apple Insider, it details a Macbook-like iPhone or iPad accessory that has a recess to house the mobile devices, which in turn then benefit from the bells and whistles of a larger laptop-like enclosure.

The case would essentially be useless without a smartphone housed inside it – an iPhone would provide the CPU core for the laptop shell, while the larger unit would house a fullsize keyboard, larger (potentially touch) screen and even a discrete GPU.


Communications and shared power between the two devices could be transferred over Lightning or a Smart Connector port, with the iPhone acting as a trackpad with Force Touch haptics. Indeed, the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very close in size to the newer, larger MacBook trackpads.

Also described is a similar unit that uses an iPad housed where the previous design's screen sat. It would in essence act as a souped-up iPad Smart Case, offering external additional processing power in the case:

In both instances, the casing enclosure is described as being aluminium, further mimicking what you'd expect from a MacBook.

It's an interesting patent, taking cues from other modular computing devices, the likes of which we've seen from Motorola among others. It is, however, unlikely to bear fruit within a product – until some greater merger between iOS and MacOS takes place, or a way to switch between both on either laptop or smartphone devices is developed, there's little benefit to trackpad input for an iOS device. And with the iPad Pro already existing as Apple's halfway home between a mobile and work-focussed device, the Cupertino seems to already have the base covered that this curio would be looking to hit.

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Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.