Future iPad cases could have flexible built-in screens

iPad Pro

Apple has just been granted a patent for an iPad case that could be almost as much of a tablet as the slate it's covering.

The patent, which was spotted by 9to5Mac, details several possible smart covers, but what they all have in common is a flexible built-in screen.

In its most ambitious form it could be a full tablet-sized screen, which could be used either to display notifications and reminders or even as a drawing tablet, with your creations being transferred onto the main iPad screen.

iPad case patent

Another possible use detailed by the patent is as media controls and the case is shown in some versions to have its own battery, so you can detach it from the iPad and continue using it, making it even more tablet-like.

iPad case patent

Yet another version sees it sport solar panels, so it can charge without being plugged in and despite being filed back in 2011 it uses something that looks a lot like Apple's Smart Connector to attach to the iPad.

Probably not coming soon

So, given that the Smart Connector became reality is this set to as well? Probably not, or not any time soon anyway.

For one thing it seems the case was designed to allow for added functionality without increasing the size of the iPad, but as Apple has since upped the size with the iPad Pro there's less need for it, especially in its drawing tablet form, given that you can already use the Apple Pencil to sketch.

A large, flexible screen is also likely to be prohibitively expensive even by Apple standards, though a smaller screen for displaying notifications, as shown in one of the patent images, is a possibility.

And you never know, Apple might surprise us with a truly smart case at the next iPad launch, but patents often don't become products and if there is any future for this one we reckon it's quite distant.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.