Apple was granted 54 patents this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The filings ranged from a simple redesign of a headphone earpiece to a more complex mechanism that turns off CarPlay when the driver exits the vehicle. More interesting though is a patent that appears to be for an iPhone docking station.
The filing describes the invention as a “smart dock for activating a voice recognition mode of a portable electronic device.” Of course, we all know that by "portable electronic device" they mean iPhone. In a nutshell, the design will act not only as a docking station for the phone but also as a home speaker. The dock has a microphone, stereo speakers, processor, and display screen. The mic will actively listen for voice input, and when docked, a user can control the smartphone from a distance.
The gadget essentially becomes a smart speaker, which makes one to wonder what else is Apple planning for the home speaker market. Because let's be honest, at $350 the HomePod is much more expensive than competing smart speakers and doesn’t have the same home-assistant focus as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. The smart dock might be that device.
Another feature that the paper talks about is wireless communication and charging. In addition to port docking the iPhone to charge and interface with the base station, it may also communicate over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. In this case, inductive or resonant charging would be used to charge the phone wirelessly. This concept makes the dock an even more intriguing possibility, especially if they incorporate wireless charging into the iPhone 8 as has long been rumored.
Keep in mind though, this is just a granted patent. In fact, the design was submitted in May 2012. For all we know it could be an early HomePod concept among the dozens of different product ideas the company considers and plays with inside its labs.