Apple has a new patent (via AppleInsider) that could show you notifications on your Smart Cover, even when your iPad’s screen is obscured by the protective accessory. The filing details both active Smart Cover notifications that would use built-in LEDs or electroluminescent displays, and passive versions that could support pass-through transmission of light from the iPad display itself through translucent or selectively transparent panels.
The patent would allow the active version to light up icons built into its surface, like an envelope for incoming mail, or a message bubble for inbound texts. These could be arranged on the surface of the Smart Cover based on priority, or they could display in a different color depending on urgency. The transparent panels offer even more flexibility, letting Apple use part of the iPad’s screen to show you not only a notification that something has been received or triggered, but also giving you content related to that notice; so, for instance, if you received a calendar notification, it could give you details about the event and its participants.
For the active version, a power source would be required, but the patent describes two ways around this: First, a connection with the magnet on the iPad could be modified to work like a MagSafe adapter and provide a flow of energy; second, the Smart Cover could use inductive charging to derive power from the iPad or another source to power its active notifications. The passive version has the advantage of not requiring any incoming energy to function.
The modified Smart Cover would keep the same paneled folding design, meaning it could still function as a stand for the iPad itself. The Smart Cover remains a popular accessory with iPad owners, so building in a system that enhances its ability to deliver information in a means beyond audio notices would indeed be beneficial for users. Still, it’s unclear when this might make it to market, and it has downsides in terms of building costs and battery drain that could render it impractical from Apple’s perspective.