Apple has a new patent application for a mobile hotspot (via AppleInsider), which might surprise people since it hardly seems like the type of accessory the iPhone maker would go out of its way to create. It becomes interesting, however, when you think about how a dedicated mobile hotspot might provide a way to connect the Apple Watch to cellular networks on the go, with a package much smaller and more easily portable than the iPhone.
The patent application doesn’t specifically refer to the Apple Watch, but it does describe how it might be used to replace devices like iPhones as portable hotspots when a user wants to minimize the number of devices they’re carrying around with them, specifically while doing things like hiking, camping or jogging.
Apple Watch’s ability to act independently of the iPhone is limited, but it can work while jogging for activity tracking. Many analysts, bloggers and Apple watchers have noted that they would love for the Watch to also be able to retain a cellular connection while on the go, as that would mean they could leave their phone at home for more activities. A hotspot accessory has the potential to address that need, while also acting as a connecting device for things like the new MacBook, and while offloading the battery cost to a dedicated device.
The hotspot device described in the patent is unique because it contains no external controls at all, with a user activating it by twisting the two sections of its tube-like case in opposite directions to turn it on and off. The two-part cylindrical design serves another function, too, as one half would contain the SIM card and cellular radio circuitry, and the other would act as a battery module. The battery compartment would be swappable, letting a user opt for larger-capacity units to extend total life depending on their needs.
It’s a unique twist (haaaa) on a standard mobile hotspot design, and one that could make a lot of sense in the evolving Apple device ecosystem. Already, Apple’s hardware is becoming more and more a collection of screens that act as end points for software whose features and data are resident mostly in the cloud. A hotspot device like this one could be the connection point for the web of screens that make up the iOS and Mac gadget family.