I could swear that I’ve had a dream about this before, or at least written about it*, but it looks like Microsoft beat me to the patent office. On September 22, Microsoft filed the “Mobile Communication Device Having Multiple, Interchangeable Second Devices” patent, which basically describes a slider-style phone that has replacement components to swap in for the slider keyboard.
What’s cool is that the mobile phone should be able to communicate with any of the secondary devices, whether they’re docked in the phone’s little slide-out drawer or not. Within the picture, you can see a QWERTY keyboard, an Xperia Play-style gaming controller, an extra battery, and an alternate screen. Though they aren’t included in the drawings, Microsoft also included “expansion storage devices, solar panels for charging a battery of the first device, or for directly powering the first device, or medical sensors (surface thermometers etc.)”
The patent goes on to say that “the game controller and keyboard can each comprise a speaker and a microphone to enable mobile phone handset operation. The first device can simultaneously communicate with one or more of the multiple second devices.”
In other words, Microsoft wants to make your phone a Swiss army knife. And the possible implementations of this are pretty far reaching. The game controller is an obvious choice — throw a kickstand on the phone and you have yourself a nice little portable gaming station. And with the Xbox Live integration baked into Windows Phone Mango, it’ll definitely be worthwhile. But something as simple as an extra battery (or possibly solar panels) can make a huge difference in the way we use our devices.
Granted, lots of phones allow for interchangeable batteries, but none let you pop ’em in to the slider dock. Most of the time you’re trying to get into that back panel while you’re on the go, and the process becomes super tedious. So much so that you, like myself, may actually use the phone less just to avoid it. This technology has the potential to make one of the bigger problems in the mobile world (battery life) a little less difficult.
Of course, Microsoft and others apply for patents all the time, and many of them sit untouched in a vault unless some competitor brings the technology/design to market. However, I’ve been keeping up with some of the latest Microsoft patents and it’s become clear that this detachable dual-screen slider dream is obviously a focus over at Redmond. We’ve already heard about a patent that improves the design of a slider phone to make the keyboard and screen sit evenly. But past that, Microsoft also filed a patent* in July that again describes a mobile phone with a detachable second screen, wherein both components can communicate with each other, detached or not. In fact, some of the same drawings are duplicated within that patent and this most recent one (like the image displayed on the right).
This obviously isn’t proof of anything, but it’s surely a sign that Microsoft is thinking long and hard about this idea.