Apple’s design and development teams are huge, and a lot of money is spent every year coming up with innovative new ideas. When Apple strikes on something promising, it tends to register a patent to protect its intellectual property. Of course, not all of these patents end up in real products, but they’re a good indicator of what Apple is working on.

We’ve reported on all kinds of patents over the years – some of them, like wireless charging for AirPods, became real soon after. More out-there ideas like iPhone squeeze detection, however, we’re sadly still waiting on. But every one is an interesting glimpse at a potential future. So let’s take a look at a couple more.

Transforming ring case

This patent, titled “peripheral housing for a computer device,” explores a new type of iPhone case with a clever hinged design. Essentially acting as a thin ring around the edges of the device, it has the ability to pivot on its long edge to allow the iPhone to swing (mostly) free.

This has a few potential uses – firstly, it could effectively turn into a self-supporting kickstand. But Apple’s patent takes the idea a step further, suggesting that when the iPhone is loose of the frame, other accessories could be clipped in place. Those accessories could range from backup batteries to keyboards or even advanced cameras.

It’s an interesting idea, and we’re very curious to see if it gets any further through Apple’s development pipeline.

Dampening speaker headphones

That’s a complicated heading, but that’s because really this is two distinct patents that could be merged into a single product. The first patent covers “tunable dampening features” that could make for better sound in closed-cup earphones. The patent uses a whole lot of technical audiophile jargon, but in essence it would tackle the problem of sound being “trapped” in the shell of an earphone.

Next, we have “dual-mode headphones.” This patent describes how a regular set of headphones could double up as speakers, by rotating the cup and engaging a high-powered mode. Much of the patent is given over to the way that Apple would ensure users can’t accidentally start up speaker mode while wearing the headphones and inevitably damage their eardrums.

Maybe we’ll see some kind of combination of AirPods and HomePod in the future?