Apple launched a brand new line of MacBooks at the end of 2016, but with new products came new pricing and many consumers were disappointed with the higher prices. However, perhaps in an attempt to make its products easier to access at the entry-level, Apple might be considering producing a kind of ‘dummy’ computer shell to be powered by an iPhone or iPad.

In a new patent published by the US patent office, illustrations show a MacBook style clam-shell body with a large recess in the front, with an iPhone filling the gap. The patent says:

“An electronic accessory device, comprising: an operational component that provides an output to a user; a housing carrying the operational component, the housing having a recess; and a control interface coupled to the operational component and configured to receive a control signal from an electronic host device when the electronic host device is positioned within the recess and coupled to the control interface, wherein the electronic accessory device is inoperable without the electronic host device being coupled to the control interface.”

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the patent essentially says the MacBook/iPhone/iPad hybrid could only be operated using an iOS device, and without it, it can do nothing.

The illustrations show the intended use for the potential new device

The illustrations clearly show the intended use for the potential new device

The idea’s an intriguing one… and considering the power that is now housed within iPhones, and in particular an iPad Pro, why not use the device to power a workstation that allows more flexibility for working?

As 9to5Mac notes, the device is similar to the HP Elite x3 Lap Dock which, for the princely sum of $500, lets you use a smart phone to power the laptop-style terminal.

The difference here would be that when using an iPhone, the device’s screen would be used as a trackpad. Neat.

However, an image showing an iPad placed into the screen appears to show an alternative design catered towards tablet users.

The iPad version retains a trackpad

The iPad version retains a trackpad

It’s highly likely this would involve users working within iOS rather than macOS, making the whole process not dissimilar to using Apple’s Smart keyboard, or other third-party keyboard cases. However, if the product was essentially a MacBook shell, users would benefit from a robust shell with more control.

An interesting concept, but as always with Apple patents – some come to fruition, but many don’t.