The birth of Apple's iPad Pro line has once again shown that the company is prepared to push into territory it once said it never would; larger tablet sizes, hybrid functionality, and stylus support, to name just the three most obvious. Not that this should be surprising, it is pretty much the only avenue available to Apple (and indeed any device maker) in the face of ever-declining tablet sales; the single-role device has lost its charm and now consumers are looking for diversified functionality, a cross-breeding with conventional PCs and laptops. Having already introduced the Smart Connector and its companion Smart Cover keyboard dock aboard the iPad Pro, it appears Apple is gearing up to expand the functionality further, if new patents the firm has recently been granted by the US Patent Office are any indicator.
The patents were filed in 2012 and amongst the features is support for an additional touch display, which also includes support for the Apple Pencil (which just goes to show the long-range of Apple's planning as the stylus wasn't even around as anything other than a concept on Apple's drawing board back in 2012). Amongst the conceptual features demonstrated in the patent filings is the ability for users to write on the outside of the smart cover for things like notes, and the tablet would convert the writing into a text document. Another illustration shows a built-in solar panel for charging, and there's also a design with a foldout flap featuring its own keyboard and touch display.
As always with Apple patents, the firm patents a bunch of stuff it never uses, presumably "just in case", so this is no guarantee we'll see such features aboard future iPad Pro models or their Smart Cover accessories. However, the main takeaway is that Apple is trying to come up with more useful productivity features for users to really make these "post PC" devices as appealing as possible. A lot of that will be down to modular accessory components, which seem to be all the rage just at the moment, even in smartphones, with Google's Project Ara still in the works, and the likes of the LG G5 and Moto X 2016 sporting modular accessories for different functions.
Naturally we'll keep you updated if we hear anything more.