Apple offers a line of “Smart Covers” for its iPads… and for the most part what’s smart about them is that they can serve as both protective coverings for the screen and as kickstands, depending on how their positioned.

But Apple is at least considering launching Smart Covers that can do more… much more.

The company applied for a patent on a multi-function screen cover a few years ago, and Patently Apple reports that the application has been approved.

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That means Apple has a patent on a Smart Cover with an integrated flexible display, keyboard, and solar panels. It also supports pen input.

Keep in mind, companies regularly apply for patents on products that never actually get built. We have no way of knowing whether Apple actually plans to launch a new Smart Cover with these features anytime soon. But it looks like the company was at least thinking of adding a whole bunch of features to its iPad protector several years before the company even introduced the first iPad with pen (err… pencil) support.

The patent describes a flexible cover that connects to the tablet much like an existing Smart Cover. But here are just some of the special features depicted in the patent:

  • Use the cover to prop up the tablet in laptop mode, and touch the back of the “stand” portion to move forward or back or pause/play media.
  • Prop up the tablet so a portion of the cover rests in front of the screen and use a screen built into the cover as a sketchpad for use with an Apple Pencil-like stylus.
  • Or use a cover with a physical keyboard for typing.
  • The cover could have built-in solar panels for keeping the tablet charged while outdoors.
  • There could be an “electronic paper” display built into the case so that you can view some content (like directions, shopping lists, or other reminders or notifications) even when the tablet screen is covered.

Again, there’s no telling if a Smart Cover with any or all of these features will ever make it to market. But clearly someone at Apple thought it was a good idea to patent the concepts in case the company ever did plan to release a product like this.

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