About that Apple phone (?) patent

Apple files lots of patents these days, many for products that haven’t yet and may never find their way to market. But most of them relate to two things: computers and iPods. This morning, Macnn’s Apple patent patrol came up with a few that were filed months ago by the company, yet only published today – they all appear to be for post-iPod devices that are as much about input as output, blending three or more different devices (cell phone, iPod, and remote control) into a single chassis with a unified touchscreen interface.

Apple envisions devices that either have multiple touch-sensitive surfaces, or a single surface with multiple touch-sensitive positions; some of the patent language continues to suggest that the screens will detect light (scrolling) or heavy (clicking) presses differently. In these ways, the screens could be used just like today’s iPod Click Wheels, or like keyboards, or like any other computer interface, without needing a mouse or separate track pad.

Of course, the new patents sound suspiciously like what YourMacLife suggested was about to be released as the iPod phone.

The concept can be summed up simply as a touchscreen-based phone with the ability to switch interfaces – one could be a phone screen, another could be an iPod screen, and yet more could be for any sort of other function imaginable – video playback, game playing, GPS, and so on. All on a single-screened phone. Will any or all of these features be included in an iPod phone? Does Apple envision this as being the next-generation iPod, or a separate device? And will third-party developers be able to create applications for the platform?

So many questions.