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Apple patents reveal plans for iPad smart bezel and longer-life batteries

Two separate patents filed by Apple showcase a 'smart bezel' that could be used for future iPads, as well as denser lithium cells to make batteries with greater energy capacity.

The iPad 2 and iPhone 5 haven't even been announced yet, but there is already some intriguing information about the technology that could be in future versions of Apple's iOS devices. Two separate patent filings uncovered this week reveal Apple's work on a smart bezel that could be used for tablets, and on denser lithium batteries that will go longer between charges.

Patently Apple has full details on the first of those. The basic idea is for the bezel of a device to include sensors, allowing you to touch, tap, hold and even squeeze it to trigger certain actions on the device.

The patent has images showing how this would work on an iPad-shaped tablet device, with an example given of swiping up the bezel to turn up the volume, and swiping down to turn it down. The filing also suggests that you might double-tap the bezel to wake the device up from a sleeping state: in other words, doing away with the current Home button.

It's not just iPads that could benefit from this: the patent shows an illustration of a MacBook-like laptop whose screen uses the same smart bezel technology. As ever with patents, there is no guarantee that the technology will find its way into commercial products, but it's a good sign of where Apple's thoughts are heading.

The anticipated release of iPad 2 this summer might be too soon for a smart bezel to be introduced, but iPad 3 or iPad 4? Watch this space.

What about that battery patent, though? AppleInsider has rooted out the details of a filing titled 'Increasing Energy Density in Rechargeable Lithium Battery Cells', which as it must, goes into frankly incomprehensible detail about how to use a "multi-step constant-current constant-voltage (CC-CV) charging technique" to increase battery capacity without making it bigger.

Heavier use of cameras, video, Web surfing and apps mean a day's your limit between charges for many smart phones. It's no surprise to find Apple working on its own battery-life technology, in lieu of a major leap forward -- like fuel cells -- that would drastically improve matters.The main problem faced by the iPhone 4 and other smart phones is that battery technology isn't evolving as fast as handsets (and what we do with them).

Image source: Patently Apple