A recently revealed patent filing by Apple has shown their idea of using an iPhone as the power for a MacBook. In the patent Apple describes how the iPhone would be docked into the MacBook shell, which itself would not hold any of the components need to power the machine.
This isn’t a wholly original idea from Apple, the HP Elite X3 from last year had the same idea behind it, albeit with a wireless connection. However, the HP Elite X3 was doomed to fail from the very beginning with it being a niche device on a niche platform. Phone makers have been trying for years to make convince consumers that their smartphone needs to also be their PC. So far they have all largely failed. So, would Apple simply be following a poor approach to computing by attempting this?
First of all, Apple at least has the right idea with the MacBook dock form factor. The common idea from manufacturers so far, with the exception of HP, has been to turn the smartphone into a desktop which is inherently flawed. Consumers who work on desktops generally need more power. Outside of work people don’t tend to sit at a desk and watch their YouTube videos or write an email. They sit in their bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and on trains or planes or in coffee shops. The main computer for most people will never be a phone that transforms into a desktop. However, it could be a phone that transforms into a laptop.
This product category of a phone that transforms into your computer has been struggling along for some time. This is mostly because transforming your phone into a desktop is unappealing and then, because when the first good solution came along, with the HP Elite X3, it was a Windows Phone which nobody buys anyway. This is where Apple comes in. They didn’t make the first smartphone, tablet or smartwatch, they did perfect the fledgling idea and create monstrous product categories while doing it though.
With the right design, the right power and the right user base this idea could very well be the next big thing in computing. The iPhone 7 is already more powerful than MacBook Airs and with the rumored iPhone 8 to be a pro device, the phones are closing the gap between phone power and laptop power. The MacBook is a very underpowered machine and it will likely be the next entry level MacBook aka the MacBook for college students and workers the world over. It isn’t ridiculous to assume that an iPhone 8 could meet it in terms of power.
Imagine, a super powered iPhone 8, the “Pro” model so to speak, and a $400 MacBook dock. That is a product that people the world over would jump on especially with how personalized Apple products are to users. Apple will lock people into their ecosystem of iOS and Mac OS in one swoop. Those college kids with MacBooks I mentioned earlier? Now they are college kids with the latest iPhone too. MacBook Pro users who need more power suddenly have a reason to buy a ‘second’ laptop in terms of the dock which works with their iPhone 8. It is a scenario that could see Apple perfect and dominate a whole new product category, which isn’t so bizarre after all.