Apple Developing Some Kind of Wireless Device

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A fresh burst of activity in the iPhone rumor mill was set off last week by the U.S. Patent Office giving Apple a patent on a casing for a wireless mobile device. Although this patent mentions a variety of mobile devices, most people are assuming it refers to a combination phone and iPod, which many are expecting to debut in January.

Patent No. 20060268528

In its patent application, Apple didn’t specify exactly what kind of wireless device it is intending. The basic description is very vague: "A portable computing device capable of wireless communications, the portable computing device comprising: an enclosure that surrounds and protects the internal operational components of the portable computing device, the enclosure including a structural wall formed from a ceramic material that permits wireless communications therethrough."

The application goes on to say that this computing device could be a handheld computer, a cell phone, or a media player.

Apple says the ceramic material that will make up much of this device’s casing could be zirconia or alumina.

The company filed for this patent on August 7.

The full text of Patent No. 20060268528 can be found on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s web site.

iPhone? What’s an iPhone?

Rumors that Apple, Inc. is going to release a handheld or smartphone have persisted for years, and probably started back in the 1990s, not that long after this company axed its first PDA, the Newton.

Nevertheless, quite a bit of actual evidence has emerged recently that a smartphone/iPod combo is in development.

Most recently, a report ran in the Taiwan press that Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd. is producing for Apple n phone that also has the same multimedia functionality as an iPod. Reportedly, Apple has ordered 12 million of these for delivery some time before the middle of next year.

Of course, virtually every smartphone on the market is capable of storing and playing music. What is supposed to make the iPhone different will be its full support for the iTunes music service. Plus, unlike the Motorola ROKR (a device with limited support for iTunes), the number of songs that can be stored on Apple’s own phone will reportedly be limited only by its storage capacity.

Rumors indicate this model will have other features like a 3.0-megapixel camera and a 2.2-inch display.

One of the most important questions still unanswered is whether the iPhone will be a smartphone, or just a "dumb" phone with multimedia capabilities added on.

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