updated 10:20 am EST, Thu December 20, 2012
Passbook filing leaves room for NFC support
Apple has filed for two new, potentially significant patents. One of these covers an "integrated coupon storage, discovery, and redemption system" similar to Passbook, an app built into the iPhone version of iOS 6. The filing describes a "coupon wallet" which can accept input from several sources, such as scanning, email, touchscreen entry, or delivery via server. Coupons can be stored on-device or on a server, and the proposed app could also notify people about expiration dates, or when a person is in proximity to a place where a coupon can be used. Geofencing is already a feature of Passbook, and content is synced across devices via iCloud.
Some more significant differences emerge in the suggestion that the patent app could subscribe to coupon sites, or else automatically receive coupons via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when entering a store. The most radical suggestion may be the idea of using NFC technology to redeem coupons, instead of just code scanning. To date no Apple device has been equipped with NFC, although rumors of the iPhone getting the technology have persisted during the last two years.
The other filing illustrates the asymmetric fan blades in the Retina MacBook Pro. While most computer fans use blades spaced at equal angles, the blades in the Pro are deliberately spaced at variable positions. This is said to control the range of tones generated by the fan, not so much reducing noise as making the sound it creates more tolerable.
Apple's design is said to retain its balance, and have the additional benefit of shrinking in size. The Retina MacBook Pro is extremely thin, owing to design choices like the fan, removing the DVD drive, and using a non-removable battery.