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Apple’s New Patent Filing Focuses on Improved Retail Table Security for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch

4 mins read
Apple's New Patent Filing Focuses on Improved Retail Table Security for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch
(Photo Credit: Michael Steeber)

In February 2022, Patently Apple reported on a design patent for new iPhone charging stands for use in Apple Stores. These stands, which were primarily single units, were designed with built-in security systems for Apple retail store tables. After a series of robberies in Apple Stores, the company decided to improve the security of its product tables.

The first of these new security stands have been implemented in some stores, but it is currently unknown whether Apple plans to expand their use to all stores or only major city centers in 2023.

Apple notes in their patent background that retail stores often display expensive products on tables, which are frequently targeted for theft. To prevent these attempts, retailers use security cables that are attached to the table. Apple’s patent application describes a display stand unit that effectively manages security cables without compromising its form and that is resistant to tampering by multiple methods.

Apple’s patent relates to display models for consumer electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, used in Apple Stores or by retail partners. These models are presented on retail display fixtures for customers to examine and may be secured with a security cable to the fixture, like a table or display unit.

The display fixture may have a stand for the model and the security cable may have a cable management feature, like a retractor, to keep it tidy and hidden when the model is on the stand. The purpose of these measures is to prevent theft and maintain an orderly appearance.

Existing retractors are typically housed separately from display stands, which can make product displays complicated and cumbersome to set up and maintain. These configurations also often require integration with the table or fixture on which they are displayed, such as routing cables through holes in the table or using complicated cable routing to a retractor built into the table. This can complicate the display stand and table, as well as their assembly, repair, and maintenance.

Each display stand includes a charger mounted on a stem that magnetically holds and wirelessly charges a consumer electronic device. To deter theft, a security cable is attached to each display stand to secure the device to the stand. The stand has a retractor that automatically hides the security cable when the device is not being handled. The retractors have a low profile to fit within the slim base of the stand and are driven by a spring that retracts the security cable with enough force to secure it, but not enough to be noticeable when interacting with the device.

In some cases, the retractor is housed horizontally within the base of the display stand. It has an inner geometry that winds the security cable outwards in a single horizontal plane, which ensures smooth extension and retraction of the cable and reduces the risk of kinks. This improves the durability of the cable and retractor and the user experience with the secured device. The winding arrangement also enables the low-profile design of the retractor, which can be accommodated in the base of the stand while maintaining a sleek appearance.

The display stand unit may include a guide, such as a roller, for each display stand that directs the security cable from the interior of the base to the consumer electronic device. The guide changes the orientation of the cable from horizontal to vertical and directs it out of the base to the device. It helps improve the durability of the cable by reducing friction against the stand and supports smooth extension and retraction of the cable.

The display stand unit may include a printed circuit board assembly that manages wireless charging, electronically monitors the security cable for signals indicating tampering, and triggers an external alarm if any of these signals are detected. The display stand unit with the printed circuit board assembly can prevent tampering through various methods, such as removing the security cable from the device, damaging the security circuitry, or cutting the cable.

The printed circuit board assembly can detect attempts to damage the security cable or bypass the security circuitry by monitoring the resistance levels of the circuitry. If the resistance falls outside a certain range, indicating a potential theft attempt through methods such as crimping the cable or bypassing the circuitry, the printed circuit board can trigger an alarm to alert store personnel.

An electronic interface cable supplies power to the display stand unit. The printed circuit board routes the power to each consumer electronic device attached to the stands via dedicated electronic interface cables that run through the stem of each stand to the charger.

The retractor is positioned within the base of the display stand unit and the security cable exits the base without running through the stem of the stand, allowing the stems of the stands to be slimmer than those with internally managed security cables. The electronic interface cable that supplies power to the display stand unit also connects the printed circuit board to the external alarm.

The display stand unit can have various numbers of display stands, such as one stand for a single device or four stands for four devices. It may also feature artwork or other information on the base highlighting the features of the displayed devices.

Apple’s patent figures include a schematic view of an example display stand unit (fig. 1), a front perspective view of an example unit with four stands (fig. 2), and a rear perspective view of the same unit (fig. 3) as fig. 2.

Apple's New Patent Filing Focuses on Improved Retail Table Security for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch
(Image Credit: Patenly Apple)

Apple’s patent (fig. 12) shows a rear perspective view of an example display stand unit with a single stand.

Apple's New Patent Filing Focuses on Improved Retail Table Security for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch
(Image Credit: Patenly Apple)

Apple’s patent (fig. 16) illustrates an example of a security monitoring process.

For more information, refer to patent application number US 20220408943 A1.

Two patent applications titled “Packaging with Tamper-Evident Seal” were published on Thursday for those in the retail packaging field. They can be reviewed at US 20220411149 A1 and US 20220411150 A1 for more information.

Apple’s patent (fig. 9) shows a perspective view of packaging with a base box, lid, and tamper-evident seal in an embodiment.

Apple's New Patent Filing Focuses on Improved Retail Table Security for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch
(Image Credit: Patenly Apple)