Apple Rethinks Retail Table Security for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch in new Patent Filing, and more

1 cover Apple Store  new iPhone standPhoto Credit: Michael Steeber  –  Click on image to Greatly Enlarge

In late February 2022, Patently Apple covered a design patent for new Apple Store iPhone recharging stands that were primarily single stands.  On Thursday, the last patent application day of the year, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a detailed patent application from Apple that relates to both single and multiple iPhone recharging stands with built-in security system for Apple retail store tables. After a rash of Apple Store robberies, Apple decided to rethink their product table security. Our cover graphic illustrates that their first new security stands have shown up in some stores for iPhone. It’s unknown at this time whether Apple intends to extend their new table top security system in 2023 globally or reserve them for major city centers only.

Display Stand Unit

In Apple’s patent background they note that retail stores display products on tables. The devices are expensive and are routinely subject to theft attempts. To thwart such theft attempts, retailers use security cables that are secured directly to the table. A display stand unit is needed that directly manages security cables without compromising the form factor of the display stand and that secures against multiple different security cable tampering modes.

Apple notes that their patent relates to Apple Store (or retail partner) display models for consumer-electronic devices such as smartphones, tablet computers, smartwatches, and other devices. The display models can be provided on retail display fixtures for a customer to pick up and evaluate. To deter theft and to maintain an orderly appearance, the display models can be tethered with a security cable to a display fixture, such as a table or other display unit. The display fixture (e.g., table) can incorporate a stand on which the display model can be set, and the tether can include a cable-management feature such as a retractor to keep the security cable neat and out of view when the display model is positioned on its display stand.

Due to their size existing retractors are housed separately from display stands (e.g., below the table), which complicates the product displays and makes set up and maintenance cumbersome. Such configurations also involve integration with the table or other fixture on which they are displayed, often involving holes in the table for cable routing, or other complicated cable routing to a retractor incorporated into the table. This can complicate not only the display stand and table, but their assembly, repair, and maintenance.

The display stands can each include a charger mounted to a stem. The charger both magnetically holds and wirelessly charges a consumer-electronic device. To help deter theft, a security cable can be associated with each display stand to fix the consumer-electronic device to the display stand unit. The display stand unit can include a retractor for each of its display stands to automatically spool and hide the security cable when its associated consumer-electronic device is not being handled. The retractors can have a low-profile form factor to fit within a slim base of the display stand unit. Retraction of the retractor can be driven by a spring. The spring can exert a force sufficient to retract the security cable, but low enough that the pull on the security cable will not be significantly felt when interacting with the consumer-electronic fixed to the security cable.

In some embodiments, the retractor can be housed horizontally within an interior of a base of the display stand unit. The retractor can include an inner geometry that spools the security cable radially outwards along a single horizontal plane. This spooling arrangement ensures smooth extension and retraction of the security cable and mitigates against kinks, which improves i) the durability of the security cable and of the retractor and ii) the user experience with the secured consumer-electronic. The spooling arrangement also enables the low-profile design of the retractor, which allows the base of the display stand unit to accommodate the retractor in its interior while maintaining a sleek, unobtrusive profile.

The display stand unit can also include a guide, such as a roller, for each display stand that can direct the respective security cable from the interior of the base to the consumer-electronic device. The guide can change the orientation of the security cable from the horizontal orientation in the retractor to a vertical orientation and directs the security cable out of the interior of the base to the consumer-electronic. The guide can improve the durability of the security cable by reducing the friction against the display stand unit and can also support smooth extension and retraction of the security cable.

The display stand unit can also include a printed circuit board assembly that manages the wireless charging, electronically monitors the security cable for signals indicative of different security cable tampering modes, and triggers an external alarm if any of these signals are detected. The display stand unit with the printed circuit board assembly can secure against multiple different security cable tampering modes including, for example, removal of the security cable from the consumer-electronic, crimping or shorting of security circuitry, or cutting the security cable.

For example, the printed circuit board assembly can detect attempts to crimp the security cable and short out the security circuitry by monitoring resistance levels of the security circuitry. If the printed circuit board assembly determines that the resistance is outside of a range, e.g., due to a theft attempt by crimping the security cable to short or bypass the security circuitry, the printed circuit board can trigger an alarm to alert store personnel of the potential theft.

An electronic interface cable can supply power to the display stand unit. The printed circuit board assembly can route the power to each of the consumer-electronics attached to the display stands via dedicated electronic interface cables that run through the stem of each display stand to the charger. Because 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 display stand, the stems of the display stands can be slimmer than display stands with internally managed security cables. The electronic interface cable that supplies power to the display stand unit can also connect the printed circuit board to the external alarm.

The display stand unit can include any number of display stands. For example the display stand unit can include a single display stand for displaying a single consumer-electronic device, or the display stand unit can include for example four display stands for displaying four consumer-electronic devices. The display stand unit can include artwork or other information provided on the base to showcase features of the displayed consumer-electronic.

Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below shows a schematic view of an example display stand unit; FIG. 2 shows a front perspective view of an example display stand unit with four display stands; FIG. 3 shows a rear perspective view of the example display stand unit of FIG. 2.

2 Apple Store  iPhone recharging stand

Apple’s patent FIG. 12 below shows a rear perspective view of an example display stand unit with a single display stand.

3 Apple Store  Single recharging stand and security system

Apple’s patent FIG. 16 above shows an example of a security monitoring process.

For more details, review Apple’s patent application number US 20220408943 A1.

Partial List of Apple Inventors

  • Priya Nambiar: Lead Product Design Engineer
  • Clay Woosley: Product Design Manager
  • FOSTER; Daniel S.
  • Eric Wang: Senior Product Design Engineer
  • Greg Ritter: Product Design Engineer

Packaging and Tamper-Evident Seal

For those in the field of retail packaging, two patent applications were published on Thursday, both titled “Packaging with Tamper-Evident Seal.” Review Apple’s patent applications US 20220411149 A1and US 20220411150 A1 for details.

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

4 Apple Retail Packaging patents

10.51FX - Patent Application Bar

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