Just as China approved eleven iPod nano design patents, Apple’s had a field day today with the United States Patent & Trademark Office awarding the company eighteen new patents. Patently Apple got the hang of them all (here and here) and we’re highlighting two key inventions. Before we dig deeper, Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive are credited among the inventors of the iPhone’s stainless steel band. There, now you know who to blame for the death grip non-issue. The creative duo was also behind the design of the 2007 iPod touch.

Apple also won a design patent for the iOS Maps and Compass apps, another one for reducing wait times in a call center plus the polycarbonate MacBook patent. More interesting than that is a patent describing methods for reprogramming your iPhone on the go, over-the-air, for use with any carrier. Read on…

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This will come in handy in roaming situations when traveling abroad. Say you’re an AT&T user on a vacation in France. Rather than pay high roaming fees, you’d simply buy a SIM card from a local carrier and slap it into the device which would then wirelessly activate itself for use on that carrier’s cellular network. When you’re back home, swap the AT&T or Verizon SIM card and the device would re-activate itself for your home carrier.

Another patent describes a RFID mobile device capable of interacting with RFID-tagged object by swiping or shaking your device.

RFID, an acronym for Radio-Frequency Identification, is a technology that uses radio waves to exchange data between a reader built into a device and electronically tagged objects. In theory, this would allow an RFID-equipped iPhone to interact with a desktop computer or open up a keyless car door with a swipe, as vividly demoed in a pair of clips at the bottom.

Patently Apple notes this could “likely play a role in Apple’s forthcoming iWallet feature set”. One patent win describes a touch display that doubles as an RFID tag reader, the publication explains:

In particular, the RFID antenna could be placed in the touch sensor panel, such that the touch sensor panel could now additionally function as an RFID transponder. In this manner, no separate space-consuming RFID antenna is necessary

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