On December 29, the last day for granted patents in 2015, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published 47 newly granted patents for Apple. While Apple files thousands of patents that never make it into its products, they can often signal the direction the next offerings to come out of Cupertino could be heading. In this post, we'll take a look at a few of the most exciting patents Apple was granted in this end-of-year push before closing the book on 2015.

  • Sapphire-based antennas: When the iPhone 6S came out this past September, early adopters' biggest complaint was the handset's battery life, which leaves 6S owners scrambling to charge up more than once a day. One way to improve the battery life of future models would be to make room inside the handset to simply include a larger battery. Without increasing the size of the phone, Apple is left looking for ways to reduce the size of its internal components, including possibly eliminating the familiar 3.5mm headphone jack from future models. This patent lays out a method of significantly reducing the size of the cellular antenna in devices by forming them on structures made of sapphire.
  • A true zoom lens: While the cameras on the iPhone company's newest devices are no doubt capable of taking stunning pictures, one area they have always struggled in is taking high-quality photos when using the zoom feature. This drop in quality is due to the mobile cameras' use of a digital zoom, rather than the mechanical, or telephoto, zoom function found on larger camera lenses. This patent is the latest in which Apple explores the possibility of constructing a small form telephoto camera. The five-lens system it describes would enable iPhones and other Apple devices to capture high resolution photos even when zoomed in, which would be a clear selling point for Apple over its competitors.
  • OLED displays with vias: Apple has long been rumored to be making the switch from LED to OLED screens on its upcoming iPhones, a move that would make displays both more vibrant and more power-efficient. This recent patent is rather covers a rather specific method of manufacturing OLED displays with vias, technology Apple uses to transmit electrical signals within its phones. While the specifics themselves are not directly relevant to consumers, the patent suggests Apple is looking further into the nuances of OLED technology, a sign we could see new displays soon.

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