We might finally see 4G-enabled MacBooks if this patent pans out

Apple is investigating cellular MacBooks, but will they actually release?

When Apple released the iPad back in 2010, a 3G-connectable model was right there alongside the base Wi-Fi device - and the company has released cellular models ever since. But what about the MacBook?

Apple has been making laptops for 25 years now, but we still don't have a cellular option available for the increasingly light and powerful computers. That could change: as Patently Apple discovered this week, Apple was recently granted a patent that shows a laptop with cellular connectivity.

There's nothing particularly shocking about the patent itself: it's for devices with a dual-antenna design and "may contain wireless communications circuitry that operates in long-range communications bands such as cellular telephone bands."

One illustration shows a simple MacBook-like illustration as an example, although the patent also applies to iPhones, iPads, desktop computers, the Apple TV, and other gadget types. It's a wide-ranging technology patent, true, but the fact that Apple sees potential in a cellular-connected laptop is worth noting.

Back in 2011, a 2007 MacBook prototype (seen above) popped up on eBay with a large, slidable antenna attached, but it never went in production. That's attributed to Steve Jobs, who told USA Today in 2008 that Apple considered releasing such a device, but didn't want to stick customers with a single carrier or add complications to the buying experience.

Today, however, antennas can be built right into devices, there's a lot more freedom in how users can switch between mobile carriers, and opting for a cellular model of a device hardly seems complicated after six years of iPad availability, not to mention a wider MacBook lineup of late. Adding the option makes a lot of sense, given the benefits buyers could see without needing to rely on Wi-Fi availability.

For now, it's incredibly easy to tether a connection from an iPhone or a cellular iPad to a MacBook, but this patent gives Apple fans some hope that a truly cellular MacBook, MacBook Pro, and/or MacBook Air may be on the horizon. Could it come alongside the OLED function bar display and Touch ID sensor that are rumoured for the Pro model later this year? We'll let you know if we hear anything more.

[Sources: USPTO via Patently Apple, 9to5Mac, USA Today]