Gone are the days of cell phones being used primarily for making calls. No, cell phones now come in many shapes and wear many faces nowadays. They are used for sending text messages, keeping up with your many social media sites, browsing the Internet, taking high-quality pictures, playing games and hundreds of other things we never imagined possible from virtually anywhere at anytime.

The problem is that no one peripheral can do all of these jobs efficiently. A 4-inch touchscreen is great at quickly sifting through a picture gallery or hundreds of emails, but painstakingly terrible for tapping out a 500-word email in a pinch. A dedicated physical keyboard easily solves that problem, but adds extra bulk – bulk that isn't always necessary. If you're anything like me, you hate using a horizontal QWERTY unless absolutely necessary, thus you feel it's wasting space. And touchscreen gaming is only so enjoyable. In the case of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play, the slide-out gaming controller does a decent job of making gaming a little more feasible, but is only helpful to the hardcore gamer. Not everyone wants to lug around a gaming controller everywhere they go.

Over the years, several phone and case manufacturers have tried to solve this to no avail. You may recall the LG Versa, which shipped with a removable physical QWERTY keyboard. There was also a secondary attachment available in the form of a simple gaming controller. The Versa was, however, a feature phone and gaming options were sparse. Needless to say, it was a novel attempt, but it was well ahead of its time and wasted on the wrong phone.

In a filing with the USPTO as reported by Unwired View, it appears as if Microsoft may have finally figured out a trick that might just work. Essentially, in the typical horizontal slider form factor we all know too well, a QWERTY keyboard can be swapped for a cartridge-like gaming controller, battery pack, wireless television remote or a slew of other possibilities. A drawing of this, from the USPTO filing, is pictured above.

The ability to swap out accessories based on current needs gives the user extreme flexibility. If you're going to have an extra long flight layover, you might consider taking a gaming controller or the extended battery pack. But while lounging around at home, you probably won't need an extended battery pack or controller. Place your phone in the dock attached to your television and swap said cartridges out for a wireless remote (as seen above) to watch Netflix or Hulu (this is where mobile streaming could seriously become useful).

If Microsoft can market this effectively and to the right audience, this could play a major role in fighting off some of the competition to become the third smartphone ecosystem alongside Android and iOS.

That said, I have two major concerns. Phones hit the market and others slip into oblivion faster than ever before. If this concept is only used on a select few phones and the accessories are not interchangeable between them – let's say a pair of Samsung- and Nokia-made Windows Phones – the whole idea will fade as fast as last month's Android phones. Microsoft needs to get all partner manufacturers on the same page and make said accessories Windows Phone universal. And since they're wireless, too, support for Windows 8 tablets and PCs wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Also, the attachments would have to be relatively small, but I'm not convinced that people will want to lug around the cartridges – except for individuals who still wear fanny packs. Loading your pockets down with attachments for your phone is not exactly ideal or ... appealing. Maybe they could cut down on this by pairing two accessories into one. For instance, a QWERTY keyboard on one side and gaming controller on the other side.

Despite my concerns, I think this is an awesome concept – one that the smartphone and Microsoft desperately need. It could be a differentiating factor for Windows Phones. They've only managed to muster one percent of the US smartphone market share, and they seriously need something to entice buyers to join their camp. I know I would if they could make this patent actually work (obviously only if they take heed to my concerns).

What say you, folks? Do you like the idea of transforming your phone by using interchangeable cartridges? Would it be too much hassle to carry several attachments with you every day? Or would the added functionality be worth it? What type of accessories (not shown here) would you like to see?

Images via USPTO

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104 Reactions to this post

"Do you like Windows Phone?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Marco Raymond Yup its nice, I got a Samsung Focus and I dint regret anything, great OS
Marti Ruiz Bu t i. Will buy samsung hercules
Marti Ruiz Im a android fan but wp7 mango look pretty good.
Adrian Salazar I like lamp...
Wei Yan I like it but ecosystem isn't right for me. I like the fast pinch to zoom but I have a galaxy s 2 so that fills in the void.
Ben Garcia What the hell is a windows phone????
Memo Mrtr No way
Herman Guerra No. Talk about control freak, Microsoft wont let you make your own personal touches to it. Boring Boring Boring.
Jayson Jameson if only they had more apps!
Thomas Boehnlein Fantastic OS. I'm waiting on the fantastic hardware to go with it.
Steve Stallman Yes! it's the Best! Can't wait for Mango!
Autumn Clark WP7 is by far the most stable platform imo. I loved the droid market but, like others have stated, HATED dealing with the software issues. I know it wasnt always the OS and was the hardware from time to time, but HD7 is the ONLY phone I've never had an issue with. Everyone has their favorite/perferred platform right now, but don't automatically dismiss another platform just beacuse it isnt the one you like.
Eric Kroh About a boring as an iPhone..plus much less apps..droid rules!
Jason Chandler Good but not a iPhone
Douglas J Kmiotek I would have, if the Dell venue pro hadn't sucked so bad,... :(
Kenny Hilderbrand hey my W7 phone dont freeze up like my android did all the time, it's nice not pulling the battery out every day, the OS on W7 has me sold.
Morgan Hill My next phone will be a Windows phone.
AnJel Lopez Naw maybe after mango ..android best by far. IOS is not even close that's a "smart" phone for dump people that want one android us the closest to a pocket PC
Percy Jackson III If there was no android ....then maybe.. ...anything but the iPhone
Ross Silva YES!!!
Simon Yu I think it's got potential but it doesn't feel appealing enough to pull me away from Android.
Diego Mendoza Im pretty sure that the people who are saying no are the people who havent even try it or just dont know what is windows phone
Erman Guido No, they will soon die.
Randall Darden Simply put. No.
Bjørn Are Andreassen Best there is!
Kevon Bradford I like its very fast on my HD2 and I can run Windows and Android! :-D
Mark Fisher Jr. No I do not.
Adrian Edwards I tried Windows Phone 7 when it first came out. Ultimately I went back to Android, and you know what?.... I miss WP7!!! I'm sure I will be back with WP7 when the new hardware comes out. Its a great OS and it deserves to be recognized as such.
Michael A. Barut Very good OS, waiting for windows 8 tablet n a Galaxy S2 WP7.5 phone
Vlad Valentine McBride Windows 7 phones are number 1 in my books because nothing lags, keyboard is lightning fast, os is just beautiful can't wait for multitasking in 7.5 update. Oh and the plus is windows 7 phones get their every update unlike Android phones.
Greg Struzik If they would have released (Or maybe I should say Verizon released) Mango earlier, I would have stayed. But my sights are set on either going back to android, or giving iOS a go for the first time.
Kevin Calderon I'm too scared to jump onto a windows phone. Coming from android. I would Like to try one out for a week though
Andrei Boboc my next phone will be a windows phone 7:D
Mark Mann Need better hardware and ill switch from android
Raymond Toshlee Jones Jr. No. The thought that I will have to wait this long if not longer for a update after mango makes me mad.
Javier Segura By far the best OS next iOS. All phones and tablets carrying Android are abysmal crap.
Anonymous nah, we're good
Nick Kalman Love it a lot better then iOS or Android plus Mango is supposed to be here next week and then it'll be by far better then Android or iOS.
Namkell Kelly Na too boring....I like android cuz if the endless customization option..for people that say android is laggy u must have a low end device.
Joe Pimental Depends..i have htc wp7, htc hd2 with custom roms and the htc sensation 4g.no doubt android os is faster..the windows hd2 can run windows and android.I think windows (not windows 7) had a better interface but the sensation is faster with no problems or bugs at all plus full flash!!
Mark Joseph Cruz Nope not even a little
Gordon Christie Its good I liked it when I was looking for a nsw phone and you can customize it a little
Oseki Paisley Hate it man the crappest os.Not thinking of switching from android.
Tracy L Talbot Hey Carter, I got the Photon. Love it.
Abdiel Fernandez I would like to try it but I'm an android fan!
Jorge Hugo Galindo Hmm its ok I guess still though its either android or iOS.
Billy Martins I regret buying my hd7. You can't customize shit, and the apps suck.
Alberto Garcia Flores Let's not forget they are they true smartphone company
Erik Carlson Fackk no.
Alberto Garcia Flores Yeah, it's very organized and elegant. I stay with my Galaxy S though, if it wasn't for the Samsung Galaxy S phones I would have a windows phone
John Cruz Yeah because its not the IPhone
Carlo Serrano WP is an amazing OS. those discrediting it need to try it. it's butter smooth.
Jamie Layel Very smooth operating OS. I do not regret getting off the Android bandwagon. Too many bias people aren't that don't even know what their talking about. That includes the media and you people at phonedog.
Walt Alan Wilcutts Mango is excellent. Game changer for them.
Zach Cline ios doesn't need to be jailbroken.
Luis Valentin-Zeno Yes I DO!! Its Faster then Android/iOS .. and I'm not a developer (I wish).. Sure it doesnt have as many apps but its slim lined and just right.. Like Muffims.. I want a donut
Maricela Yatzel Leal No, its too..idk, just don't like it. Its like a jitterbug kind of, the smartphone version.
Leeming Wong How many microsoft developers on here commenting on this article?
Jacob Bessey Have not tried it, but I partial to android
Carter Hooper Best OS on a phone ever!
Andy Hunt No Linux all the way!
DeWayne Webb Just came from a wo and unfortunately it was an unpleasant experience. I now have a htc sensation and I love!!! Android all the way baby....
Juan Cuara Nooooo
Joe Czo Love it over lagdroid
Leo Alexandrov Jail broken ios, Best thing ever. Not stock ios though.
Zaben Hashish Boring as fuck, not customizable. Completely retarded. Its a smooth piece of shit
Michael D Scott I have not had the opportunity to have one myself, because Sprint picked the lamest model in the lineup. I have used my friends WP7 Phones and liked what I saw. Hopefully Sprint will make better choices this fall or maybe I will transition to a carrier that does.
Xavier Jackson I like them and its not bad but android is a thousand percent better.
Marcus NinersEmpire Um... No o hell no lets c naw lol wats a window Fone haha
Agamy Kamel realy i love windows phone
KaDerius Youngkd Hendrix Fuck naw windows phone is the worst phone out they need 2 stick with computers cuzz they need they ass whooped forreal
Ryan Cook I don't like the way the tiles look.
Will Gonzalez it's not bad....but it's not for me..... i was an iOS user but now i'm 100% Android.......
Nathan Wright I prefer it over Android and IOS. Different styles for different people.
Taylor Davis hate it. period.
Anthony Tyson Yep. But I couldn't handle no multitasking so my GF has my wp7 and I'm using a moto atrix
Mike Chiou It's not bad, great potential, not good enough to pull me away from Android though. Android > Windows Phone > iPhone.
Jamil Oquendo Heck yeah! it's my favorite OS.
Chamelo Andrés No, i like android !
Nick Catelli Its definitely the prettiest and fastest os but it is only such due to lack of features. Im an android user and soon to be ios adopter but I have no os loyalties whatsoever. I use what works for me. Windows phone is very nice, but I prefer the other two options as a power user myself.

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