Apple apparently plans on improving tethering in upcoming iOS devices — and perhaps Macs, based on a new patent at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Tethering is using a cell phone as a modem for your laptop or other device.

Creating a connection either with cables or wirelessly “tethers” your cell phone to your other mobile device. This can usually be done through Bluetooth wireless technology or cables (such as USB), allowing the device without built-in access to connect to the Internet, using the other device as a modem.

Patent number 20100267368 — with Cahya Masputra as the inventor — is for a handheld device capable or providing data tethering services while maintaining a suite of handheld service functions. An improved tethering system is described in which a handheld device can be used by a user to reach the same network that the handheld device also provides access to for a tethering machine.

Specifically, a handheld device provides a tethering machine with access to a remote network (e.g., the Internet) through a wireless network that the handheld device is communicatively coupled to. Not only is the handheld device able to support multiple data flows between the tethering machine and the remote network, but also, the handheld device is capable of being used by a user to “surf” or otherwise access the same remote network that the handheld device provides the tethering machine with access to.

For example, if the remote network is the Internet and the handheld device is a “smart phone,” a user who is holding the smart phone can access the Internet concurrently with one or more applications on the tethering machine that are also access the Internet. Moreover, the smart phone is also capable of concurrently supporting other networked services that the smart phone is designed to provide such as voicemail services, messaging services, and telephony (cell phone) services.