1. Paul Daniel Ash's Avatar

    With touchscreen "real estate" increasingly at a premium on iDevices, Apple is looking into ways of moving controls off the screen entirely, according to a newly unearthed patent. The "selectively illuminated secondary display" described in the patent would use illuminated symbols on the bezel (the black area around the screen) to enable additional touch-sensitive areas, allowing a user to do things like navigating a game or controlling a media player without changing what is on the screen.

    Using what is referred to as a "printed segmented electroluminescence display," future iDevices would have areas around the screen that would light up when needed, with icons that would be self-explanatory thus reducing the need for on-screen instructions. Figure 3A on the image above shows an example of such a segmented display with multiple elements "formed from patterned electrodes." Notice how illuminating different elements allows different icons to be shown on the same display, with figure 3B showing a plus sign, figure 3C using the same display to show a directional icon and 3D an upward-pointing arrow. The patent references "SmartInk" technology from Pelikon Ltd. that allows "morphing" or "reconfigurable" controls using electroluminescent flexible liquid crystals. So developers would be able to use these reconfigurable controls in creative ways to maximize the amount of screen real estate used for content, allowing users to control apps and games by tapping the bezel rather than the touchscreen.

    The same patent also offers a hint that Apple is looking at touch-sensitive areas on the back of devices, a secondary interface that's been rumored before. Vague references to "plastic or aluminum back plate and a transparent wall allowing a user to view a primary display and/or a secondary display" suggest that controls on the back of the device could be used to manipulate screen elements without covering them with their fingers, which would make for more immersive gaming and media-playing experiences and further maximize the available area on the screen.

    As always, the fact that Apple takes out a patent on something doesn't mean that they are going to use that technology on an actual device anytime soon, if at all: they may just be protecting it so that a competitor can't use it. However, given there have been a number of patents revealed that indicate that a significant amount of thought has gone into the so-called "smart bezel," it's reasonable to expect that future generations of iDevices will incorporate touch input in areas off the screen, and do so in a typically intuitive Apple way.

    Source: Patently Apple
    Last edited by Paul Daniel Ash; 2011-04-08 at 05:34 PM.
    2011-04-08 05:30 PM
  2. z3r01's Avatar
    I want that
    2011-04-08 05:30 PM
  3. Turb02's Avatar
    Im more interested in the rear screen than the touch bezel
    If you think Im serious, thats funny.
    2011-04-08 05:56 PM
  4. Jahooba's Avatar
    I would love to have a backplate that was touch sensitive that would control a little cursor on the screen. This would make hitting links on websites way easier.

    Heck, it will make loads of things way easier on a tiny iPhone screen.
    2011-04-08 05:58 PM
  5. 88hurst's Avatar
    I like the idea, but I think I would rather have an edge to edge screen on the i4 frame.
    <img src=http://i591.photobucket.com/albums/ss355/hurst88/Sigpic1.png border=0 alt= />
    2011-04-08 06:36 PM
  6. Cowboy's Avatar
    I want that
    I second that
    2011-04-08 06:43 PM
  7. Colby21's Avatar
    well...there goes the edge to edge screen
    2011-04-08 07:15 PM
  8. TheDirtyDiddler's Avatar
    I like the idea, but I think I would rather have an edge to edge screen on the i4 frame.
    2011-04-08 07:21 PM
  9. jmaderosk8r's Avatar
    I'd rather have them have a slide out screen like the new sprint phone that comes out in summer. And yup there goes the edege to edge screen rumor going around.
    2011-04-08 07:44 PM
  10. rhekt's Avatar
    That would be nice. Samsung does this with their BlueRay players. Love how it works
    2011-04-08 07:51 PM
  11. Jerrryy's Avatar
    Will that be the end of protective cases?
    Is there a sundae in the room?
    2011-04-08 08:53 PM
  12. Cowboy's Avatar
    Will that be the end of protective cases?
    2011-04-08 09:21 PM
  13. delusion950's Avatar
    2011-04-08 11:58 PM
  14. mlauth's Avatar
    Kind of kills the "screen to the edge" rumor. Not sure if i would like that or not. If it killed the sensors while talking on the phone it would be cool, if not i can see a lot of things going wrong while talking.

    Still, cool idea.
    2011-04-09 12:07 AM
  15. JS52's Avatar
    This'll get the iPhone skin companies working again. The entire fronts and backs of skins will probably have to be redone so the users can see the bezel buttons and touch sensitive back plate. And don't even get me started on the touch back plate + cases...
    2011-04-09 06:44 AM
  16. korin125's Avatar
    I think something like this would actually allow me to play some real iPhone games. I really want to play some good FPSes on the iPhone like N.O.V.A. but it's quite hard to see the game when my massive thumbs cover up the screen.
    2011-04-09 09:04 AM
  17. The Man of Sand's Avatar
    can't wait for this!!!
    2011-04-11 10:24 PM
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