Apple iPhone could have an amazing new feature, Patent Hints

A future iPhone may have a new mechanic so you can use it in a completely different way. This is according to a new patent, spotted by Obviously the apple, and it will offer side-mounted touch sensors so that you can, for example, scroll through a page without touching the screen. That would be great

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And unlike tapping the screen, swiping up and down adds smudged fingerprints, so that can be mitigated with this new mechanic. Plus, of course, you’ll be able to see the entire screen without your finger getting in the way. And Apple will probably invest resources in finding irresistible new ways to use the iPhone with the sensors it will build on.

It’s part of a patent usefully titled “Waveguide-based distributed force/force measurement sensors and touch sensors” which talks about multiple sensors and lasers as ways to detect touch on input surfaces such as the side of the device (eg the iPhone).

But it can also be used to introduce Force Touch to the Apple Pencil, so how hard you tap the display with your Pencil changes the way the screen interacts — darkening the color, intensifying the brush stroke or something else.

The Apple Pencil only works with the iPad, of course, and it’s not clear if this patent will lead to iPhone compatibility either.

Here’s the taste of the patent: “A laser light source, such as a VCSEL, introduces light into a waveguide located adjacent to the sensing sites, and the input at the sensing site changes the light inserted into the waveguide allowing the determination of the tactile or force input at the sensing site.”

Oh, there are so many like that. There is talk of reflectors, deformable surfaces, optical waveguides, and more.

This could mean that you don’t even need to touch the side of the phone for the interaction to happen, just slide your finger close to the laser diodes. This in turn could mean that there will be ways to make the phone react even when wearing thick gloves, for example.

Apple isn’t the first to try using the sides of the phone as an additional way to interact with your phone. HTC has created bezels that make the phone react differently when pressed, even though it never comes off. Sony used side gestures to reveal new menus and add to the way you use the phone.

He didn’t mention Apple’s purpose, although it would certainly be to make using the iPhone smoother than ever. With Apple, it’s usually the case that even if you don’t imagine what the purpose might be, once you reveal it, it makes so much sense that you don’t seem to be anything but inevitable.

As is always the case with patents, the release date for this feature, if any, is unknown.

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