Apple iPhone May Include Awesome New Feature, Patent Tips

A future iPhone might have new mechanics so you can use it in a completely different way. This is in line with a new patent, discovered by Patently Apple, and will introduce side-mounted touch sensors so you can, for example, scroll a page without touching the screen. That would be pretty cool.

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And unlike a tap on the screen, swiping up and down adds smudged fingerprints, so that can be alleviated 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 is likely to be investing resources into finding irresistible new ways to use the iPhone with the sensors it will build.

It is part of a patent with the useful title “Distributed Interferometric Waveguide-Based Touch and Force Sensors”, which talks about various sensors and lasers as ways to detect touch on input surfaces such as the side of a device (such as an iPhone).

But it can also be used to introduce a Force Touch feature into an Apple Pencil, so how hard you press down on a screen with the Pencil changes the way the screen reacts – to darken a color, thicken a brushstroke, or whatever.

The Apple Pencil only works with the iPad, of course, and it’s unclear whether this patent will also lead to iPhone compatibility.

Here is a sample of the patent: “A laser light source, such as a VCSEL, inserts light into a waveguide positioned adjacent to sensing locations, and an entry at a sensing location alters the light inserted into the waveguide allowing for determination of touch or force at the detection site.”

Oh, there’s a lot more like that. There is talk of reflectors, deformable surfaces, optical waveguides and much more.

This can mean you don’t even need to touch the side of the phone for the interaction to take place, just swipe your finger near 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 extra way to interact with the phone. HTC created edges that made the device react differently when you squeezed them, although it never really took off. Sony has used side gestures to reveal new menus and improve the way you use your phone.

Apple’s purpose is not stated, although it is certainly to make using the iPhone smoother than ever before. With Apple, it often happens that even if you can’t imagine what the purpose could be, once it’s revealed, it makes so much sense that it seems nothing but unavoidable.

As is always the case with patents, the release date for this feature, if any, is not known.

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