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  • Apple Patent Shows Advanced Work on "Smart Bezel" Technology

    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
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple Patent Shows Advanced Work on "Smart Bezel" Technology started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. z3r01's Avatar
      z3r01 -
      I want that
    1. Turb02's Avatar
      Turb02 -
      Im more interested in the rear screen than the touch bezel
    1. Jahooba's Avatar
      Jahooba -
      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.
    1. 88hurst's Avatar
      88hurst -
      I like the idea, but I think I would rather have an edge to edge screen on the i4 frame.
    1. Cowboy's Avatar
      Cowboy -
      Quote Originally Posted by z3r01 View Post
      I want that
      I second that
    1. Colby21's Avatar
      Colby21 -
      well...there goes the edge to edge screen
    1. TheDirtyDiddler's Avatar
      TheDirtyDiddler -
      Quote Originally Posted by 88hurst View Post
      I like the idea, but I think I would rather have an edge to edge screen on the i4 frame.
    1. jmaderosk8r's Avatar
      jmaderosk8r -
      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.
    1. rhekt's Avatar
      rhekt -
      That would be nice. Samsung does this with their BlueRay players. Love how it works
    1. Jerrryy's Avatar
      Jerrryy -
      Will that be the end of protective cases?
    1. Cowboy's Avatar
      Cowboy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jerrryy View Post
      Will that be the end of protective cases?
    1. delusion950's Avatar
      delusion950 -
    1. mlauth's Avatar
      mlauth -
      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.
    1. JS52's Avatar
      JS52 -
      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...
    1. korin125's Avatar
      korin125 -
      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.
    1. The Man of Sand's Avatar
      The Man of Sand -
      can't wait for this!!!