iPads to Have Touch-Sensitive Bezels?
One of the most widely panned features of the new iPad was the ginormous black border that surrounds its 9.7" screen. While it is necessary to have a place to hold the 1.5 pound device while you're using it, many thought that the thick bezel was unsightly and broke with the design tradition of the iPhone/iPod touch family. However, an Apple patent back in 2006
described a device with a touch-sensitive bezel, and Patently Apple
went back to take a look at the technology that might enable an "intelligent bezel" on some future model of the iPad.
Currently, the iPad's touchscreen functions like any other Apple touch device: you tap icons, use swipes and other gestures to interact with apps, and watch the result on the same screen. What the smart bezel would do is provide a control plane off
the display so that it wouldn't be necessary to take up any screen real estate for buttons or labels. The patent describes how specific areas or locations on the bezel would be used for controls like MENU, UP, DOWN, PLAY, etc. These could either come with labels or icons on the display itself adjacent to the control areas (which kind of eliminates part of the reason for the smart bezel) or "be in a logical or predetermined location on the bezel that the user may know or expect."
The patent also describes ways that the tablet could sense that the user is just holding the device with the bezel rather than trying to use the controls. Just contacting the bezel wouldn't be enough: you'd have to make a tap or other gesture. And after a time limit that's set on the device, it just starts ignoring areas that you are constantly in contact with, assuming that you're using the bezel as a grip.
Apple is thinking ahead here to a whole new vocabulary of touch gestures. We already know to swipe across the screen in Cover Flow mode to page through, for example, so it's not too far fetched that they could have it in mind that controls could just be built into the bezel so the device can function full-screen. With this patent and the previously revealed patent that describes a capacitive back case
, we can get a glimpse of a future where it's not just the screen that's touch-sensitive: it's the whole device.
image via Patently Apple