Apple Patent Envisions iPhone Featuring Touch Bar-Like Panel on Edges With Virtual Buttons


Apple may introduce an iPhone model with a dedicated touch panel on one edge in the future, according to details of the company's latest patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While other companies have previously launched a number of smartphones with displays that fold seamlessly to the edges, the iPhone maker's patent shows the company introducing a smaller, separate display with virtual buttons, similar to the Touch Bar technology. which was covered briefly. on its MacBook Pro lineup.

The patent granted to Apple on March 12 is titled 'Electronic device with sidewall display'. It describes smartphones with “flexible displays” that bend to “create a front side display and an edge display”, while separating the two with a mask or enabling and disabling the relevant pixels on the screen. The document published on the USPTO website also includes images that show the alleged device equipped with an edge panel.

Apple Patent 11928301 USPTO Apple Patent

Apple's latest patent describes the use of a secondary display panel
Photo Credit: USPTO/Apple

The first image in the patent document imagines a device that resembles an iPhone with a thin display located below two physical buttons on the left edge. Figure 8 shows the secondary screen that is being used to show the media that is currently being played on the smartphone, while Figure 18, Figure 19 and Figure 20 show the song titles and artists. How names can be displayed on the side panel. There appears to be support for vertical scrolling as well.

In addition to showing music and media playback information and controls, the secondary display can also be used to show relevant controls when using specific apps. Figure 16 includes virtual buttons for flash control, switching between photo and video models, and a shutter button – these will likely be visible when the camera app is open. Meanwhile, Figure 15 shows app icons for the Messages, Calendar, and Camera apps, suggesting these may be offered as quick launch options.

The patent also proposes the inclusion of a transparent button with haptic feedback as well as a lens – the latter could be used to navigate the user interface while using the phone. Meanwhile, Figure 14 shows using the virtual sidewall button to create a virtual controller when using the device in landscape mode.

Apple has been granted a patent that enables the use of these sidewall displays to resemble its Touch Bar technology, but that doesn't guarantee these panels will make their way to iPhones in the coming years. The company has been granted several patents for technologies that have not yet reached its smartphones, and it remains to be seen whether future iPhone models will feature these displays.

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