Apple has filed for a patent (number 20170269785) for “detecting backside force in a touch screen device. If it reaches fruition, it would mean iPads and iPhones with additional touch controls on their back.
In the patent filing Apple notes that many types of input devices may be used to provide input to computing devices, such as buttons or keys, mice, trackballs, joysticks, touch screens and the like, but that touch screens, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular because of their ease and versatility of operation.
When a user is holding a mobile device and interacting with the device, they may hold the device in such a way that their hand or fingers rests on the rear of the device. When they interact with the device, the portion of the hand contacting the rear of the device may apply force to the rear of the device, either unintentionally or intentionally. Apple wants to change this by implementing rear touch controls that only respond when the user intends for this to happen.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “In one aspect, the present disclosure relates to a method including detecting force applied to a force sensing layer in a device and detecting touch contacts applied to a touch screen layer in a device. The method also includes determining if the location and/or amount of force detected by the force sensing layer correlates to a touch contact, and, if it correlates, treating the force as front-side force, while if the location and/or amount of force detected by the force sensing layer does not correlate to a touch contact, treating the force as a back-side force. Based on the type of force detected, appropriate action may be taken, including back-side specific actions such as multi-tasking application switches or content or viewport manipulation.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.