After having applied for a patent on a hover gesture a few years ago, the United States Patent & Trademark Office has finally awarded Apple the patent, which could potentially debut on a future iPhone and iPad tablet. Though owning the patent doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple would commercialize the innovation, but if Apple does decide to debut this sensing touch technology on the iPhone 6, it would give the iOS flagship a way to match or best Samsung’s Galaxy S4 this year and also the forthcoming and rumored Galaxy S5.
According to the patent, Apple describes a touchscreen that can sense and differentiate between an actual physical touch of the screen and a hover of a finger. This could open up a new user experience where hovers may be used to call up additional information and activate drop down menus or other commands while a physical touch would register a selection of something.
The same concept was introduced on Samsung’s Galaxy S4 flagship this year where hovering would bring up a preview or additional content, similar to hovering over links and images on a PC with a mouse. An actual tap of the touchscreen would select a command in a similar way to clicking with a mouse on a desktop.
Apple’s patent calls for a more intelligent method of sensing so that the phone or tablet in question could detect a press from a hover. This would make it a better experience than on the Galaxy S4 where sometimes the phone cannot detect between a tap and a hover. Apple has been good at implementing new technologies in meaningful ways such as the slim bezels on the original iPad mini that debuted with intelligent technology to recognize that a hand holding the tablet near the screen is not considered a tap of the screen, something that was missing on early Android tablets with slimmer bezels.
To do this differentiating between touch and hover, Apple Insider had reported that Apple had detailed three ways:
1. Software algorithms can be added to not register accidental touches, similar to the palm rejection technology on the iPad mini that was mentioned.
2. The display can compare touches and hovers based on multiple input events in the past.
3. Calculations can be made based on the size, distance, and shape to determine if the user meant to hover or touch the display.
A similar feature was also introduced by Samsung in the past on the Galaxy Note 2, though hover on that device was limited to the Wacom-powered S Pen active digitizer.
A second patent was also unearthed where Apple is detailing an idea that could place a hear rate monitor into the frame or bezel of devices. This could bring an EKG monitor to the frame of an iPhone. Apple has been focused on biometric security and health on its latest devices, including the Motion M7 Coprocessor on the iPhone 5s that allows for automatic tracking of fitness levels as well as the fingerprint TouchID system.