Apple Is Thinking Very Seriously Of Interactive, Light-Up Smart Bezels In Future iPhones

Apple Is Thinking Very Seriously Of Interactive, Light-Up Smart Bezels In Future iPhones

Apple has been rumored to be working on smart bezels for its iOS device series for a long time. The idea is to make all of that empty black space actually do something by imbuing the bezel with all of the touch sensitivity of the display itself. The problem, of course, is how to convey to a user that they’ve just interacted with something in the bezel, as well as avoid accidental triggers.

An exciting new patent shows us exactly what Apple has in mind: bezel’s imbued not just with touch functionality but with an underlying electroluminescent display that would allow the bezel itself to light up with words and icons when needed.

The idea is this. Touch capable bezels would be able to light up with developer customizable icons if called for by an app. For example, a newsreader app might generate a glowing refresh icon in the bezel next to the iPhone’s home button. These icons would be called “Side Indicators” and while they can be interactive, they don’t have to be.

Pretty neat, but do you remember those rumors that future iPads and iPhones might have touch capable rear casings? It’s an approach that has since been adopted by the likes of Sony with their upcoming NGP handheld console, in that it has a rear-mounted touch panel. Apple’s new side indicator patents specifically reference these older rumors, and indicate that the same smart bezel technology could be used to light up the backs of iOS devices as well.

These patents look like Apple is thinking really seriously about smart bezels. Personally, I’d rather see them eliminate bezels entirely than make them smart, but there’s various reasons why that’s a lot trickier than it sounds. If you can’t ditch bezels forever, I guess making them actually do something is almost as good.

  • CharliK

    A touch sensitive rear panel is more likely to be accidentally triggered. Also, the home button is likely to not be present as it is currently shown. It would probably to go a side button so that the controls would be more appropriately placed for games etc. And Apple could either expand the screen or reduce the length of the iphone/ipod touch.

  • Allan Cook

    I don’t know. It looks to me as though, if this story is true, they’re going to start tarting up their products with too many gadgets, bells and whistles. Thing that makes Apple products so beautiful and such a pleasure to use is that they are simple and intuitive. It would be heartbreaking to watch that design aesthetic ruined.

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  • HammyHavoc

    Apple is all about minimalism and being natural as well as intuitive. Look at the Magic Trackpad. That is minimalism and innovation at it’s finest. Apple won’t complicate things as the simplicity is what makes them famous.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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