Apple has done a great job of making the iPhone more water-resistant over the years, but one thing you still can’t do particularly well is to use your iPhone when it’s wet.
That’s something that Apple wants to change, based on a pair of patent applications published today. They describe technology to allow finger tracking in wet environments, letting users continue swiping and tapping away even if they’re out in the rain.
The problem, in essence, is that water on touch sensitive surfaces can be incorrectly detected as a touch input. This could either trigger unwanted interactions or, in my experience, result in purposeful touches not being picked up at all.
Apple’s solution involves using nodes on the display to measure various data points when a touch is registered. This would include things like the overall size of the area that is being touched, which could suggest that inputs are likely water rather than users. As well as working out what isn’t a purposeful touch, algorithms could work out what is a user interaction, thereby passing along the instructions for that action to be processed.
As with all Apple patent applications, there’s no guarantee that this actually makes it into a finished version of iOS, of course. Plenty of intriguing patent applications never become products (hey, I’m still waiting on the tiny joystick hidden behind the iPhone’s Home button!). Still, this is something that would be genuinely useful.
Granted, the real problem I had in this area was wet fingers using the Touch ID button. Now that Face ID is here, that issue has been solved. For cases where you’re out and about in the rain, though, this would certainly be a welcome upgrade. Hey, maybe Apple’s smart engineers could work out a way to let us use our phones when we’re wearing gloves, while they’re at it!