Apple wants to make iPhone easier to use underwater

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iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone XS size: Sometimes bigger really is better.
iPhone could soon get some new underwater tricks.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has been working tirelessly to make the iPhone more and more waterproof over the last four years. Now it appears that the company wants to make it possible to actually use the display underwater too.

Recent patent filings revealed that Apple is putting some serious thought into how to make the iPhone easier to use underwater by creating a simplified UI that lets the user focus less on taps and more on swimming or whatever else you’d be doing underwater.

US Patent No. 20200104021, first spotted by AppleInsider, describes an “Underwater User Interface” for iPhone that changes when you’re in the water to add streamlined controls. It also proposes adding vibration feedback in a number of different ways to indicate when you’ve tapped the display.

As someone who shoots a lot of cliff diving shenanigans using the iPhone and AxisGo underwater housing, these changes would be hugely helpful.

Can iPhone thrive under the sea?

“There is a need for electronic devices that provide efficient methods and interfaces for accessing underwater user interfaces displayed on the electronic devices,” Apple writes in its patent filing.  “Such techniques can reduce the cognitive burden on a user who accesses user interfaces while the electronic device is underwater, thereby enhancing productivity. Further, such techniques can reduce processor and battery power otherwise wasted on redundant user inputs.”

Drawings in the patent filing show that Apple is considering expanding the area of certain touch control buttons as well as increasing or decreasing the display’s sensitivity.

In a separate patent, Apple also is researching ways to automatically adjust the iPhone’s UI orientation based on the users’ face. The iPhone already uses an accelerator and other sensors to automatically adjust screen orientation, but the new patent proposes using the FaceID sensors anytime your iPhone or iPad thinks the other sensors aren’t working properly. That feature could be especially useful with the underwater UI patent so you users don’t have to fuss with the display settings.