Despite having only been available for less than 12 months, the iPhone’s form-factor is already well-cemented; could an Apple handset sporting anything other than a full-face touchscreen be viewed as a true iPhone? Brand recognition is great, but it can be stifling as well, especially if you want to introduce new form-factors but still preserve the functionality you’ve built up. After all, any handset with the iPhone’s GUI but with, say, a smaller display would cause a drop in usability. Staska from Unwired View has been doing some patent digging and come up with what might be Apple’s solution to the issue: titled “Dual-Sided Trackpad”, it describes a clamshell cellphone with a transparent, flip-down touchpad covering a large display. When closed it can be used like the original iPhone – touching the screen directly – but when open the reverse side of the trackpad is active.
If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering at this point “why would you want that?”; well, the suggestion is that the design would lend itself to an iPod nano-sized device, with the same body size as the Apple PMP but twice the screen. You could also have both sides of the trackpad active, and use it for 3D gestures or the sort of ‘pseudo-transparent’ control Microsoft demonstrated last week with LucidTouch, or embed polarised numbers or even LEDs to put controls directly into the flip.
Apple also suggest the transparent technology would make for a good Mac Tablet, with a flip-down trackpad layer that could double as a keyboard-style input device thanks to some of those polarised numbers (which can only be viewed when the panel is opened), or as a window in a traditional laptop form-factor to view a “sub-display” section of the laptop’s screen. The patent suggests the use of an OLED display, different sections of which can be shut off to reduce power drain.
Unwired View have the full patent document available to download, if you’re interested in reading the whole thing. I’m curious, though; would you want a different iPhone form-factor, are you satisfied with the current physical design, or do you think these suggestions are smokescreens covering Apple’s true intention for the technology? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.