Apple patents point to haptics, fingerprints, RFID

Three just-published patent applications hint at the company's future plans. But it could be a while before we see any of the functionality built into iPhones or other Apple devices.

iPhone
The haptic feedback patent, if approved, would bring the iPhone in line with rival handsets that provide localized tactile feedback. CNET

Three patent applications by Apple were published Thursday, and they cover technologies including haptics, fingerprint recognition, and RFID.

The haptic feedback patent, if approved, would bring the iPhone (and possibly other Apple devices) in line with rival handsets, which already provide localized tactile feedback in, for example, an onscreen soft keyboard.

Haptic technology gives people sensory feedback--in the form of a vibration or pressure--when they use a touch screen. Essentially, it makes touching a key on a touch screen more akin to pressing a real button.

The fingerprint recognition patent does not really have to do with authentication and security, but rather with identifying which fingers are in use, so as to associate different functions with different digits.

The RFID reader patent would see RFID-communicating circuitry integrated with the circuitry behind the touch screen itself.

All the above are just applications, though, so it could be a long while before we see any of this functionality built into iPhones or other Apple devices.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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