You may be able to manage your iPhone someday just by giving it a little squeeze.
A patent granted to Apple today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office details a housing for a mobile device that responds to the pressure of your touch or squeeze. Known as "Sensing capacitance changes of a housing of an electronic device," the patent uses a mobile phone as one example. But could just as easily work with portable music players, laptops, and other electronic devices.
Today's touch-screen devices already react to the tap of a finger. But Apple's invention would take that further by reacting differently based on how much pressure you apply when you touch, squeeze, or otherwise deform the device's housing.
"By measuring the electrical characteristics of the housing, such as the housing's capacitance, the user's interaction with the housing can be measured in a manner that is independent of the user's electrical characteristics and/or in a manner that may allow the pressure applied to the housing to be quantified," explained the patent, which Apple originally applied for in 2009.
By quantifying the pressure, the device can perform different actions accordingly.
As one example, you could silence a ringing mobile phone simply by squeezing or tapping it. In some cases, you could even control your phone or laptop without even touching it. Simply moving your hand over the device's keyboard could create waves of pressure that tell it to wake up from sleep mode.
How would your phone react if it were unintentionally pressed or squeezed while in your pocket? The technology can employ a sensor to detect if you're actually holding the device and only then react to the pressure of your touch or grip.
Like many patents, this one may not ever see the light of day. But a pressure-sensitive phone could -- at the very least -- cut down on the number of buttons and icons we tap just to perform simple everyday tasks.