So can Apple come up with something as appealing as iPhone, in another form factor, e.g. – clamshell.
Yes. It does:
The drawings above, are Photoshop renderings, based on a device described in a recent Apple’s patent application, called “Dual sided trackpad“.
It shows that Apple may indeed be working on a clamshell iPhone device. But with a twist.
iPhone 2.0 clamshell patent
The main idea with this device is to separate capacitive touch sensor array and the phone display into two separate units. Then put the touch sensor array on a translucent (transparent) panel, make this panel touch sensitive on both sides – top and bottom and connect them with a hinge.
That’s it. You’ve got you flip iPhone.
When device is closed, transparent touch sensitive panel is covering the whole display area and you’ve got your ordinary full multi-touchscreen iPhone.
When you flip iPhone open, you have a normal phone display and another side of the trackpad becomes multi-touch-active. Through it you control the phone:
If you want to dial a number, you can just draw it on a trackpad.
Or the rotational dial may appear on display, and you rotate it by sliding finger on a track pad.
In the open mode, the transparent trackpad can easily be made to display the standard T9 keypad and other symbols. That can be accomplished by making polarized number and symbol markings that can only be seen when the trackpad is open. Or they can be implemented as tiny LED’s.
When needed, you can keep both sides of the cover/trackpad touch-active at the same time. Thus having “six degrees of freedom” for control, and enabling 3D gestures on the device. Standard multi-touch gestures along “XY” axis on one side of trackpad, adding “Z” axis for the touch events on the other.
This dual sided trackpad approach can be applied to media player functionality as well. When media player mode is selected and cover is closed, it works just like iPod Touch does – media controls on the screen and you control it via touch/gestures.
Flip it open, and another side of the trackpad acts as a scroll wheel on a standard iPod and more.
So what’s the point of all these shenanigans?
Well, for one, you can make the overall device much smaller, when closed. It will be much more convenient to carry around and will fit well in your pocket.
And it’s also about this clamshell form factor thing. I know quite a few people that won’t even consider any other form of device for a mobile phone.
Also notice how all the pictures in here are pretty similar in shape to the latest generation of iPod Nano?
Well, this might be yet another way Apple may take to create iPhone Nano device.
And a stand alone iPod Nano may also benefit from such setup. Same size, with two times bigger display. iPod Touch Nano or iPod Nano Touch, anyone?
iTablet, Macbook with dual sided trackpads too? Why not
While dual sided trackpad on a new phones is interesting, Apple sees much wider applications for the whole idea.
One of them is Apple Tablet.
Just take the standard laptop form factor, put all the electronics behind the display panel, and make all the bottom part into a transparent dual sided trackpad. And you’ve got yourself an iTab:
In a closed position, it becomes a standard slate tablet computer, with a multi-touch touchscreen.
Open it to up-to 160 degree angle, and it becomes a normal laptop computer. The bottom side becomes the control device, with multi-touch trackpad and/or keyboard functions. Add polarized light symbols and/or that multi-touch keyboard technologies, that Apple has been developing for a while now, and overall experience might be richer then on today’s Macbook.
Then, if the tablet is open form more then 160 degrees, sharing mode can be enabled. The picture on display rotates 180 degrees, towards the person(s) you are making the presentation for, and you control the process via trackpad on your side. Or split screen mode can be enabled, so both you and the presentee see the same picture.
And, of course, the same dual sided transparent trackpad technology can be applied to your standard Macbook computer. Why? Think Sideshow, just simpler to make and use, cheaper and more capable.
When your computer is open, it’s just another multi-touch trackpad. Close it, and the trackpad becomes a small external display (just like Vista Sideshow), with full multi-touch capabilities.
You can check your e-mails, control iTunes music player, receive weather alerts and quite a few other things.
And, as patent application says, when OLED displays become mainstream, they will allow only a small part of the display that is visible through the trackpad to be active.
Now think about wide trackpads that are on Macbook Pro’s already. Make the dual sided transparent trackpads a little bigger in size – something like current iPod Touch. Think about laptop battery. Touchscreen. MacbookAir…
Currently both your iPod and Macbook gives you several hours of music, video playback and net browsing on one charge.
But put a dual-sided transparent trackpad on a Macbook Air, and you got yourself an ultimate travel device. Thin, light and, with only part of the OLED display beneath trackpad active, it can work for days, when needed, on one charge.
And in case you are wondering how far these drawings are from the real product, take a look at this picture:
The drawing on the right is the picture from the original iPhone patent, which was filed on March 03, 2006. The “Dual sided trackpad” patent was filed on Sept. 06 that same year.
So, while no promises here, and there are quite a few Apple’s patents that never became something more, we also might be in for some interesting surprises this sumer/fall.
You can download full patent application here (1.8MB *.pdf).