Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals new methods of assisting users who wish to operate their iPhone in one-hand-mode. Apple first introduced a 'reachability' feature with the iPhone 6 to assist those who wanted a way to operate the phablet for one-hand users. But one-hand users didn't really find it all that handy. While Apple has since released the iPhone 5 SE to make one-hand users happy, today's invention illustrates all-new ways to make iPhones with larger displays work better for one-hand iPhone users.
Apple's Patent Background
Portable electronic devices such as handheld computing devices are often held in and operated with one hand. For example, a user often holds an electronic device in the palm of his or her hand while using the thumb of that hand to interact with the touch screen display. Even when an electronic device is held in two hands, a user will tend to use one hand to provide touch input to the touch screen display.
For some users, it can be difficult to reach the entirety of a touch screen display with one hand. For example, a left handed user may easily be able to reach icons along the left edge of the display but may find it difficult to reach icons along the right edge of the display.
Some electronic devices have made one-handed use easier by allowing for a one-handed mode in which icons near the upper edge of a display are lowered to be closer to the lower edge of the display. This type of adjustment makes it easier for a user to reach the icons with his or her thumbs. However, because conventional electronic devices do not take into account which hand is being used, some icons may still be difficult to reach with one hand even when lowered to the bottom portion of the display.
It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices for one-handed use.
New iPhone Hand Detection Circuitry
A future iPhone may include a touch-sensitive display and sensor circuitry that detects whether a user's right hand or left hand is being used to operate the touch-sensitive display. Control circuitry in the electronic device may arrange icons and virtual buttons on the touch-sensitive display based on which hand is being used to provide touch input to the touch-sensitive display. FIGS. 5A and 5B are diagrams illustrating how sensors along the sides of an iPhone can detect when a user is operating the electronic device with their hand.
For example, when the sensor circuitry detects a user operating an iPhone with their hand, the control circuitry may position icons and virtual buttons closer to the left edge of the touch-sensitive display so that the icons and virtual buttons are easier to reach with the user's left hand. Similarly, when the sensor circuitry detects a user operating the iPhone with his or her right hand, the control circuitry may position icons and virtual buttons closer to the right side of the display as shown in Patent FIGS. 9A and 9B below.
The sensor circuitry may include one or more touch sensors, proximity sensors, fingerprint sensors, motion sensors, or other suitable sensors capable of gathering information on which hand is being used to operate the iPhone
A motion sensor may detect a rotation of the iPhone as a user moves the iPhone from one position (e.g., the user's pocket) to another position (e.g., near the user's ear). The rotation may be indicative of which hand is being used to hold and operate iPhone.
Sensors along the opposite sides of the iPhone may be used to gather information about how the iPhone itself is being held, which in turn can be used to determine whether the iPhone is in a user's left or right hand. The sensors may include a first touch or proximity sensor on a first side of the electronic device and a second touch or proximity sensor on a second side of the electronic device.
A Thumb's Arc Path
A touch sensor may be used to detect a pattern of touch input which can in turn be indicative of the arc path followed by a user's thumb during one-handed operation. The arc path information may in turn be used to determine which hand is being used to provide touch input to the electronic device.
While the iPhone will be able to determine the arc of the user's thumb, Apple really doesn't delve into the reasoning for this other than to determine which hand the user is holding the iPhone with. However, that's first detected by the side sensors which means the arc has little value on that front, unless it's to know where to place the option of calling up a radial or spiral menu which is an invention already granted to Apple.
And lastly, Apple notes that a fingerprint sensor may be used to detect the orientation of a user's finger, which can in turn be used to determine whether the fingerprint is associated with a user's left or right hand. For example, the angle at which a fingerprint (e.g., a thumbprint) is oriented and/or the orientation of ridges in a fingerprint may be used to determine which hand is being used to operate the electronic device.
Apple patent application was originally filed in Q4 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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