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Apple Still Working on Delivering Virtual Control Buttons on a future iPhone

1 cover  apple patent  sidewalls


An old saying goes, "If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again." Well, that certainly applies to today's patent titled "Electronic Devices with Sidewall Displays. Patently Apple originally discovered this invention in Europe back in 2013, a patent which was filed in 2011. Apple was granted their seventh patent for this invention back on December 31, 2019.


Apple has been wanting to get rid of physical buttons on the iPhone forever and a day and keeping this invention alive and updated shows that their interest in delivering relevant virtual control buttons in the future remains a possibility.   


According to Apple, active portions (illuminated regions of pixels) on the sidewall edges of an electronic device may be used to create virtual user interface controls such as buttons.


The buttons or other user input interface elements may be reconfigured during use of the electronic device. For example, the user input interface elements on the sidewall of an electronic device may be repurposed for supporting user input operations in different operating modes of the electronic device.


Virtual buttons on the edge of a device may be provided in place of tactile input/output components such as physical buttons and switches or may be formed as part of a dummy button structure or other mechanical feature.


During operation of an electronic device, a virtual button may be, for example, a virtual volume button for controlling audio output volume and may be repurposed based on user input to become a virtual camera shutter button for taking a picture or may be reconfigured to serve as a controller for another device function.


Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device with a flexible display having portions on multiple surfaces of a device; FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrates side views of a portion of an illustrative edge-display that includes virtual buttons for selecting software applications and more.


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Today Apple updated their decade old invention with 20 new patent claims that touches on sensors such as the use of proximity, optical and touch sensors used along with curved edge of the display. To review Apple's patent and added claims, see Apple's patent application number 20210157453.


10.51XF - Continuation Patent Report Bar


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