In the future, you might be able to grab your iPhone and control it from any angle. Touchable, scrollable input spots on the phone’s backside could revolutionize the device, according to a new patent.
Apple was recently granted the patent, which describes a super space age-sounding “quantum tunneling” material that could eliminate the need for physical buttons and bring touch control to just about any surface.
The quantum tunneling material uses complicated electron exchanges to create additional touch controls. Apple’s patent starts off by describing a design for an iPhone case with touch capabilities on the back (seen in the figure below), but the tech could also someday be integrated into the phone itself.
The material could be used on Apple Watch bands, too, but it’s not clear what extra control would accomplish. Since the Watch back is against the wearer’s wrist at all times, the band’s touch zones could just make using the watch more complicated.
In time, quantum tunneling materials could be used to replace the EarPod’s bulky control button panel—if everyone hasn’t switched over to AirPods by then. The patent application was filed back in 2015 (which explains the iPhone mockup’s headphone jack—R.I.P.) but it was finally approved this week and spotted by Patently Apple.
It’s a cool concept that could make the super sleek buttonless iPhone designs even more useful, but quantum tunneling materials won’t be coming to the iPhone 8 (or whatever it winds up being called) later this year.
This is purely speculative tech for now, so we might never actually see it as part of an iPhone in the future. But for everyone who wants to scroll through their News Feeds from the backs of their phones, here’s to hoping.