Apple Patents Confusing iPod, Controls on Back

Rumors of a smaller, more compact iPhone have been doing the rounds for nearly a year. Many fans were convinced that Apple's plans to launch a $99 iPhone along with the 3GS meant a $99 iPhone Nano. When the Cupertino-based company launched the 3GS and announced that it was the 3G that would be selling for $99, the iPhone Nano rumors died down and took a break for nearly two months.

Today cites a patent filing with the U.S. Patents & Trademark Office which details a dual-sided, touch sensitive device that uses one side for display and the touch-sensitive back-side of the device for controlling the UI.

MacNN describes it as sophisticated, yet complicated and we'd say that's an understatement. For example, the back of the device is force-sensitive touch, meaning it not only detects touch but also how hard you're pressing. Figures 3A and 3B show a click-wheel-like function on the back of the device with the LCD display on the front showing a menu. Users slide their fingers around on the back to select functions on the click wheel, applying pressure to select certain functions (play, pause, skip, etc.) and following an on-screen cursor which represents the finger they're using on the back of the device.

Still with us? Great, let's move on to added functionality like making calls and sending text messages or emails (a word of warning, this is where it gets really confusing). Check out Figure 5, which shows an on screen keyboard. The keypad appears almost transparent on the screen (allowing you to still see text/images/whatever underneath) and again, the cursor is used to select certain keys with the force-sensitive touch on the back of the device. A similar on screen keypad with a behind-the-scenes control concept used for dialing.

All in all, pretty confusing but kind of neat once you wrap your head around it. Who's interested? Granted, this could be another "just in case" patent that Apple never actually plans on manufacturing but it would be interesting to see an actual working device.

Check out the full story here.

*Images Via MacNN

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