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A patent application made available to the public has recently showed Apple has plans for an iPhone design that opens like a clamshell to make a “dual sided trackpad.”
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.
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.