Apple Researching Movement-Aware Interfaces for iPhones, Depicts Front-Facing Video Camera

Apple has been conducting ongoing research into how to further improve their mobile device interfaces as evidenced by a couple of patent applications published over the past couple of weeks. Two different patent applications reveal a couple of different approaches to movement-aware interfaces found on portable devices.

The first application published a couple of weeks ago actually explores the possibility of using motion as an interface method itself.

One problem with existing portable media devices such as cellular telephones is that users can become distracted from other activities while interfacing with the media device's video display, graphical user interface (GUI), and/or keypad. For example, a runner may carry a personal media device to listen to music or to send/receive cellular telephone calls while running. In a typical personal media device, the runner must look at the device's display to interact with a media application in order to select a song for playing. Also, the user likely must depress the screen or one or more keys on its keypad to perform the song selection. These interactions with the personal media device can divert the user's attention from her surroundings which could be dangerous, force the user to interrupt her other activities, or cause the user to interfere with the activities of others within her surroundings.

Apple proposes the use of motion-based gestures to invoke specific commands rather than relying on on-screen buttons. Examples include the use of gestures such as flicking the phone to step through contacts. Additional uses of onscreen buttons or bezel touch detection could prevent accidental gesturing. Such a system, however, seems somewhat ambitious.

A more practical take on this problem emerges from a patent application published today. In this report, Apple concedes that users may have difficulty using the iPhone's touch interface while performing tasks in motion:

. A user of a device can interact with the graphical user interface by making contact with the touch-sensitive display. The device, being a portable device, can also be carried and used by a user while the user is in motion. While the user and the device is in motion, the user's dexterity with respect to the touch-sensitive display can be disrupted by the motion, detracting form the user's experience with the graphical user interface.

Apple's solution to the problem is to modify the iPhone's interface in real-time if it detects that you are in motion (such as running, jogging).


In this example, they enlarge the size of each contact in response to the detection of motion. Similar user interface adjustments to the iPhone's home screen could be made as well to improve accuracy during activity.

Apple's patent applications generally reveal a very wide-range of possibilities and don't necessarily result in shipping products, but does show the direction of Apple's recent research.

Update: As one reader points out, the patent diagram also depicts a front-facing video camera on the front side of the device (labeled 180). A front facing camera could allow video-chat capabilities in future iPhones.


The other labeled sensors are: proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and accelerometer. Apple also mentions the possible use of a gyroscope (digital compass/magnetometer) -- the implications of which were previously detailed.

Top Stories

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

Spotify Says Apple One Bundle Will Cause 'Irreparable Harm to Developer Community'

Tuesday September 15, 2020 12:26 pm PDT by
Apple today announced Apple One, a series of new subscription bundles that provide access to various Apple services at a combined monthly price. In response, Spotify sent out statements (via Peter Kafka) to the press decrying Apple's anti-competitive behavior and calling on "competition authorities" to stop Apple before it is able to cause "irreparable harm" to developers.Once again, Apple...

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 Will Be Released September 16

Tuesday September 15, 2020 11:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 will be officially released on Wednesday, September 16. Apple has seeded the final Golden Master beta versions of each update to developers in advance. ‌iOS 14‌ and iPadOS 14 introduce dozens of new features, including a redesigned Home Screen that supports widgets on the iPhone and iPad for the first time. For more...

New AirPods Pro Firmware Introduces Spatial Audio Support and Automatic Switching

Monday September 14, 2020 12:22 pm PDT by
The new 3A283 firmware that Apple released for the AirPods Pro today appears to introduce support for Spatial Audio, a new feature coming to the higher-end AirPods with iOS 14. Multiple reports on Twitter and the MacRumors forums indicate that the firmware update adds a "Spatial Audio" option to the Control Center, which can be activated to enable the feature. Note that using Spatial Audio...

Apple Releases Safari 14 for Mac Ahead of macOS Big Sur Launch

Wednesday September 16, 2020 1:40 pm PDT by
macOS Big Sur didn't launch alongside iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 today, with the update coming later this fall, but Apple did release the Safari 14 update for macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave users. Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab...

Full Transcript of Apple's 'Time Flies' Event With Apple Watch and iPad Updates

Tuesday September 15, 2020 8:46 am PDT by
Apple's virtual "Time Flies" event kicks off today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, with Apple expected to debut new Apple Watch and iPad models, but it appears we may not see the iPhone 12 until next month. While we're not expecting to see new iPhones today, Apple's software updates for its various platforms are likely nearly ready for launch, so we may be hearing more about them today. Check...

Everything Apple Announced at Today's iPad and Apple Watch Event in Just Seven Minutes

Tuesday September 15, 2020 2:19 pm PDT by
Apple today held its annual September event, but this year was a bit different because no new iPhones were announced. The "Time Flies" event focused on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the iPad Air, and saw the debut of a new Apple One services bundle. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. It took Apple an hour to introduce the new devices, but we've recapped the event in...