December 6, 2023

Apple has unveiled a new smartphone technology that will allow you to flawlessly control future iPhones in conditions where most current smartphones fail, such as rain or even underwater.

In a recently awarded patent, Apple describes new technologies that will allow a mobile device, such as the iPhone, to handle what it calls “humidity events” by automatically adapting the on-screen display, control buttons, and sensors to suit environmental conditions.

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A moisture event can be defined as anything ranging from a small amount of liquid detected on the outside of a smartphone, to the device being completely submerged in a liquid such as for underwater use.

Using pressure and humidity sensors, the technology will detect and eliminate any “false touches” that may occur by liquid touching the screen, then adjust the on-screen control layout accordingly. This may include moving the control buttons away from each other, changing their size and function, or removing them entirely.

In addition to changing the layout of the buttons, the phone will switch from using the usual capacitive touch mode, which only works well in the dry, to using pressure sensors to detect the strength and position of button presses on the screen, similar to Apple’s Force Touch and 3D Touch technologies recently used in iPhone XS collection. To register the touch, it must apply pressure greater than a preset threshold which can be adjusted according to the type of moisture event currently detected.

For example, Apple’s patent document shows a smartphone camera app running in separate “dry”, “wet” and “underwater” modes offering different versions of the interface designed for each use case.

In wet mode, some camera features are automatically removed from the interface, so they cannot be activated, while in underwater mode, the usual set of camera controls is completely removed and replaced with a pair of very large buttons. It is much easier to activate underwater but is limited to simple photo or video capture, without any access to the camera settings. In this case, the camera will be automatically configured with the best settings for underwater photography. The smartphone’s on-screen display also adapts to show the current camera depth underwater, which will help you stay within the device’s water resistance limits.

While underwater photography isn’t a typical use case for most iPhone users, having a smartphone that can adapt to and weather challenging weather conditions would put Apple at an advantage over the competition, especially in locations where moisture events occur daily. On the other hand, interfaces that change without warning and move buttons around can be very confusing for some users, so great care should be taken with the design.

You can read the full details here at Apple patent registration.

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