Back in 2012 the New York Times Bits columnist Nick Bilton wrote a report about Facebook thinking of taking another crack at jumping in the smartphone business. The report claimed that employees of Facebook along with several new engineers from Apple and those briefed on Facebook's plans said that a smartphone could be ready by the end of 2013. Figuring out how to make the hardware was one of the causes for their multiple delays. Now a Facebook smartphone patent has surfaced showing us that they've been working on a smartphone since 2011 and that they're continually refining it. Surprisingly Facebook makes it clear that they want their hardware to have a distinct physical twist to it so that it stands out from the crowd of me-too products. For that you have to applaud them if they actually deliver on that point.
A Facebook Smartphone with a Side-Mounted Touchpad
Facebook's invention generally relates to touch-based user interfaces, and more particularly to, navigating between user interface layers of an application hosted by a computing device having a side-mounted touchpad.
A general look at Facebook's smartphone can be seen in patent FIG. 3A below, though the interface is likely to be like their Facebook app that you can get from either Google Play or Apple's App Store.
Where Facebook's smartphone is likely to differ from others on the market today is in how they choose to customize their hardware with either a unique single touchpad design or one with dual touchpads.
These devices will be able to identify the presence, location and movement of more than one touch input, such as two or three finger touches. A system incorporating one or more touch-based input devices may monitor one or more touch-sensitive surfaces for one or more touch or near touch inputs from a user.
When one or more such user inputs occur, the system may determine the distinct area(s) of contact and identify the nature of the touch or near touch input(s) via geometric features and geometric arrangements (e.g., location, movement), and determine if they correspond to various touch events (e.g., tap, drag, swipe, pinch).
In Facebook's patent FIG. 5 noted below we're able to see a front view and a side view of an example smartphone with a front-mounted touch screen and a side-mounted touchpad.
In one embodiment, the side-mounted touchpad #503 may be replaced by a clickable button or keypad device. In another embodiment, the side-mounted touchpad may be a multi-touch touchpad. In some implementations, the touchpad may be a single- or multi-touch device. The back-mounted touchpad #505 may cover substantially all or a portion of a back side of the smartphone as illustrated in FIG. 5B below. The back-mounted touch surface #505 may comprise a multi-touch touchpad or a multi-touch touch screen.
In some embodiments, the side-mounted touchpad #502 may comprise a slightly concave multi-touch surface, as illustrated in FIG. 5A below. The touch screen and side-mounted touchpad #503 may be single-touch, dual-touch or multi-touch devices.
In other embodiments, Facebook's smartphone may identity touch events associated with the back-mounted touch surface, as illustrated in FIGS. 5G-5I above. In the example of FIG. 5G, a user touches back-mounted touch surface in a quick motion in an upward direction (indicated by the arrow 531). In the example of FIG. 5H, a user touches back-mounted touch surface in a quick motion in a downward direction (indicated by the arrow 532). In the example of FIG. 5I, a user taps or strikes lightly on back-mounted touch surface (as indicated by the arrow 533).
A gesture recognition library of the smartphone can interpret the user's touch input and identify the touch input corresponding to an upward flick event or gesture associated with back-mounted touch surface.
The rest of the physical phone will have all of the typical features of advanced sensors, speakers, camera, GPS, LTE, voice recognition, voice replication, use SD Cards, Flash-memory cards and even a biometric sensor for security applications (e.g., fingerprint reader).
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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