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back to article Apple files disappearing-feature iPhone patent

Apple has filed a patent application for the ability to hide some of a device's components – such as its camera, biometric sensors, or even its entire display – until they are needed. "Electronic devices are becoming more and more sophisticated, capable of performing a multitude of tasks from image capture to identity …

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WTF?

um, how can this be patentable? Just from figures it looks like something every phone has had in some form for 10+ years

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Anonymous Coward

Er, really? Name one single phone that has a sensor covered by a shutter to hide it.

I'm not saying this is a good idea, or patentable, but to my knowledge it hasn't been done before.

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Anonymous Coward

Just because something hasn't been done before for a given form factor doesn't make it patent-able.

The technology behind a finger print reader is patent-able, the technology behind making calls is patent-able, putting the two together is obvious... also it doesn't require any invention...

However, this is the USA and apparently slide to unlock is an invention (despite that I use a slide to unlock mechanism on many toilet doors...)

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Anonymous Coward

Yep, has been done. I can think of cameras with pop out and automatic lens covers. Been in a phone? No doubt a Japanese one. I don't really care, you cannot patent this idea. You might be able to patent a specific mechanism, but not "a cover". :/

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Anonymous Coward

This is a different idea. Lens covers are to protect the lens, not to hide it.

Again, not saying the idea is or should be patentable but it's definitely not in every phone for the last 10 years or even one single specific phone I can think of.

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FAIL

Feel free to list examples then.

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Anonymous Coward

> Name one single phone that has a sensor covered by a shutter to hide it.

My N900 has a shutter over the camera lens.

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Silver badge

Technically

It isn't a shutter it's this stuff in a color that matches the case which, I might add, is twice as many colors as a certain Mr. Ford sold his Model Ts in. Don't really see how that makes a dust cover novel since it's just window dressing, literally. Don't worry, I'm sure Apple has a design patent card, that I'd likely concede, ready to play just in case a little sanity takes over at the patent office and they realize this isn't utility patent material as it doesn't doesn't really do anything that isn't merely ornamentation or lack thereof.

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Anonymous Coward

Article

Guaranteed to get fandroids climbing on their high horses.

Anyone ever thought these patent snippets are just journalistical trolling?

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My Nokia 6220c

It had a little shutter covering the camera. Anyway, the idea of blank surfaces which turn into displays when needed has been a sci-fi film staple for decades.

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Silver badge

"Er, really? Name one single phone that has a sensor covered by a shutter to hide it."

Just about any android phone with a back and menu capacitive backlit button. I have had at least 3 android phones from different manufacturers that have had "faceless" buttons that cannot be seen until they are needed, they then light up and are usable before fading away to be non-usable in some cases.

capacitive buttons are sensors (it could be argued resistive ones arent). The patent mentions nothing of shutters, only hiding the buttons or functions behind PDLC, no sensor is "exposed to the air" and shut away.

Im not sure of the quality of pictures taken from behind PDLC either.

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Sony Cybershot phones have had these throughout the ages.

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Pint

Re: AC 07:10

"Anyone ever thought these patent snippets are just journalistical trolling?"

Frequently - and I believe it's beyond doubt when the article carries a Leach by-line.

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Holmes

Name one single phone that has a sensor covered by a shutter to hide it.

Sony Ericsson P990i (around 2006, camera covered by a shutter). And this wasn't the only one, others like the K750i had something similar.

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Joke

Quality

"Im not sure of the quality of pictures taken from behind PDLC either."

See iOS6 Apple Maps...

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Anonymous Coward

Samsung Galaxy Note

And other related devices

When you're not using the "menu" or "back" touch-buttons (i.e. capacitive sensors) they disappear from view. When your phone determines that you need it, it lights up.

Or hiding TVs behind a one-way mirror?

Even pop-up headlights could almost fall under this; they're a useful tool for the car but hidden until required.

The actual mechanism of using a liquid crystal as a blind has been around for ages- it has even been on Grand Designs years ago. And using blinds and curtains to obscure things of interest has been used as long as blinds and curtains have existed. So no novel step there.

The only novel step here is "it's on a phone".

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Bronze badge

Samsung Galaxy phones....

Android menu buttons...

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Stop

how ist this even patentable ...

... there is a sinister line to this nonsense ... patents are actually quit expensive and only the very rich can afford to patent all the little "brain spits" they can think off ... remember Kane Kramer (UK) who came up with the hole design and marketing concept of the iPod, about 20 years before Apple (Apple admits this in 2008) ... check Kramer's concept design sketches (Patent/Wikipedia) ... but his company just couldn't afford to hold the patent ... and that's that, the rest is history ... think about the consequences. Inventors already have to spend more time in researching patent databases then they will spent on their inventions ... and more often are being stopped and frustrated by established, general, broad, patent descriptions ...

On a food note: Sometimes I wished Apple would invent a way that would make it self and it's products disappear ... on the push of a button or, better, on a finger swipe on the screen ...

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@cyke1

it's not patentable, not to any sane patent office.

USPTO on the other hand, not so sane. People who run it, not so much. People who let them run it, there are questions to ask there.

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Re: @cyke1

So, why isn't this patentable?

I'm no fan of Apple, but this is a new idea that has not been used elsewhere, and certainly not in the domain they're proposing.

The patent is to make certain parts of the device visible when the're needed, and invisible at other times. Something similar has been achieved before with mechanical shutters, but the inventive step (i.e., the patentable bit) here is achieving this through the use of an existing material that can selectively change its opacity.

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Rob
Bronze badge
Go

Re: @cyke1

At least a couple of phones on the market now that have touch buttons that appear on the case when the unit it brought out of standby, so not really that inventive, Apple have just taken it one stage further, which I think is a smart idea if developed well but not patentable which is what the argument with Apple and it's patents is always about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @cyke1

Camera behind screen.. ever used an ATM? sure its in a wall but the idea is the same, so maybe they can patent a technological way of putting a camera behind a screen, but not the idea...

Hidden fingerprint scanners, well the idea has been there for years, just watch a bit of sci-fi, so no win there either

I think that a hidden scanner that appears after sliding the bolt to unlock is dumb, just have it visible and use to unlock...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @cyke1

I take it that you've never used stereo equipment or a universal smart remote? Even in the 80's there were receivers that lit up buttons that could be used... archaic, but fundamentally the same. Displays can be turned off on many dvd and blu-ray players until needed.

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Trollface

Holy stuff!

Clearly, the apes in 2001 didn't know about "slide to unlock".

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WTF?

Apple patents 'The Door'

Can't be long until they do.

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Silver badge

Re: Apple patents 'The Door'

iCurtains is more what came to mind.

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iCurtains?

iCurtains are also known as eyelids

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Silver badge

Re: iCurtains?

Or maybe Windows[tm].

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple patents 'The Door'

You say that and for some reason I keep thinking of electronic piss-flaps, don't ask me why, my brain must be in one of those moods today.

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Anonymous Coward

err two things here...

firstly dont finger print readers need physical contact between the sensor and the finger?

secondly, surely that extra layer in front of the camera is going to negatively effect camera image quality a little?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: err two things here...

"surely that extra layer in front of the camera is going to negatively effect camera image quality a little?"

No - it will just throw a little purple around the edges... :)

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Re: err two things here...

But that's a feature! Let the hoi-polloi take "naked" pictures with their common phones, you're taking "Apple dressed" pictures! (Now with Instagram like... er, Apple filters™ feature built in!)

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Mushroom

Re: err two things here...

Only if you hold it wrong.

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Silver badge

Actually it would make the image BETTER

The reason iPhone 5 has the purple flare is because the lens is flush with the back of the phone, which it wasn't in previous iPhones (and all/most other smartphones) If you put your iPhone in a case that comes a few mm away from the back of the phone, the purple flare is gone. The inset required for the shutter would serve the same purpose.

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Bronze badge

So...

It's like those transparent toilet doors that go opaque when you lock them. On a mobile device.

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Re: So...

And like Windows with an LCD layer that darkens when required - thereby hiding the outside world when not needed. there you go, prior art. I'm sure I saw them on Tomorrows World when I was a kid...

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Alert

I claim Maxwell Smart's shoe-phone as prior art.

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My Samsung has this!

My samsung monitor has this... When you run your fingers along the bezel then the buttons all light up, when they are not lit you cant see them!..... Some may argue that it is not a "Shutter" but there is a good chance that these "Shutters" will be more akin to e-ink than mini blinds.

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WTF?

Re: My Samsung has this!

That's a good point actually - are Apple patenting the idea of "shielding" a sensor from view? or specifically doing it with PDLC?

Either way I think patenting this is ridicuous -

a) the tech behind PDLC - patentable

b) the tech behind (for example) a fingerprint reader - patentable

Using technology a) at the same time as technology b) is surely simply a method, not an "idea" or a "design" - not patentable

I think I might apply for a patent to use WOODEN SPOON in conjunction with EGGS, WATER, SUGAR and FLOUR to make CAKE.

presumably then any method of compining those ingredients in order to make CAKE will owe me royalties?

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Re: My Samsung has this!

Hasn't various B&O kit had hidden buttons for years?

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Trollface

Another Patent Land-grab...

...This time covering technology to prevent their precious shiny-shiny phones from looking like...phones ;)

Also, how much electricity do these PDLC windows use?

Because there will be at least three or four on a phone, and they'll be used quite often, so unless power consumption is truly minute, you'll see a further measurable drain on battery charge. Great idea Apple ;D

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Pint

US of Apples

..and no more.

Everything patented by 1 single corp. The rest of the world can enjoy the freedom of choice.. :)

Hiiiiii-hah !!!

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I have had hidden buttons, context-sensitive buttons and user-sensitive buttons on my ViewTouch point of sale interface since 1987. I have also had Microsoft style Metro buttons on it since 1987.

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Trollface

Great idea!

They should hide their entire phone, or better yet, their entire company behind such window, until someone needs it

(hint: never).

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Anonymous Coward

"the electronic device may expose the concealed components by causing the electronic window to change opacity, allowing the components to suddenly appear as from out of nowhere."

Probably telling of the kind of people that work at USPTO that Apple (who let's face it, probably know them quite well) couch their specs in language that only just stops short of, "As if by magic! Hurray!"

Also, as a Brit ex-pat in N. America, I've decided that from now on people who say, "from out of," instead of, "from," get punched.

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Anonymous Coward

You'd just punch them from out of nowhere?

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mrd
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In a minority of one I guess

But it seems pretty obvious that no one has done this before: hidden controls behind a state change material so they are 'invisible' until required. Having a physical camera shutter is not the same thing at all because you know where the camera is because its physically still apparent.

Seems like a neat way of doing things if they can get around the technical problems that would no doubt come around due to having a layer between some of those interfaces and the user.

But that's not the right song to be singing these days. I believe that one goes something like this *clearing throat*

iSheeple will love this because Apple invented a rectangle with rounded shutters and they'll stroke their goatees into their latte while they queue because my screen is bigger and yeah!

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Happy

Re: In a minority of one I guess

"In a minority of one I guess"

Well I guess that solves the mystery of everyone's downvotes then...

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Feeping Creaturism at it's finest.

From its introduction of the Mac, Apple has built their devices with a minimalist human interface and then "inovated" with (more and more frequently) patented methods and procdures designed around overcoming the limitations of that minimalist interface.

Damned near every bloody thing coming out of Apple seems to be built around one overriding criterion:

Can it make a fanboi maik squee?

One button, translucent cases, sleek lines, rounded corners, pretty colours, "go faster" stripes, hide the buttons altogether.

Imagine if the current crop of so called innovators got in on the ground floor with power tools: The Makita pistol grip, Ryobi double hand grips, Black and Decker 8-ball speed selector. Palm grip or fingerwrap? Pushbutton or trigger switch? Slide, push, pull, twist or toggle?

Perhaps people would like pushbikes where only Raleigh has a monopoly on a grip which places one hand either side of the pivot point and everyone else must make do with a tiller.

Oh and a freebie to Samsung and the others. Slide a thumb downwards on either side of screen to unlock, just like the thumblatch once found beneath the the crescent moon.

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Re: Feeping Creaturism at it's finest.

Those might not be such good examples. Black & Decker has applied for a patent on the speed selector (application #20120222879, filed 09-06-2012). They had a patent on power tools with a grip containing a built-in power switch, granted in 1917. Ryobi has a patent on their power tool hand grip (patent #6796389, granted 09-28-2004). They also have a patent on a wheeled cart made out of a bent rod or tube (patent #6065189, granted 05-23-2000). Makita has held several design patents on the design of the grips of their power tools, now all expired, dating back to the early 1990s.

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