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First revealed in a U.S. patent filing discovered by AppleInsider two years ago, the concept shows a multi-sided device with a LCD display on one side, and a touch- and force-sensitive interface on its back.
The idea aims to eliminate the problem of fingers getting in the the way of the screen. It would also negate the problem of fingerprint smudges, the application reads.
"A force-sensitive touch-surface is provided on a first or back-side surface of the device through which a user provides input (e.g., cursor manipulation and control element selection/activation)," the company wrote. "On a second or front-side surface, a display element is used to present one or more control elements and a cursor that is controlled through manipulation of the back-side touch-surface.
According to the filing, when the device is activated or placed into an operational state where it is appropriate, control elements (e.g., soft keys and menus) are displayed on the display element. The soft keys may be opaque or transparent (so as not to occlude prior displayed information such as a video presentation, a picture, a graphic or textual information). The displayed cursor would identify where on the back-side touch-surface the user has their finger.
"When the cursor is positioned over the desired control element/soft key (i.e., spatially overlapping on the display element), the user selects or activates the control element by applying pressure to the force-sensitive touch-surface with their finger," Apple explained. "Accordingly, the invention provides a means to operate a hand-held electronic device with one hand, wherein cursor movement and control element selection/activation may be accomplished without lifting one's finger. "
While the fundamentals of the patent can't be ruled out in regards to possible applications in future products, the notion of the iPhone nano as depicted appears to be a discarded one — especially with a $99 iPhone 3G. All signs appear to indicate that Apple has since abandoned any notion of making a cheaper smaller phone
For more on the 2007 patent, read AppleInsider's coverage when the story first broke.