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by Mike Zazaian October 27, 2006 - 11:23am, 3 Comments

A recently released patent for Apple's rumored full-screen iPod

An Apple patent released to the public today suggests that Apple’s rumored full-screen iPod will have a touch-sensitive bezel that will serve as the control panel for the device.

While the only confirmation of such a device has come from an anonymous executive at an Apple third-party add-on manufacturer, rumors and patents alike have built up momentum for the possible release of a full-screen iPod later this year. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published today a patent filed by Apple back in July that depicts the interworkings of the fabled full-screen media device. While it had been thought that the full-screen iPod would be controlled solely by a touch-sensitive screen, the new patent suggests that an outer bezel around the screen will feature programmable buttons that can also be used for control. As it appears in the patent, the function of each button would be displayed in a small half-circle against on the screen against the bezel. From the summary of the newly-released patent:

An electronic device has a display and has a touch sensitive bezel surrounding the display. Areas on the bezel are designated for controls used to operate the electronic device. Visual guides corresponding to the controls are displayed on the display adjacent the areas of the bezel designated for the controls. Touch data is generated by the bezel when a user touches an area of the bezel.

It also seems that the device will feature an automatic orientation system that adjusts the screen position based on how the user holds it. If the user held the device upside down, for example, the screen would right itself so that it appears right-side-up to the viewer. This feature would go along well with the bezel feature, as the buttons on the bezel would simply change on the fly according to how the user turns it.

The device can have a sensor for determining the orientation of the device, reads the patent. Based on the orientation, the device can alter the areas designated on the bezel for the controls and can alter the location of the visual guides for the display so that they match the altered areas on the bezel.

Artist rendering of a full-screen iPod

Of course the language stipulates everything in the patent with cans rather than wills, as such patents tend to do. Apple is leaving themselves open to implement these features if they so desire, although they just as well may not. But the very fact that Apple has considered the touch-sensitive bezel and auto-orientation features once again show the forward-thinking of Apple design, and (hopefully) why Steve Jobs says he’s not worried about Microsoft’s Zune.

It’s all still up in the air for consumers, however. Let’s just hope that the fruition of these patents comes sooner rather than later. If nothing else, Apple has assurance from the hype and media generated by these rumors to ensure that anything resembling a full-screen iPod would fly off the shelves in minutes.

Apple’s Patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Via engadget