Apple is working on an iPhone that works better in the rain

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2018
Apple is attempting to solve the problem of using an iPhone or iPad in the rain, by coming up with a way to detect a user's finger movements on a touchscreen display under damp conditions, mitigating erroneous inputs caused by drops of water.




Most smartphone users will have experienced issues when using their devices with wet hands or in the rain, with residual water on fingers sometimes causing the display to incorrectly detect or fail to sense touches or swipes. In the rain, the water droplets landing on the display could interfere with the device, interpreted as a finger press and potentially making unwanted selections for the user.

Capacitive touch displays, as used in smartphones and tablets, work by detecting changes to a flow of electricity in the display. A touch of a finger, a stylus, or another conductive element can change the flow of electrical fields, with the device interpreting these alterations to determine where the screen was touched.

Since water or sweat is capable of altering the electrical fields, this can sometimes be classified by a device as a touch in its own right.

According to two patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, both titled "Finger tracking in wet environment," Apple suggests the use of filtering to determine whether a detected touch is intended by the user or not. This occurs before the device performs "computationally-intensive touch processing," with the aim of reducing processing time and power usage, as well as the byproduct of improved usage in wet weather.




In Apple's example, a number of touch nodes can be designated across the display, potentially as a grid across the entire display or on the edges. The nodes can be used to measure a number of data points about a touch event either on or near it at the same time as other local nodes.

The data, including the passing of touch signal thresholds by different types of detected touches, can also include the overall size of the area being touched, the number of touch nodes covered in the event, determined shapes, and in the case of gestures, potential movements of multiple points in concert.

Algorithms will look at the characteristics of the touch and determine whether a touched area is performed by a human or a user-controlled implement, or is in fact another element that is beyond the user's control, like raindrops. The system could also determine whether a touch is intended by the user, ruling out accidental grazing or touches where the user isn't directly pressing the display, such as if they are wearing gloves or if a bandaged wrist touches the screen.

Once a touch has been determined to be intentional and by the user, the data associated with the touch is passed on to other systems for processing.




While Apple is known to be looking at alternative display technologies, such as folding screens, there have been instances where ideas Apple has to improve the touchscreen experience have surfaced.

For example, a patent granted in February 2016 explained how Apple could detect gestures that are made by hovering above an iPhone's display, rather than touching it. Another granted in August 2018 detailed a similar concept, using depth maps and three-dimensional sensor data to detect hand gestures from elsewhere in a room.

While Apple does file numerous patent applications every week, their publication does indicate areas Apple is working within, but isn't a guarantee that the described concepts will make their way into consumer products in the future.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    Forget about texting in the rain...

    This invention is meant for hot tub use!
    gregg thurmangrynmacha
  • Reply 2 of 20
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,530member
    It never dawned on me that this could be a problem.
  • Reply 3 of 20
    Am I not wrong that some of the latest Samsung phones have there touchscreens functional under water? If they can do it, Apple can in one of the next iPhones too.
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 4 of 20
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,316member
    This technology is much more important for the Apple Watch.
    curtis hannahgrynmacha
  • Reply 5 of 20
    foljsfoljs Posts: 308member
    lkrupp said:
    It never dawned on me that this could be a problem.
    Because you live somewhere where it doesn't rain 9/10th of the year, or you only stay indoors?
  • Reply 6 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,256member
    Am I not wrong that some of the latest Samsung phones have there touchscreens functional under water? If they can do it, Apple can in one of the next iPhones too.
    I’ve never heard of that. Can you show us something?
  • Reply 7 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,256member
    mac_128 said:
    This technology is much more important for the Apple Watch.
    I’m assuming that’s a joke.

    oops! Read that incorrectly. Sorry.
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 8 of 20
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,582member
    You shower and swim with an apple watch. I find it relevant.
    melgross said:
    mac_128 said:
    This technology is much more important for the Apple Watch.
    I’m assuming that’s a joke.
  • Reply 9 of 20
    Why? I get that it could be useful but why?
  • Reply 10 of 20
    The way I initially read it, the title of the article made it seem like the iPhone will work better in the rain than when it is not in the rain!  :D

    I can see the user manual update: "For best results, use your phone either in the shower or go outside when it is raining."
  • Reply 11 of 20
    melgross said:
    Am I not wrong that some of the latest Samsung phones have there touchscreens functional under water? If they can do it, Apple can in one of the next iPhones too.
    I’ve never heard of that. Can you show us something?
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IJUxi0ktDzw
    This is the video that came to mind, but looking at other reviews it seems like a hit or miss feature for it to work.
  • Reply 12 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,256member
    melgross said:
    Am I not wrong that some of the latest Samsung phones have there touchscreens functional under water? If they can do it, Apple can in one of the next iPhones too.
    I’ve never heard of that. Can you show us something?
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IJUxi0ktDzw
    This is the video that came to mind, but looking at other reviews it seems like a hit or miss feature for it to work.
    So, it doesn’t really work.
    freediverx
  • Reply 13 of 20
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,010member
    They should be waterproofing to keep the coolant in, not the rain out.  Not sure how well that would work at altitude though.
  • Reply 14 of 20
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,343member
    Carnage said:
    Why? I get that it could be useful but why?

    To make it more reliable in a wider range of conditions? It's called advancing technology. I'm confused by your confusion.
    edited October 2018 fastasleepfreediverx
  • Reply 15 of 20
    mac_128 said:
    This technology is much more important for the Apple Watch.
    Definitely. Water droplets change my TuneIn Radio station often when I’m in the shower. Now I try to remember to put it in Theater mode so the screen stays inactive. It’d be nice to be able to use the screen while there are droplets on it, though. 
  • Reply 16 of 20
    Not sure if I really need this during the rain or just for my sweaty palms and fingers.
    freediverx
  • Reply 17 of 20

    To make it more reliable in a wider range of conditions? It's called advancing technology. I'm confused by your confusion.
    Just bend over your phone and the problem is solved. Regardless, the readability is not the best when you have drops on the screen. I get that it might help somebody.. one day... maybe, but the use case frequency is  really small and the workaround for the user pretty easy and painless.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    freediverxfreediverx Posts: 1,403member
    lkrupp said:
    It never dawned on me that this could be a problem.
    You don't get out much, do you?
  • Reply 19 of 20
    freediverxfreediverx Posts: 1,403member
    aplnub said:
    You shower and swim with an apple watch. I find it relevant.
    melgross said:
    mac_128 said:
    This technology is much more important for the Apple Watch.
    I’m assuming that’s a joke.
    Many of us would like to use our iPhones even when it's raining or with wet fingers.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    freediverxfreediverx Posts: 1,403member
    melgross said:
    Am I not wrong that some of the latest Samsung phones have there touchscreens functional under water? If they can do it, Apple can in one of the next iPhones too.
    I’ve never heard of that. Can you show us something?
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IJUxi0ktDzw
    This is the video that came to mind, but looking at other reviews it seems like a hit or miss feature for it to work.
    That would accurately describe a large number of features and capabilities claimed by Android device makers.
    curtis hannah
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