Vibrate and zoom: Apple lodges two new patent applications

We know how dearly Apple values its own patents. The American technology giant has gone to war with rivals in a bid to protect its design features.

So we’re sure it will be equally as protective of two new ideas it is said to be working on.

The firm, which is headed by CEO Tim Cook, has lodged two new patent applications.

Spotted by AppleInsider, which is dedicated to all sorts of Apple news, the patents are for two mobile device features.

There is a new method for detecting and adjusting the noise which results from an iPhone vibrating in silent mode along with a new design which auto-zooms content. It works by determining how close your face is to the screen to decide what the best size text and images would be for comfortable viewing.

Its vibration motor patent will eliminate those embarrassing moments when you’ve turned your phone on silent for an important meeting, or in the doctor’s surgery, only for it to make a noise by vibrating if you’ve put it on a hard surface. Silent will be truly silent.

Motion sensors or microphones will be used, which will let the device know if it is making too much noise, and change its vibration levels and patterns to minimise the rattling sound.

The other patent could replace Apple’s existing pinch-to-zoom feature. It will dynamically alter the content size based on how close you get to the screen. The system has two modes – one called Comfort where it will zoom out when a user gets close and enlarge content when you back away and Zoom when the action is reversed. It sounds like it may take a bit of getting used to, particularly if you’re moving closer to squint at something you can’t see properly and it zooms out.

But, if executed well, it could mean an end to constant zooming in and out, particularly if you’re viewing web content not optimised for mobile, and the feature could come in particularly useful for looking at maps, or gaming.

While a patent application doesn’t always make it to market, it does demonstrate Apple’s dedication to constant improvement and innovation.

“If Apple chooses to one day use the content resizing invention,” says AppleInsider, “ a likely device could be a future iPhone or iPod touch, as users constantly resize content with their fingers, due to the devices’ relatively small display size.”

The new applications come as rumours suggest Apple will start test production of a new iPhone 5 version next month.

They come as legal action between Apple and rivals Samsung over alleged patent infringement rumbles on. After the announcement that a patent licensing agreement had been signed between Apple and HTC, a Samsung executive signalled his company would not be agreeing to any such deal.

While HTC is understood to have agreed to pay $276m to Apple, Shin Jong-kyun, head of Samsung’s mobile and IT division, said Samsung would not negotiate “at all” and would not be paying iPhone to settle ongoing litigation.

Apple’s biggest victory so far came in August when a Californian jury found Samsung had violated Apple’s inventions and ordered Samsung to pay Apple more than $1bn in damages.