Apple Considering Touch Screens On The Back Of iPod Someday

Arik Hesseldahl

There is really only a small number of ways to find out what new features are coming to Apple iPods in the future. One is to find a drinking buddy who works at Apple and occasionally gets blotto enough to let a detail slip that he or she shouldn't. (Or so I hear.) Another is make friends with a manager at a Taiwanese contract manufacturer who actually builds the products for Apple, and convince that person to risk their own professional skin to leak you details of what they're building. (Again, so I hear.)

But the most reliable way to get a glimpse into what kinds of things Apple is thinking about for future products is to watch patent filings. Remember if you will that it was once such filing in 2004 that first brought to the world's attention the multipoint touch screen found on the upcoming iPhone. This is the screen that can track the touches of several fingers at once (up to 15 fingers at once, if you have them) and thus enables that "pinch" feature that looks so cool on the phone when you're browsing the Web and want to zoom in on a picture.

So Unwired Review today noticed a new Apple patent filing concerning how the touchscreen concept might be adapted for smaller devices, say an iPod nano. The problem: how can you operate it easily when your finger covers so much of the smaller screen? Simple really: Put another fully-operational touch screen on the back.

One observation: The drawings in these filings are meant to be very generic, and not terribly useful as indications of new designs. So if and when this feature appears on a future iPod or iPhone model, the final product will likely look very different from what you see above. Then again it may never show up. Either way, documents like this give the best indications possible concerning what's on the minds of the engineers working away inside Apple's engineering labs.

Here's the full filing for those with the patience to read it.