Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro was the last to have the ill-fated and much-maligned Touch Bar, and even that did away with it in favor of proper keys. Now it seems that Apple hasn’t given up on the idea just yet — but it might make an appearance somewhere entirely new if it does return from the dead.
That’s because a patent that Apple applied for in April of this year appears to suggest that the Touch Bar could be on the way to the iPhone in the future, although it’s anyone’s guess if and when that will happen.
But that might not be the most interesting thing about this patent because the original patent dates back to 2011 and this new one is a carbon copy.
The repeat patent was spotted by Apple Insider and appears to be identical to the one that was granted back in 2014. This isn’t a reapplication for a patent that was expiring but rather an entirely new one, despite there being no apparent differences.
The patent itself talks about electronic devices with sidewall displays which appears to suggest that we could one day have displays on the side of our iPhones. Apple hints that the technology would put a flexible display beneath a protective surface.
As for what the new display could be used for, there are plenty of options. Notifications are the most obvious but with Apple’s best iPhones now sporting always-on displays the utility of such a thing is questionable.
One disturbing possibility is that Apple could potentially ditch the volume and Action buttons in favor of a touch-sensitive display akin to the Touch Bar that was universally hated. Rumors of capacitive buttons coming to the iPhone 16 show that Apple is more than happy to let its Taptic Engine make faux buttons feel real. Could the same happen here, too?