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Specs, and other new technologies

There's more to the iPhone than the screen and the design. Here we look at what else we can expect from a future iPhone.

The ability to spit out water

A patent published on 12 November 2015 suggests a peculiar but rather appealing solution to the waterlogging issue that has afflicted iPhones in the past (but shouldn't in future, since the iPhone 7 is rated IP67 water-resistant): a mechanism that lets an iPhone dry itself by pumping liquid out through its speaker grills.

iPhone 9 rumours & patents: Water expelling patent

Patent application 20150326959, wonderfully, is called LIQUID EXPULSION FROM AN ORIFICE.

"The embodiments described herein are directed to an acoustic module that is configured to remove all or a portion of a liquid that has accumulated within a cavity of the acoustic modules," the patent's summary reads.

The concept is centred around modules within the speaker cavities that can be made hydrophobic to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the charge applied to them: when liquid is detected, charges would be applied across the various modules in such a way that the liquid would be moved across the modules and ultimately expelled from the cavity.

Interestingly, Apple has used something along these lines in the Apple Watch Series 2, which can clear water out of its little speaker cavity by vibrating the speaker membrane:

Environmental sensors in the sensor cavity

Apple has applied for a patent, as spotted by AppleInsider, that relates to speaker cavities that feature environmental sensors. In theory the sensors would be able to analyse the air (or liquid) inside the cavity and report on the temperature, oxygen or carbon monoxide levels and so on. Your iPhone, some way down the line, could warn you of toxic gases in the vicinity, although it could be a better fit for the Apple Watch.

Touch ID display

Apple is understood to be exploring the possibility of integrating the Touch ID fingerprint scanner into the display of a smartphone or tablet. In fact, Apple filed a patent describing a Touch ID display back in January 2013.

iPhone 9 rumours & patents: Scan display

This technology means that you could place your finger on the display to scan it, instead of the Home Button. We're not sure if this technology was an original variation to the Home Button scanner found on the iPhone 5s, or if it'll be combined with the Haptics & Tactile technology to remove the Home Button on a future iPhone and replace it with a virtual onscreen button.

The patent describes a touchscreen display with a fingerprint-sensing layer that could be used to introduce advanced multi-user support.

For example, Apple could use the fingerprint sensing display to only allow particular users to open certain apps. This could be useful for those with children who like to explore the iPad, for example.

Additionally, Apple could take the display even further. It could be used in conjunction with a piano app, for example, to teach users the correct finger placement for the instrument.

Accident-free buttons

Accidental touchscreen inputs are so commonplace that we actually added the phrase 'Pocket dialling' to our tech jargon dictionary. Well, developments over the next few years could put a stop to that.

In May 2014, a patent titled "Configurable Buttons for Electronic Devices" described a touch-sensitive button designed to prevent accidental inputs. The patent covers a physical button that also has a touch sensor, which would know when a user's finger is touching it rather than another object in a bag.

The buttons highlighted in Apple's patent include the power, sleep, menu, volume and multipurpose buttons that are physical on most devices and therefore susceptible to accidental input.

Apple's Touch ID home button uses similar technology to the technology described in this patent, though it's also used as a security measure thanks to a fingerprint scanning authentication method.

Next: Pricing for future iPhones