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Future iPhone features: Camera could be used as controller

The back of a phone is often no man’s land, housing just the camera lens, battery cover and not much else. But plans appear to be afoot to put the iPhone camera hardware to more use, according to a patent application from Apple discovered by AppleInsider.

We don’t often report on rumours, but this one caught our eye. If it ever comes to pass, it will mean that iPhone users could control some in-call functions by swiping a finger over the iPhone’s camera. So if you’re listening to a voicemail, you could fast-forward or rewind without taking the handset from your ear (as vaguely demonstrated by the figure on the right, taken from the application).

What’s more, there’s potential in the patent application for the iPhone’s accelerometer to decipher morse-code style tapping on the handset while the user is on a call. Beyond voicemail playback, you could feasibly put a caller on mute or merge two calls without wasting time looking at the handset. There’s definitely a possibility that this could lead you to do all kinds of damage inadvertently, but we’re sure you could disable it if needs be.

Apple has filed patents in the past that have come to nothing (yet) so this is in no way a definite future feature, but we’re keen to see if the next generation iPhone will make better use of the reverse. It makes sense to us.