Leaks and rumors indicate that the iPhone 8 would have an incredibly innovative design with a bezel-less curved OLED display, iris scanner, and no physical home button. But there could be more to the 2017 iPhone than rumors suggest, if a new patent is to be believed. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Apple a patent titled “Electronic Devices with Display and Touch Sensor Structures.”

iphone 8 or iPhone 10?
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Physical buttons could be replaced by touch sensors in iPhone 8

The patent (via Patently Apple) describes touch sensors being placed on any side of the device for new input sources. The physical buttons including volume controls could be replaced by touch sensors to keep the design clean and button-free. Apple has always focused on minimalist design.

According to the patent description, some sensors could be embedded on the rear panel of a device to control game play. A touch-enabled UI could open up new possibilities such as using the back of a smartphone or tablet for page turning or scrolling.

The patent filing adds that in gaming and other applications the touch sensor on the rear surface could be used to gather touch input while “displaying associated visual information on a display” on the front surface of the smartphone. At least one model of the iPhone 8 is said to look like a single sheet of glass. So, the rear panel of the device represents a huge opportunity for innovation.

Apple focusing on foldable/flexible displays

Apple said in its patent filing that when the handset is in a landscape mode as a camera, it may provide virtual buttons related to the camera. Patently Apple says the camera buttons may appear only when the device is in landscape mode. It would return to volume buttons when the iPhone is in portrait mode.

It is Apple’s fourth patent related to foldable display/flexible display since last month. However, the touch-sensors on the back are unlikely to become the primary input mechanism anytime soon. It’s worth pointing out that patenting a technology doesn’t mean it will be incorporated in the iPhone 8. The Cupertino company is granted hundreds of patents every year, and only a few of them make it to the finished products.

Three models of iPhone 8

Apple will reportedly launch three different models of the iPhone 8. Two of them would be iterative updates to the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Both of them are said to feature LCD displays. The third variant would feature an edge-to-edge OLED display. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that all three models will feature wireless charging. The dual-camera system will be included only in the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus and the third variant.

The iPhone 8 is expected to be powered by A11 Fusion chip manufactured by TSMC using the 10nm process. To win future contracts from Apple, TSMC is planning to build a new plant for 5nm and 3nm chips, according to Nikkei Asian Review.