A current smartphone trend has seen vendors put fingerprint readers on the backs of our devices, which also might beg the question, "what else could we put back there?" According to a newly granted Google patent, a touchpad could be in the cards for the Android creator's future branded Pixel smartphone devices. If that sounds a bit bizarre, bear in mind that many patents may appear odd at first glance, but often are the sparks of true innovation.
Google foresees the use of a touchpad on the back of a smartphone to grant the user additional interaction possibilities. As seen in the example image from the patent below, the touchpad would settle below the camera, and could be of equal size. It'll also be recessed so as to make it easy to find without looking but merely feeling around.
Credit: Patently Mobile
One thing this image doesn't take into account is a finger print reader, but perhaps the design would allow this unique touchpad to double as a finger print reader. Otherwise, that reader could be placed in front, doubling as the home button, as it is on a number of devices.
It's not entirely clear what Google envisions for this technology, but based on Apple's implementation of Force Torch on its current iPhones, it's not hard to come up with some ideas. Based on the pressure applied to this touchpad, Android (or Pixel devices if this will be an exclusive feature out-of-the-gate) could provide options based on the context in a specific app or use case.
Google's current-gen Pixel smartphone
For example, if someone is pressing harder than usual on this touchpad, and taps the website they're looking at, it could act as a shortcut to bookmarking the URL. Or, when viewing an image online, the same kind of iteration could save it, without the added hassles of dealing with multi-button combinations like we're stuck with now, with screen shots for example.
There's no telling when we'll see this patent turn into a product feature or even if it sees the light of day commercially. However, Google filed the patent more than a year ago, so progress could already be far enough along to see it appear in the next Pixel iteration.