Whether a result of sheer boredom or the lack of any new actionable rumors regarding the iPhone 5 form factor, we’re being bombarded with crazy, next-generation concepts for how the iPhone 5 could end up not being a handheld device after all.
Remember way back in the day(like, two months ago) when the term “form factor overhaul” for the iPhone 5 meant the possible inclusion of a LiquidMetal back and elongated display? Those pedestrian rumors seem to have become a bit passé, giving way to patent-based rumors and wild, new concept renderings of an iPhone 5 that would do away with the traditional handheld design completely.
Last Friday, the Daily Mail ran a story about how Apple has a patent for a head mounted iPhone that would rival that of Google’s conceptual glasses. Rob Waugh explains the concept:
“Apple’s patent refers to, ‘Methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for projecting a source image in a head-mounted display apparatus for a user.’ Google’s glasses are designed to let users capture video with a built-in camera as well as use apps, the internet, and social networking sites on the move. A small projector displays an image in front of the wearer’s eyes while letting them stay aware on the outside world. The idea is to bypass computers, tablets and smartphones entirely and keep the user connected in a (fairly) discreet way. With the glasses, directions to your destination or a text message from a friend can appear literally before your eyes.”
Sounds exactly like Google Glasses, doesn’t it?
The reason why the iPhone 5 rumor mill seems comfortable with speculating on this concept for this year’s iPhone 5 is that, in spite of the fact that the technology is clearly still a few years away, the patent goes way back to 2006, but has just recently been granted by the patent office. Simply by virtue of the fact that Apple only just won the patent pretty much disqualifies any hope of this technology showing up on this year’s iPhone 5.
Tapscape rolls out the notion that the glasses could appear as an accessory that would interface with the iPhone 5: “we’ve got a word that Apple has just secured a patent for a “video telephonic headset” that could very well be a future accessory for your iPhone 5 and other iOS devices.” Fat chance, because all indications are that Apple is going to be looking to do something big with the iPhone 5′s display — Cupertino would not be likely to undercut its own display overhaul for the iPhone 5 with an accessory that may only feature limited functionality in its own iteration, anyway.
But bringing up the notion of “iGlasses” here isn’t meant to be entirely cynical. Yes, a headset-style iPhone 5 in 2012 is far-fetched at best, but this new patent, together with what we’ve heard about Google Glasses points to a future where both Apple and Google put down the handheld device for a wearable version of mobile computing. How cyborg!
The prospect of glasses (and who knows — maybe even contact lenses someday) serving as displays for mobile computing devices is some futuristic stuff, but since we’ve seen Google and now Apple’s concepts for it, they’ve become plausible. The same cannot be said for this new “iPhone Spider” concept that has been making its rounds in the iOS sphere.
Designed by Federico Ciccarese, this concept seems based more on form than function. According to Mashable, “Instead of a touchscreen slab that’s held in the palm, the “iPhone 5 new” features a curved design that’s actually worn on the back of your hand. It’s held in place by five slim and somewhat creepy “legs” which wrap between your fingers and around the wrist.”
There’s a reason why calculator watches just aren’t cool anymore — having a device that’s untethered from one’s body seems to be an inextricable aspect of successful mobile computing designs that this concept would completely reverse. Heck, it even remains to be seen if we humans could comfortably make the switch to these newfangled glasses, where ostensibly only our eyes, voice, and maybe even our mind would control the device (enter theremin music). Having the iPhone 5 stuck onto the back of our wrist would incapacitate one of our hands, and would be a constant reminder of how mobile computing sucks the life from us like a lecherous, parasite, with the creepy iSpider disturbingly gripped to us.
In the end, the iPhone 5 is unlikely to feature any kind of truly game-changing, new form factor. It remains to be seen if Apple would even evolve the iPhone in this way; most likely, if glasses or some kind of other mobile design is going to come to the forefront, it would be branded as something completely separate from the iPhone.
As it currently stands, the likelihood is still that we’ll have a more metallic iPhone 5 form factor, and a larger display. Apple won’t be reinventing the wheel in 2012.
By Michael Nace