Samsung may be brainstorming ways to make it so that a Galaxy phone or tablet can detect how hard you’re pressing down on its screen in addition to sensing whether you’re tapping or swiping.
That’s according to a new patent application published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Monday, which details an idea that sounds similar to the 3D Touch feature Apple introduced with the iPhone 6S.
The document explains that a touchscreen, such as those which we currently use on smartphones and tablets, may be prompted to output a certain image or character depending on how much pressure is applied to the screen.
Here’s how Samsung describes it in its application:
The touch interaction apparatus and the electronic device having the same may output one of the plurality of images according to capacitance or pressure varied by the degree of touch interaction pressure, and output one of the plurality of images according to the degree of touch interaction pressure to a corresponding touch region corresponding to one key.
Specifically, the patent focuses on how this type of technology could make it easier to type on touchscreens. Touch keyboards are somewhat limited since a smartphone’s screen can only display a certain amount of characters.
A system like this could make it easier to access different characters without having to display them all on screen. Pressing and holding a specific key, for instance, could trigger a certain function on the keyboard such as shift.
Samsung identifies this limitation with touchscreen keyboards as background for its idea relating to pressure sensitive screen technology:
Meanwhile, in the case in which the keyboard is displayed on a screen by an application of a smartphone or a tablet PC, or the keyboard is installed in a relatively small space such as a cover of the smartphone, a cover of the tablet PC, or the like, the number of keys should be significantly reduced, and even in the case in which only interacts with such a keyboard using one or two fingers, efficiency of the input requiring a multi-touch such as a shift key, a function key, or the like, may be degraded.
The idea comes as Apple has focused on pressure sensitivity as one of the key new features in its latest iPhone. The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus support a feature that Apple calls 3D Touch, which allows a user to apply more pressure to an app icon and other parts of the phone’s software to launch certain features and shortcuts.
The iPhone 6S isn’t the first device to support a pressure sensitive touchscreen — but it’s among the more popular gadgets to come with such technology. Just before Apple officially unveiled the iPhone 6S, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei launched a new phone with a feature similar to 3D Touch. It’s even called Force Touch, which is the name Apple uses for the pressure-sensing tech inside the trackpad for its newer MacBooks and the Apple Watch’s screen.
It’s important to remember that this is just a patent application, which means there’s no guarantee Samsung will actually add a feature like this to any of its future products. It just suggests that Samsung may be looking into it.