iPhone 12 may work underwater in a first for Apple

iPhone 12 may work underwater in a first for Apple
(Image credit: Pallav Raj)

The iPhone 12 rumors pose many possibilities for Apple's next flagship, but this one has a patent to back it up. The company is working on in-display pressure sensors that would allow the screen to respond to touch normally when its covered in water.

Apple's patent for "Force or touch sensing on a mobile device using a capacitive or pressure sensing" suggests it has a plan for preventing the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch's display from acting up when covered in water droplets. PatentlyApple spotted this patent, numbered 2020/0064952, in the USPTO database.

The patent describes several ways this technology could work. Most employ a mechanism capable of determining the precise amount of force applied to a device's display and calibrating in-display sensors to recognize the difference between a finger and water.

When water is on your screen now, whether it's rain droplets or sweat or a spilled drink, you've probably noticed the phone doesn't respond to your touch well as it does when it's dry. That's because the iPhone's current sensors register the pressure of water as touch and can't distinguish it from your finger.

(Image credit: USPTO)

The fine details of Apple's proposal is complex and the diagrams are crude, but the phrase "immersed in a fluid," comes up enough to make us think the end goal is a display that's fully responsive underwater.

Apple's recent iPhones and Apple Watches were already waterproof in the sense that the devices don't get damaged by water submersion. But the the addition of some kind of display sensor that recognizes a user's touch would open the door to using Apple devices in pools or showers without covering them with a plastic bag as some people already do.

Whether this technology debuts in the iPhone 12, iPad 2020 or Apple Watch 6 is too soon to tell.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.