iPhone 13 could get a handy upgrade that will make it easier to use

iPhone 13 Pro orange
(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

The iPhone 13, and other iPhones down the line, could solve the long-standing problem of using a phone while wearing gloves.

AppleInsider discovered a patent showing how Apple has an idea for a touchscreen that adapts automatically to use with gloves. If it becomes a reality, then the iPhone using it could become one of our best phones based on that feature alone.

The USPTO patent, bearing the straightforward name "Glove touch detection" details Apple's plan to make it work. To put it simply, smartphone displays are specifically designed to respond to the conductive qualities of your skin. There's nothing stopping a touch screen from working with gloves or other objects. 

What does stop it are the parameters set by the engineers to make sure it responds only to the signals caused by deliberate touches from the phone's user. So all that needs to change are these parameters.

Apple glove touch detection patent

A pair of illustrations from the patent showing how a sensor circuit to detect if a user's finger is covered or uncovered.  (Image credit: USPTO)

Apple's solution is to dynamically alter this touch threshold when the user is wearing gloves. If the touchscreen registers a tap that corresponds with defined values for a covered finger, then it will switch into a "glove mode" automatically.

The glove threshold would allow the screen to reliably register taps and swipes when your finger is covered up, while the default "bare finger mode" would allow the display to behave as smartphone screens do currently.

You can already buy gloves that have conductive patches or fabric, or you can rely on your phone's digital assistant to control your phone. However, there is an appeal to being able to use your phone normally even when you're wrapped up warm, without having to resort to buying new accessories or wrestle with voice recognition.

Patents don't always become real products, and when they do it's a long process to turn it into something you can buy. With that in mind, it might be unlikely for the iPhone 13 to use this new system when it launches in September this year, if the patent is only being granted now. Looking ahead to next year and beyond, we hope that we'll instead see this glove touch detection tech appear on the iPhone 14 or a later model.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.