Radial menus, location-based radio, 3D displays - iPhone and iPad patent round up

Some of Apple's more interesting recent patent applications and grants for iPad and iPhone include spiraling, radial menus, an actual radio app, 3D displays without the need for annoying glasses. As always, just because Apple patents something doesn't mean we'll ever see it in production hardware or software, so just take these for what they're worth -- glimpses into Apple's thinking about the future.

Radial menus would be use in lieu of drop downs and possible in place of popovers:

“…The novel radial menu techniques of some embodiments include (i) non-uniform spacing of menu items, (ii) the use of shading or highlighting within a region associated with an item to indicate the present selectability of the item, and (iii) the use of radial gestures for opening sub-menus and the subsequent display of the sub-menu.” [unwired view]

The Radio app is just another hint that Apple might one day activate the FM radio built into the iPhone's chipset, but this time with handy location-based station mapping:

In Apple's patent FIG. 6 noted below, we see that an FM radio receiver (104) is associated with a future version of the iPhone. The iPhone's smart radio program is capable of presenting you with an FM radio list or a unique map with icons of the primary FM stations (e.g., 204a, 204b, and 204c, collectively referenced as 204) in the neighborhood. [Patently Apple]

Manufacturers and content producers are desperately trying to make us excited about 3D but the need for special glasses might keep it from being mainstream. Apple specializes in mainstream so is it any surprise they're looking into 3D sans goggles?

Apple's invention provides a three-dimensional display system having a projection screen having a predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function. Three-dimensional images are respectively modulated in coordination with the predetermined angularly-responsive reflective surface function to define a programmable mirror with a programmable deflection angle. [Patently Apple]

Any of these have you particularly excited about the future of Apple devices and apps?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Radial menus, location-based radio, 3D displays - iPhone and iPad patent round up


The radial menus seem awesome, and the non uniform icons as well. I REALLY hope that's in the iOS 5 because that's would be great.
As for the other two, radio isn't that big of a deal for me, and if that's the major upgrade for iPhone 5 I'd wait until iPhone 6, when they would most likely do another significant upgrade and implement the 3D screen, that is if they ever have plans to.

On the face of it, the radial menu seems directly lifted from a few hack-and-slash roleplaying games, and awfully similar to a couple of firefox extensions.

I still don't see what FUNCTIONLY this will bring. Sure it looks cool, but how is it any different from what we have today in terms of FUNCTIONLY.

As someone else mentioned, the radial menu, complete with non-uniform spacing, gestures, and highlighting, is straight out of half a dozen different games and at least one (probably others) Firefox mouse gesture mod and a "mind map" mediawiki plug-in from way back when -- there are probably a few hundred other instances of it being used as well.
Of course it turns out they're annoying as hell to use, which is why you don't see them much anymore, so I guess it was about time for Apple to "Invent" them.

I hope Apple just continues with their "less is more" minimalism approach. The last thing I want is an annoying mess.

wow ,, there is a radio in the chipset of the iphone ?
hasn't anyone tried to tap into it throught jailbreak ????
. please reply , if there is a jailbreak method
my parents really love their radio
its m dad biggest complaint about his iphone
and basicly the only reason my mom wont buy one

Apple will need something big to keep their lead in the smartphone market and I think a 3D iphone would do just that, nintendo have proved that it is possible to make a 3d handheld device, bring on the 3d Iphone with LTE and radio