Future iPhones could have a MacBook Pro feature everyone hated

Touch Bar on 13-inch MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future)

Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro was the last to have the ill-fated and much-maligned Touch Bar, and even that did away with it in favor of proper keys. Now it seems that Apple hasn't given up on the idea just yet — but it might make an appearance somewhere entirely new if it does return from the dead.

That's because a patent that Apple applied for in April of this year appears to suggest that the Touch Bar could be on the way to the iPhone in the future, although it's anyone's guess if and when that will happen.

But that might not be the most interesting thing about this patent because the original patent dates back to 2011 and this new one is a carbon copy.

Sidewall displays

The repeat patent was spotted by Apple Insider and appears to be identical to the one that was granted back in 2014. This isn't a reapplication for a patent that was expiring but rather an entirely new one, despite there being no apparent differences.

The patent itself talks about electronic devices with sidewall displays which appears to suggest that we could one day have displays on the side of our iPhones. Apple hints that the technology would put a flexible display beneath a protective surface.

As for what the new display could be used for, there are plenty of options. Notifications are the most obvious but with Apple's best iPhones now sporting always-on displays the utility of such a thing is questionable.

One disturbing possibility is that Apple could potentially ditch the volume and Action buttons in favor of a touch-sensitive display akin to the Touch Bar that was universally hated. Rumors of capacitive buttons coming to the iPhone 16 show that Apple is more than happy to let its Taptic Engine make faux buttons feel real. Could the same happen here, too?

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • dstrauss54
    Why are all the tech outlets so surprised by this one - wouldn't the hinge of an iFold be the perfect location for this type of display/control mechanism?
  • FFR
    This could be interesting.