The patent, entitled "Electronic device, display and touch-sensitive user interface", was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office and will enable Apple to create a smart bezel.
A smart bezel would extend over a portion of the tablet or smartphone display and would be touch-sensitive. It would be either partially or entirely light-transmissive and hide or reveal that section of the screen on command.
"In one embodiment, the display device has an electronic display having an active area for presenting visual content; a housing holding the electronic display and having an opening allowing a person to view a first portion of the active area; and a bezel about the opening, the bezel covering a second portion of the active area and providing a window through which at least a part of the second portion can be viewed."
Embedded sensors would apparently be able to sense when the user's finger is coming close to the smart bezel portion. That section of the screen would then be illuminated by a touch or a hovered finger over the display.
"A sensor system senses when a person is close to touching the bezel or when a person is in touch with the bezel and generates a sensor signal", reads the patent. "A controller is operable to adjust the appearance of the active area in the part of the second portion when the controller determines that a person has touched the bezel or is close to touching the bezel."
According to the patent, the smart bezel section could be used to display additional text or graphics beyond the main screen to create a second form of input.
It is not known whether the technology would be incorporated within any future technology, but is said to be designed for devices with small screens.
Could the technology be used for wearable technology devices like the highly rumoured Apple iWatch?
Rumours surrounding an upcoming wearable tech device from Apple have grown fiercer lately as the company applied for the iWatch trademark in Japan, then again in Mexico and Taiwan.
Next, tell us which Apple iWatch features you'd like to see.