Samsung patents a nifty thumb-friendly interface for one-handed operation

December 2, 2013
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samsung comfort zone

Samsung has devised a new type of mobile interface that moves UI elements into a “comfort zone” that the user can easily access with just one thumb.

With the average size of displays creeping upwards, using modern smartphones with just one hand is increasingly difficult. On the 5.7-inch Note 3, Samsung tried to mitigate the problem with the One handed Operation mode, which shrinks down and positions the user interface on one side of the display, so the user can reach all actionable design elements with just their thumb.

Here’s a video rundown of the feature from my colleague Josh:

If a patent application uncovered by Dutch website Galaxy Club is any indication, Samsung may be looking to improve the One handed Operation mode by positioning UI elements inside a “comfort zone”, which the patent defines as the area of the screen that the thumb can touch without flexing.

For instance, future iterations of TouchWiz (or Tizen for the matter) may allow users to move the lockscreen, homescreen icons, the playback interface of a music app, or even the keyboard inside the comfort zone.

samsung comfort zone 2

The patent application, which covers techniques of translating conventional UI elements into a thumb-friendly interface, was first filed with the WIPO in May, but only surfaced at the end of November.

Patent applications are not good predictors of future products – in many cases, companies file for patents even without a clear plan to turn their ideas into products. With that said, this invention appears to be an evolution of the One handed Operation mode that Samsung already implements on the Note 3, so there’s a good chance it will eventually make it to TouchWiz.

Samsung usually releases new TouchWiz features with the Galaxy S release, which is due in early spring next year. Information released at Samsung’s recent Analyst Day event suggests that the Galaxy S5 may feature a 5.25-inch display, definitely large enough to warrant a one handed mode for most users.

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