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

by: Bogdan PetrovanDecember 2, 2013

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.

  • Ugo Marceau

    I’m not saying this is a bad idea but I’m just suggesting that people start using both hands on their phone.
    One-handed operation is good for up to about 4.5 inch phones I have a nexus 4 and it gets tricky sometimes I admit). More than that and it’s just not practical to try opearting a phone one-handed.
    There are basically no real-life situations where you absolutely need to do something that critical on your phone that you can’t wait ’til both your hands are free.

  • asdf

    please Samsung, dont make the galaxy s5 with a screen more than 5 inches….

    • George Av

      Well fuck you i want a galaxy with a screen more than 5 inches but that is in the same form factor as the s4 ;)

      • asdf

        well fuck you too i want a galaxy s5 with a 5 inch screen that is in the same form factor as the s2 ;D

        • George Av

          that would simply not work.. since the s2 is to small to fit any bigger components..

          • asdf

            What do you mean its too small??? The galaxy s2 is 125.3mm by 66.1mm and a 5 inch screen is 110.7mm by 62.3mm. A 5 inch screen would fit on the galaxy s2 perfectly

  • Apple_Nexus

    Why not just buy a proper sized phone? When will it end for Samsung – a 32 inch phone with full Dolby Surround?

    • George Av

      The s4 is tiny, it’s easy to use and i have normal sized hands…

      • Apple_Nexus

        Article is talking about the Note 3.

  • jbox

    Would be easier if I can squeeze my phone (literally) to make screen smaller

  • MSmith79

    Oh thank god! I was getting nervous Sammy might be running out of ideas for bloatware to throw on the S5. Problem solved.

  • Fantastico

    This is an interesting idea (and a quiet admission that giant screens can be difficult to use). However, I suspect that its implementation on TouchWiz will be mess. In the top diagram, most of the touch targets are actually off-screen in comfort-zone mode.

  • Sal

    This idea isn’t bad I hope it doesn’t make touchwiz lag even more. Samsung work more on this before you release it to future flagship devices