The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has published a patent application filed by Apple that describes techniques to adjust display properties of only certain parts of the screen, corresponding to individual UI elements.
Currently, users can control the iPhone’s display properties like brightness globally, and not on a per-app or a per-UI element basis. Apple’s patent, titled “User Interface Contrast Filter,” describes various scenarios where users would want finer grade adjustment settings for the display:
- A user wishes to change the display settings of a user interface items such that certain features or aspects of the user interface items may provide better visibility to the user, but the user doesn’t want to affect the display of any content display areas.
- A user may wish to adjust the display of various user interface items such that dark or dully-colored user interface items are affected more than brightly-colored or black and white user interface items.
Apple proposes a method to let users intuitively control display properties by differentiating between different parts of the UI, possibly by taking into account their color saturation, and differently adjusting properties for low and high color saturation areas.
Another way to adjust display properties selectively, as described in the patent, is by defining a mask, where if an element falls inside the mask, its properties would be changed, and if it falls outside, its properties would remain unaffected.
Google’s Moto X uses a similar technique to illuminate only a small part of the display to show notifications on the lockscreen while the phone is in sleep mode. It’s likely that Apple would want to use this for the iWatch, where the screen would be on all the time. Selectively illuminating certain areas would help Apple reduce power consumption, and hence increase battery life.