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Google’s smartphone touchpad patent gives us a glimpse of future handsets

The trusty touchpad – the mechanism that allows us to use a mouse pointer on laptops without having to plug in a physical mouse – could be about to make its way onto our smartphones.

Google submitted a patent a year ago which has only now come to light, showing its idea of placing a touch-sensitive surface on the rear of a smartphone.

In the filing, Google says "it would be advantageous to have an improved touch sensitive surface that offers additional modes of operation".

This rear-facing touchpad would then adapt its functions depending on what you have open on screen. If you’re in a music player, for example, it could be a volume control, while it might act as a scroll or zoom tool when web browsing.

Credit: Patently Mobile

Credit: Patently Mobile

Not this year

We've already seen Huawei (and Google) add touch gestures to fingerprint scanners – allowing you to pull down the notification bar with a swipe over it – so the progression to a larger touch-sensitive area is certainly plausible.

It's unlikely that we'll see Google act on this patent in the short term, with the rumored Pixel 2 almost certain not to benefit for the search giant's latest patent pick-up.

There's also the chance Google may never implement the technology on its own handsets, instead licensing it out to other manufacturers to use on their phones.

From PatentlyMobile via Phone Arena

John McCann

John joined TechRadar a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs of some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.