Samsung’s patent could make big smartphones easier to use for everyone

I like the idea of big smartphones more than I actually like using them. That’s because, even though I have average size hands, I can’t manage to do perform certain simple actions – like dragging down the notifications bar – using just one hand. My thumb simply won’t reach to the top of the screen on devices like the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 “phablet,” or even the 5-inch Galaxy S 4. Instead, I need to hold the device in one hand, and use the index finger on my other hand do things like swipe open notifications or type. But this might be changing, thanks to an innovative new patent filed by Samsung.

The patent, unearthed by Galaxy Club, shows that Samsung wants to create a “comfort zone” on your phone based on the reach of your thumb. This makes a lot of sense. Think about it: Nearly everything you do on your smartphone is controlled by your thumb. By allowing you to tailor your phone’s interface to your particular comfort zone, you’d be able to create a unique, completely comfortable experience.

Samsung user touch input

As you can see from the sketches in the patent, this would create a user-touchable area in which your phone can rearrange and display UI elements – like app icons, for example – based on your comfort zone.

Samsung addressed the size issue recently in the Galaxy Note 3, which includes the option for one-handed operation (or “tiny screen”) mode. This shrinks the screen down to a smaller 3.5-inch window, which you can move around to the position of your choice. This is helpful, but it’s also a huge waste of space. What’s the point of using a 5.7-inch phone when nearly half the screen the is completely blank?

It is unclear if the comfort zone described in the patent would still be applicable to the parts of your phone that aren’t controlled by Samsung’s interface, such as when you’re running an app. My guess is that you’d automatically switch back to standard mode, but this is still a major boon for navigating your way around the primary UI of a large device.

Samsung target zone apps

The patent was filed on May 21, but it wasn’t actually published until November 28. As with any patent, it’s possible that this new feature will never actually make its way to a device. I hope it does, though. Particularly if Samsung plans to go larger than 5 inches on the Galaxy S 5.