One of the hallmarks of Apple design and functionality is the company's extreme focus on simplicity and the paring down of extra buttons and menus, so common on devices made by competitors. Now, in a patent filing that has just been made public, it appears that Apple wants to take its aesthetic of simplicity to yet another level by eliminating, in certain instances, the need for a menu interface at all.
The Apple patent describes a method of controlling the interface of a touchscreen device, even while the visual display is turned off. Termed as "Playback control using a touch interface," the specific wording of the patent offers a tantalizing vision of a future in which swiping and tapping the blank screen of an Apple device would still deliver full functionality, assuming the user has a familiar set of input moves that don't require seeing the actual interface.
Specifically, Apple's patent states: "For example, an electronic device with a touch screen can have a mode in which no content is displayed on the touch screen (e.g., the touch screen remains dark), but the touch screen is operative to detect touch events of the user." So while tapping glass to control the world around us might appear as "magic" to a person from another era, just imagine the inferred magic of seeing someone expertly swipe and tap a slate of black glass to play music and interact with Siri.
In practical terms, such a dynamic would not only save power, but it would also likely save time when a user is engaged in repetitive touchscreen actions that require a pause for the screen to turn back on. Whether this new patent has anything to do with Apple's rumored iWatch is unclear, but the functionality seems like a perfect match for a wrist-based smart device.