“Shoulder surfing” occurs when someone with less than honorable intentions looks at your phone while you enter sensitive information, such as a PIN or password. It’s a serious problem and Apple wants to make sure it happens less often on an iPhone.
As noted by AppleInsiderApple recently filed two patents to address this problem. The first describes a “privacy film” with a “light blocking layer” as one of the substrates in a phone screen, allowing you to only see light from the screen when you look directly at it.
The second describes “displays with adjustable viewing angles”, suggesting that users can instantly change the viewing angle of a screen if necessary. In other words, you can enable a “private viewing mode” if you absolutely don’t want anyone else watching what you’re doing.
These patents don’t specifically reference iPhones, and the technology they outline here can also be applied to everything from iPads to iMacs. However, the usual patent disclaimer applies: these documents only identify the types of technology companies engaged in research, and are no guarantee that this technology will end up in consumer products.
Enjoy the view
Obviously a wide field of view is beneficial for users as it means you don’t have to look straight at a screen to see what’s on it – that could become very annoying very quickly, especially on a large monitor that you move around in front of you. .
The wider the field of view on a screen, the less private your activities on it will be. “In some situations, such as when a user of a laptop or other device with a display is using the device in public, the wide viewing angle is undesirable because it compromises privacy,” Apple explains in one of its patents.
We’ll have to wait and see if Apple can develop this screen technology in a way that works effectively without adding too much to the device’s production costs. Apple currently relies on third-party manufacturers, including Samsung and LG, for the displays on its devices, so they too should get involved at some point.
In the meantime, something to be aware of if you’re using your phone or laptop in public is to be aware of who’s lurking behind you and watching or even recording the keys you press to access your various apps and websites.
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