Patent Watch: iPod Nano May Get Multitouch Scroll Wheel


A patent application published today for a “mutli-dimensional scroll wheel” suggests Apple (s aapl) may be evolving the venerable iPod click wheel, rather than replacing it with a pure multitouch interface, like the iPhone.

Originally filed on September 5, 2008, the patent application describes a “plurality of circumferentially arranged sensor elements” ordered around “the mechanical push button.” Such a device would allow for “gestures that traverse the center of the scroll wheel,” as well as multitouch input. Rather than swiping across the display surface, one would swipe across the scroll wheel for, as an example, Coverflow.

Zooming in and out on a photograph might be accomplished by “one finger touching an inner region of the scroll and another finger rotating in the outer region.” The familiar pinch-and-zoom method is also described, though, and it’s likely that any gesture done on the display of an iPhone or an iPod touch could be replicated on the hybrid scroll wheel surface.

A new control scheme isn’t the only possibility for the next iPod nano, either. Last month, iLounge reported rumors of the iPod nano getting a slightly larger display and a camera. While rumors and patent applications are not much to base expectations on, new iPods are traditionally introduced in early September. If you need/want an iPod nano now, the current promotion is a good deal, but even the possibility of multitouch and a camera seems worth the wait.