Apple has hit up the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) again with another innovation that may or may not be coming to iOS devices.

In a report from Patently Apple, the latest item to get Apple fans everywhere excited is an explanation for what is being called a “secondary display”, or a “smart bezel”.  The concept would be somewhat similar to the glowing buttons on the second generation iPods and would feature touch sensitive controls that could change to fit whatever was happening on the primary screen.  For instance, if you were in email, you could have forward, reply and delete controls, but while in the music player it might be things like forward, reverse, pause and so on.

Apple Smart Bezel secondary

The patent shows the placement for 12 areas around the perimeter of the primary screen meaning you could have a ton of controls or just select ones would be lit up.  There is also the suspicion that control for these buttons would be included in a future release of the SDK (Software Development Kit) so that developers could also take advantage of them.  (Gaming could be huge with this concept)

Apple Smart Bezel buttons

Some people have assumed we could see this as soon as the iPhone 5, but seeing as the patent has only been granted in the past few days, that seems a tad early.  There is also the issue that many reports have indicated that the next iteration of the Apple smartphone would have a thinner bezel along the sides which wouldn’t leave a whole lot of room for these controls. Some have also suggested that this could show up in the iPad 3, which certainly has enough bezel space, but it is doubtful that Apple would use this on one iOS device but not the flagship product.

As Patently Apple pointed out, this patent was first filed in 2009, but was only granted now.  Plans for this may have been dumped by now for all we know, and there is also always the option that Apple could have simply filed the patent to control it without ever having an intention of using it.  Just because a patent is filed for and granted doesn’t mean that the company absolutely has to put it to use.

Of course all of this hangs on a tremendous amount of rumors.  There is nothing concrete as of yet about the iPhone 5 bezel shrinking, so it may stay as is.  And, of course, sometime a patent is just a patent to be filed away on a shelf somewhere.

What do you think?  Is Apple going to add controls along the edges of iOS devices?