One of the unsung features of the iPad mini is that the software is smart enough to know whether you're holding the tablet or trying to tap the screen. That's how Apple can get away with such a narrow bezel. Synaptics believes it has a better solution with its grip sensing technology, which it demonstrated here at CES 2013 using the company's Sensa tablet concept.
Using two capacitive sensors on the back of the tablet, the Sensa tablet can tell when you're gripping the tablet versus poking or swiping the screen. When the Synaptics rep fired up an e-reader app and placed his thumb on the left side of the screen, it automatically formed an indentation. There's even an option for the text to wrap around your thumb, though it was a little jittery on this prototype device.
The reason why Synaptics' technology beats Apple's is because the latter uses a more rudimentary approach. The iPad mini simply recognizes the size of contact patches to determine which digit is on the screen, while Synaptics can tell the difference between front touch and back touch, and when both are being employed simultaneously.
Going forward, Synaptics sees its grip-sensing technology being used for a lot more than just telling the difference between your index finger and thumb. The Sensa concept could lead to slates with controls on the back for gaming and other applications. And because this innovation enables slimmer bezels for tablets, you'll be able to put two of them side by side for playing games like air hockey. Now, that's progress.