August 22, 2013
Apple Patent Lets iPhone Users Know When Their Friends Are Available To Talk
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A recent Apple patent application reveals a feature that could let iPhone users know when other users are available to talk on the phone. The patent filing, titled "Methods to determine availability of user based on mobile phone status," describes a feature that works much like instant messenger programs.
Before making a call, one iPhone owner can check to see if the other iPhone owner is available to receive the call. Owners would be able to set their status to either “away” or “available” or something else. This, in theory, could be a way for users to be considerate before placing phone calls. What’s more, the patent could also share other data about the phone and its user, including battery level and GPS location.
The patent filing, uncovered by AppleInsider, mentions that although iPhone owners have the ability to screen phone calls they don’t yet have the option to see if the recipient is available to take the call.
The patent application was first filed in 2012 and describes a system in which Apple could easily implement as is.
“In particular, for most callees, the only available actions are to accept the call or decline it by either not answering or allowing an answering machine or voice mail system to respond. The caller in such cases has no control over whether or not the call will be accepted,” reads the patent application.
The Apple patent also describes a presence and availability management (PAM) system that would provide a set of APIs that could be used to check the status of each iPhone and deliver this data to a network. Those with a person’s phone number would have access to this information and could pull the data from the network.
“However, the PAM only provides what a user of a mobile phone provides such as online, offline, in a meeting, etc,” the patent filing reads.
Along with sharing the current status with other users (including available or away) the new system could let other users know whether another’s phone is operating in silent mode, airplane mode, or turned off altogether. Users could also see the time zone, GPS location and signal strength of a user’s iPhone, should the user choose to share it.
These features could be helpful in emergency situations. If, for instance, a hiker is out on the trail for several hours without checking in with loved ones, they could theoretically be able to easily find the hiker's location or if he/she has proper signal strength. Apple currently allows users to see the GPS location of their friends through the Find My Friends app. Just as it is described in this patent application, users must first allow others access to this GPS data.
A similar patent application revealed last April also describes a system that shares information with other users while on the phone.
In the patent application titled “Communications system that provides user-selectable data when user is on-hold,” users can share with one another the local weather conditions, the next meeting on their schedule, or other important and upcoming dates.