updated 10:00 am EST, Tue January 27, 2009
Apple wins iPhone patent
Apple has won the rights to a patent critical to the iPhone, documents show. Measuring some 358 pages, the patent covers much of the base software for the iPhone, including the operating system and various modules for functions like contacts, stocks, the camera and media playback. The patent also describes hardware components inside and outside of the device, such as the accelerometer, the audio subsystem and the proximity sensor used to judge when a person's head is near the earpiece.
Much of the patent revolves around the iPhone's multi-touch interface, including basic concepts such as swipes and twists, and determining when to select one object when a finger is positioned over two. The document also highlights the value of touchscreen phones, noting that they can adapt to different applications where most phones are forced to add extra buttons or repurpose old ones.
The completed patent continues to mention features omitted from the original iPhone and the 3G, such as video recording and built-in blogging and dictionary apps. Voice-activated dialing is also mentioned in the patent, and should theoretically be possible now due to similar technology in the third-party Google Mobile app.
In recent weeks concern has emerged that Apple might threaten Palm with a patent lawsuit, on the basis of similarities between the iPhone and the Palm Pre, such as multi-touch control. Apple COO Tim Cook has vowed to defend company patents, but has so far avoided any direct accusations.