updated 11:35 am EDT, Thu July 2, 2009
iPhone RFID, haptics
A variety of Apple patent applications have been newly published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, exposing possibilities the company has been considering for the iPhone and iPod touch. Unusual filings include one for an RFID tag reader, which would be embedded within a handheld's touchscreen, allowing users to scan an RFID tag simply by passing the device over top. An iPod or iPhone could alternately be made to operate as a tag itself, quickly transmitting information such as personal identification.
A more recent filing suggests that Apple may be interested in implementing haptic feedback for its touchscreens. Users would receive slight vibrations whenever touching part of a display, such as a on-screen button or a slider. The advantage, Apple says, is that users could finally control one of its multi-touch devices without looking at it directly, which is descibed as "inconvenient, or even dangerous" in some circumstances. Haptic feedback is already present on a number of other cellphones, such as the BlackBerry Storm and the HTC Magic.
Concepts which could arrive in future iterations of the iPhone OS include event-based modes, used to instigate device settings whenever certain conditions are met. Sound and call reception could be disabled when a meeting is scheduled, for instance, and power-hungry apps and tramsitters could be shut off whenever the battery is low. Settings could also be linked to remote infomration, such as news reports and weather forecasts.
Similar proposed automation might permit scheduled communications, such as an SMS or e-mail message delivered on someone's birthday. The technology could likewise be used to set up a call if a previous one was missed. Matching this is the idea of "intelligent and customizable communications," which could allow for different reply messages and availabilities, based on who, when and where someone is trying to contact a user.