In our November 2011 report titled "Steve Jobs Secret Meeting to Explore an iPod Phone is Revealing," we covered how Steve Jobs set up two competing teams for creating a next generation tablet enabled smartphone. One team was focused on an iPod styled iPhone while the other was focused on an all-new tablet-centric design. Today we're able to explore a classic iPod styled smartphone patent that surfaced at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The newly granted patent covers the iPhone using call waiting and video conferencing. The date of the patent would strongly suggest that the technology pertained in this granted patent was really engineered for the iPhone as we know it today. It would also appear that Apple's desire to keep the iPhone design a secret until its introduction was paramount, and today's patent proves that out. By October 2006, Apple had the iPhone in hand – and so the patent filing with this dating would confirm that the iPod phone design presented in today's patent was merely a just-in-case cover up to mask the true design.
Apple Wins a Classic Patent for Video Conferencing on an iPod Phone
Apple has been granted a Classic Granted Patent that relates to methods, systems, and a graphical user interface for using call waiting and making video conferencing calls on a cell phone – and particularly one that carried an iPod style interface.
Because this is such a classic patent and one that credits Steve Jobs as one of the inventors, I think it's only right to review Apple's thinking as to why there was a need for a next generation smartphone at that time. For those who remember the famous 2007 Steve Jobs keynote introducing the iPhone in 2007, you'll notice how some the thinking found in the following Patent Background slipped into Jobs' keynote:
"As portable devices become more compact, and the amount of information to be processed and stored increases, it has become a significant challenge to design a user interface that allows users to easily interact with the device. This is unfortunate since the user interface is the gateway through which users receive not only content but also responses to user actions or behaviors, including user attempts to access a device's features or tools. Some portable communication devices (e.g., mobile phones) have resorted to adding more pushbuttons, increasing the density of push buttons, overloading the functions of pushbuttons, or using complex menu systems to allow a user to access, store and manipulate data. These conventional user interfaces often result in complicated key sequences and menu hierarchies that must be memorized by the user. In addition, as the number of pushbuttons has increased, the proximity of neighboring buttons often makes it difficult for users to activate a desired pushbutton.
Many conventional user interfaces, such as those that include physical pushbuttons, are also inflexible. This is unfortunate because it may prevent a user interface from being configured and/or adapted by either an application running on the portable device or by users. When coupled with the time consuming requirement to memorize multiple key sequences and menu hierarchies, and the difficulty in activating a desired pushbutton, such inflexibility is frustrating to most users.
Apple's Classic Video Conferencing iPod Phone
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a portable communications device; patent FIG. 2 illustrates a portable communications device having a click wheel.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating a process of displaying a graphical user interface for conveying information regarding multiple callers to a user; patent FIG. 4F illustrate an exemplary graphical user interface for conveying information regarding multiple callers. You could clearly see the text of "Conference Call" in the center of the iPod Phone's display above. For greater clarity, click on the graphic to enlarge it.
Apple's First Claim: A method, comprising: at a portable communications device: establishing a first communication link between a first party and a user in response to a first action by the user; displaying a first image corresponding to the first party at an intensity that is greater than a threshold; while the first communication link is ongoing, establishing a second communication link between a second party and the user in response to a second action by the user; switching the user from the first communication link to the second communication link; while continuing to display the first image, displaying a second image corresponding to the second party with a visible gap between the first image and the second image; visually highlighting the second image so as to facilitate visual differentiation of the first and second images, wherein visually highlighting comprises displaying the second image at an intensity that is greater than the threshold, and modifying the intensity of the first image to be less than the threshold; and, in response to a third action by the user: establishing a common communication link between the first party, the second party and the user; displaying the first image and the second image at a same intensity; and reducing or eliminating the visible gap between the first image and the second image.
To review Apple's other thirty-four patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,090,087. Apple credits the late Steve Jobs, Greg Christie, Bas Ording, Imran Chaudhri and Scott Forstall as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q4 2006.
Steve Jobs Introducing the iPhone in a Classic Keynote in 2007
The classic 2007 Steve Jobs keynote introducing the iPhone will never be forgotten by anyone who remembers seeing it live or online.
The interfaces for call waiting and conference calling that are currently available suffer the same shortcomings. Users are often at a loss as to the sequence of buttons to push in order to switch between calls or to make a conference call. Furthermore, the interface often does not convey intuitively the parties involved in the calls.
Whether Apple's newly granted patent will be used to ward off patent trolls or used offensively against competitors is unknown at this time.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
Accordingly, there is a need for more efficient interfaces for call waiting and conference calling."