On August 21, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals the addition of a new intelligent dimension to a future iOS Home Screen. Let's say that there's an app that you'll need to access quickly like an airline ticket that's currently buried in a folder on page 4 of your Home Screen. In the future, iOS will know to automatically bring that app or digital ticket up to your starting Home Page based on your proximity to the airport or concert hall so that there's no fumbling around at the gate. Although it's a simple idea, it represents the kind of convenience that we've just come to expect from Apple in making our everyday digital lives a little easier as time goes on.
Apple's Patent Background
People have become highly reliant upon their mobile devices in performing daily tasks. Modern smart phones, for example, now often are capable of obtaining, storing, and executing a variety of helpful application programs (referred to herein simply as applications) that can greatly assist those phones' users in finding needed information. For example, a passbook application stored on a smart phone can maintain information related to airplane tickets so that the smart phone's user does not need to carry around paper copies of those tickets. Instead of presenting a paper ticket at an airport's gate, the smart phone's user can instead launch the passbook application--typically by touching the application's icon within the smart phone's operating system user interface--and then present a digital image of the ticket to the gatekeeper.
Operating system user interfaces can become cluttered with application icons when many different applications are stored on the mobile device. The space available to present application icons on a mobile device's typically smaller-sized display can be fairly limited. In order to keep the application icons at a size that is large enough to permit those icons to continue to be recognizable to mobile device users, a scheme that groups icons together or that spreads icons over multiple virtual screens can be utilized. For example, a main or home screen of the operating system user interface can be organized to contain a set of application group icons whose selection can cause the operating system to "open up" the corresponding application group, thereby presenting the application icons contained in that application group at regular size. For another example, a set of dots somewhere in the operating system user interface can indicate a quantity of virtual screens that the operating system user interface contains. One of the dots can be highlighted at a given time to indicate which of those virtual screens is currently being presented on the mobile device's display. By making gestures relative to the mobile device's touchscreen, the device's user can instruct the device's operating system to switch the virtual screen that is currently being presented.
Although such schemes can make a multitude of application icons available through the operating system user interface, and at a reasonable size, such schemes do not necessarily make it simple for the mobile device's user to find a specific application icon that he might currently seek. If a particular application icon, such as a passbook application icon, is buried deep within one of several application groups, or is located on one of a multitude of virtual screens through which a user would need to scroll in order to find it, then the time required for the user to locate that particular application icon can become significant.
Unfortunately, under some circumstances in which the mobile device's user wants to retrieve the particular application's stored information quickly--such as when the user is boarding an airplane and wants to show his digital ticket to the gatekeeper--the delays produced as a consequence of the user hunting through the depths of the operating system user interface can be unacceptable to the user and to other people waiting behind him in line.
Apple Invents the Intelligent Home Screen for Mobile and Desktop Operating Systems
Apple's invention generally relates to the field of computing device operating system user interfaces. According to an embodiment of the invention, an operating system executing on a computing device, such as a smartphone, can automatically move an application's icon to a prominent position within an operating system user interface in response to determining that specified conditions related to that application are currently satisfied.
Alternatively, the operating system can automatically create an alias icon for the application in such a prominent position in response to determining that the specified conditions are currently satisfied, thereby leaving the original application icon in its expected (but potentially less prominent) position for later use.
A set of rules stored on the computing device can specify, for each application, the set of conditions that are to be satisfied in order to make that application's icon or alias icon prominent.
The set of conditions can involve the computing device's current location, the computing device's current settings, the current date, the current day of the week, the current time of day, information pertaining to contacts stored by the computing device, information pertaining to a calendar stored by the computing device, and/or other conditions. In this manner, the computing device's user can find the application's icon or alias icon more easily and quickly under circumstances (predicted by the satisfaction of the corresponding conditions) in which the user is likely to want to interact with that application.
In Apple's patent FIG. 9 noted above we're able to see a block diagram that illustrates an example of an iPhone that has a multi-virtual screen operating system user interface that can automatically move or create user interface elements in response to specified rules being satisfied. For instance, if the user has a digital concert ticket locked away in Passbook in their fourth set of app icons as noted in FIG. 9 above, and the user is approaching the concert hall, Apple's iOS will understand by your current location that you should have your digital concert ticket ready as you approach the gate. In the future, iOS could simply have an alias pushed to your home screen ready for use. This could apply to an airline ticket or other scenario.
The new intelligent home screen is also good for Apple developers. Apple notes that application developers can potentially derive more revenue from their applications due to the more prominent, though temporary, placement of their applications' icons in the operating system user interface under circumstances in which users are likely to want to interact with their applications.
And lastly, Apple notes that their latest invention could also one day apply to future Macs. In theory, a Mac user would be able to set rules for the dock so that once a particular key app is opened that a particular associated app or set of apps would automatically appear on the dock and then disappear once the main application is closed. That would be a smart feature indeed.
To review the many scenarios presented by Apple for this invention, see patent application 20140237376. Apple credits David Cassano as the sole inventor of this invention that was originally filed in Q1 2013.
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