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Custom Contact Icons, Cover 
In October 2009, Apple stunned many in and outside of the Mac community with a patent about an Apple hardware subsidizing plan that would in effect consist of an enforceable ad program mechanism.  The straight forward deal would be simple: if you want a subsidized iPhone or even a free one, for example, then you'll have to abide by some rather basic rules involving interaction with ads that would periodically appear on your system. Why this initiative-to-be upset so many people is still a mystery to me. Then on December 21, yet another patent surfaced indicating that Apple would put ads on media players accessing Apple's App Store. On January 4, AllThingsD, Kara Swisher - broke the news about Apple buying Quattro Wireless which quickly spread throughout the Mac community via sites like MacSurfer, 9 to 5 Mac, MacDailyNews and others. In hindsight, we now see that Apple's patents actually provided us all with a clear heads-up on a new direction that Apple was considering for internet services. In context, yesterday's published patent added yet another twist in the wireless ad game. While the patent begins with providing touch screen based media player users with a rather valuable method of creating highly functional contact icons for their home page, it quickly shifts to exposing Apple's ulterior motives relating to ad placements. Though to be honest, it could end up being a nifty idea, really.


Create Personal Contact Icons  


Create Highly Functional Contact iPhone iCons


Apple Patent Figures: FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an example of a mobile device capable of creating an icon for a contact. FIG. 3 is a block diagram of an example mobile device depicting a virtual keyboard used in creating an icon. FIG. 4 is a block diagram of an example mobile device including newly created icons.


Example Contact and Related Options


Apple's patent FIG. 2, we see that an icon could be a sign or likeness that stands for, signifies, or represents objects such as a person, place or thing. An icon can be an image (e.g., a thumbnail photo), or representation readily recognized as having some well-known significance or embodying certain qualities with respect to the object the icon represents. An icon can include text. An icon can be an active link (e.g., to a related contact).


As shown, a contact page 202 is displayed for the user on an iPhone. The contact page can include content such as an image of a person (204), place, or thing representing the contact. The contact page can display a name, one or more phone numbers (208), one or more email addresses (210), one or more websites (e.g., Internet homepage) addresses (214), or one or more mailing addresses (216). The name and other information associated with the contact could be edited on the iPhone's keyboard.  The icon could be placed on the iPhone's home page by simply hitting the "Add to Home Screen" button (218).


If a photo is not available, a default graphic can be displayed or the user can be presented with a number of contact icons for selection by the user. In some implementations, other content could be converted into the icon.


Example Interface for Naming Icons


In one implementation, the user could be presented with a preview of the icon (314) that would be displayed on a user interface (e.g., home screen) of a media player. In this example, the image 204 was selected from the contact page and rendered into the preview icon. Suitable processes for rendering icons from content are available through application programming interfaces (APIs) of known image processing tools, such as Icon Composer distributed as part of Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X operating system.


A user touching an icon on the home screen could cause various actions on the iPhone. The icon could act as a "shortcut" to the contact in the iPhone's address book. The user could use the icon to navigate directly to the iPhone's address book. A contact screen presented by the iPhone's address book could show status on SMS messages, phone calls, emails, etc., received from the contact. In some implementations, touching the contacts icon could open a user interface that bundles appropriate services or applications related to the contact. In this case, a dedicated menu bar could be shown with a dedicated button for each service or application. Each button could include a badge to indicate status associated with the service or application, including the number of unread SMS messages for an SMS button, a number of unread emails for a mail button, etc.


Create Commercial Contact Icons = Accept Ads


Ad companies are trying to get clever with new-lingo because the general public hates ads. So they think, let's not call it an ad: Let's call it a 'contact.' In some implementations, an iPhone or iPod Touch (media player) will be able to indicate to other devices and systems an ability to temporarily receive an icon associated with an object by advertising through a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection that the mobile device is "contact capable." A preference could be set in a preference pane or menu displayed on the media player to engage a "contact capable" mode.


Alternatively, a "contact capable" mode could be triggered by the location of the device using positioning technology (e.g., Wi-Fi, GPS). FIG. 6A is an example iPhone that includes a process for creating a temporary or permanent icon.


In some implementations, a contact (yes, ad) 610 could temporarily appear on your media player if you're within a determined proximity to the contact host. The contact host could be a server or device operated by an individual, entity or service capable of providing the icon and related application information.


In the present example, the contact host is a server operated by a coffee house called "Rocket Java." An alert could be presented on your media player to indicate that a temporary contact or application is available to you. In one example, the alert could have two options: "dismiss" and "view contact."  In the case of Rocket Java an ad/contact or badge could pop up to offer you a free croissant with your latte if you order it immediately. 


Think of when you go to a movie. If you're at a multiplex cinema that offers all kinds of kiosks, like A&W or Burger King, Dominos Pizza, Starbucks and the theater concession stand – why not be open to ads or contacts? Who has the deal today? Is someone offering me a 2 for 1 special on treats – then I might bite – pardon the pun.  Or, I could be at 'Best Buy' checking out a new HDTV. Is there a contact or ad that could persuade me to think of buying one brand over another? - I'm game. So ads don't always have to be Evil - Mwahaha!



Apple's patent FIG. 6B is a block diagram of an iPhone including a page 630 associated with the newly created icon for Rocket Java. In some implementations, selection of the icon could invoke a corresponding object environment and functionality.  For example, page (630) could include options for checking an account balance (e.g., by selecting the "My Account Balance" button 632), viewing a purchased drink history (e.g., by selecting the "My Drink History" button 634), viewing specials (e.g., by selecting the "Specials" button 636), and viewing nearby locations (e.g., by selecting the "Nearby Rocket Java Locations" button 638). In this example, the "My Account Balance" option and the "My Drink History" option could be user specific, while the "Specials" option and the "Nearby Rocket Java Locations" option could be contact specific.


Apple's patent FIG. 10 is a block diagram of an example of a mobile device operating environment.


Apple credits van Marcel Os as the sole inventor of patent application 20100011304, originally filed in Q3 2008. For more information, view this temporary link.


Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or grant should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number noted above into this search engine.


Please note that any of the temporary links presented in today's report are in fact temporary and may redirect you to unrelated patents in the future. In such cases refer back to the search engine instructions above.  




One thing that should be considered with this type of advertising and coupon-ing is the potential for price discrimination by an information rich third party. Essentially this would mean that information from companies like facebook, google, etc could create personalized discount coupons for shopping online, or for delivery to your phone. The amount of the discount could be different for each person based on estimated price sensitivity and preferences, meaning that consumers would be paying different amounts for the same products, likely allowing businesses to capture a greater portion of consumer surplus - i.e. the average price paid for products and services could go up.

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