It's been just over two weeks since the release of the iPhone 3.0 firmware update, and already the 4.0 rumors have started. Unwired View has put together a list of Apple patent applications that could end up being what we'll see next from Cupertino. These aren't the same patents we looked at earlier, as they cover software ideas, not physical design changes.
Apple to unveil iPhone 4.0 OS January 27th according to new rumor.
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The first patent is for a program that would allow the iPhone to automatically switch between 'modes' depending on where you are and what you are doing at the time. Using its internal GPS and the new program your iPhone would know when you've, say, arrived at Church. It would then automatically turn off its volume or switch to vibrate, or apply whatever other zone-appropriate settings you've set for Church.
The program would also interface with your calendar and be able to switch to different modes based on the event in question. You could even pre-program it to go into 'disaster mode' when it receives news of a bad storm coming. Or you can set it to go into power-saving mode when its battery drops below a certain level. To me, this sounds a lot like an early reaction to the HTC Sense UI's 'scenes' feature.
Another patent filed would allow for “user-programmed automated communications”. This would allow you to automatically schedule calls, text messages, or instant messages to go out at certain times. You could set it up to automatically send each of your friends a birthday text, or to send out an email to your friends and family as soon as your plane lands safely. Presumably you'll also be able to use this to set up pre-recorded emergency phone calls/text messages.
The most exciting new Apple patent is for software to enable intelligent iPhone communication. In short, you'll be able to schedule your phone to react differently to calls placed at different times. Got class from 2-5? Anyone who calls you then will instantly be redirected to voice mail and told why you are unavailable. Going for a run? Turn on the exercise notification and your phone will keep track of how close you are to finishing your run. Until you're done, it won't let any calls through.
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What we're seeing here is the next stage in the evolution of smartphones. Up until now, they've pretty much been mobile phones with access to the Internet and a couple of other nifty features. Now they're becoming lifestyle devices. Smartphones are winding their way into the most intimate and intricate aspects of our daily lives, and we are going to see some substantial changes to society because of it. In five years, virtually no one in North America or Western Europe will be without a smartphone. With new innovations like these becoming standard, I think we'll all be much better off because of it.