Some of you may be old enough to remember landline phones. These were ancient and large phones that needed to be tethered to a wall, and if you wanted to… ok, I’m just having a bit of fun with my older readers, young people still know what a landline phone is. However, in a few generations, the landline phone will be nothing more than a distant memory. They did have one useful feature that smartphones do not yet have, and that was enabling the owner of the phone to screen calls based on the voicemail message that was left behind (if they had a phone with a voicemail machine). Sure, we have caller ID on our smartphones, but what if you don’t have time to talk to someone unless it’s an emergency? You could wait for them to hang up and text you, or you could wait for them to finish leaving you a voicemail and then listen to it. If this patent makes it’s way into future versions of iOS, you could also simply listen in as the voicemail is being recorded, and just like a landline phone, pick up the phone if you deem the topic of the message worthy of an actual conversation.
Okay, I’ll admit that with current technology, voicemail isn’t very useful. If you can’t contact someone via a phone call, you have to option of sending them a text, or an instant message through Facebook, Google+ hangout, or even a Snapchat. Vocemails are, these days, a bit of an inconveniencand a relic of conversation styles of the past. However, they are occasionally used, and sometimes you’d like to screen them. When you consider the technology Apple has patented here, you’ll see that it’s quite ingenious. Voicemails aren’t left on your phone, they’re left on the servers of your carrier. That means that after routing the call to your carrier, Apple’s patent covers the simultaneous broadcasting of the voicemail, as it is being recorded. It seems like a simple feature, but under the hood, Apple needs to do a number of things automatically, which is then invisible to the user.
Apple has only patented this feature, which means it may or may not reach production. If they believe it will be a benefit to their users, we could see this in a future version of iOS. Are you one of those people that leaves and receives voicemails frequently? Then you’d probably be excited about a smartphone that allows you to screen your calls, like it’s the 1990’s. It’s not a feature that most people would consider the key selling point of a phone, but it is one that users would be very happy to have if they ever wanted to screen a call or couldn’t get to the phone until after the caller had started recording a voicemail. Apple loves those little, convenient features that users don’t think of frequently until they need them.