Apple scored a key patent victory yesterday, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granting Apple a patent on using applications during a phone call. You probably remember seeing iPhone commercials lauding the fact that they can look up information on the internet, make an appointment, as well as numerous other tasks while on a phone call. Now, Apple owns the patent for that service, which has already made its way to several Android devices.
The patent (number 8,082,523), is another broad patent that covers the following usage scenarios:
- During a call on a mobile device with a touch screen, with the phone user interface showing, the users touches either a menu button or an icon.
- The device replaces the phone interface with a menu of application icons, including the phone icon.
- A user’s finger gesture chooses another app.
- The app’s interface comes up, all the while not dropping the call. The interface includes a “switch application icon” only when a phone call is occurring.
- The user performs a finger gesture on the switch application icon, taking the user back to the phone interface.
As CBS notes in their analysis, Android handset makers could provide workarounds to this patent that would make it so they are not infringing upon Apple’s newly-minted patent, but any solution would likely be either ugly (list of application names instead of icons) or difficult for the user to accomplish.
Though using an application while on a phone call is something many of us don’t use all that often, being able to quickly switch to the browser to look something up, or to a service such as OpenTable to make reservations while making plans over the phone with someone has come in quite handy on several occasions for me. Not being able to do this will certainly be frustrating, though likely not a major inconvenience.
The burden is now on handset makers to come up with a solution that’s both simple and doesn’t infringe upon Apple’s patented service. Hopefully we’ll like what they come up with. For now, we can be sure that more lawsuits are afoot, and that most Android handset makers (and perhaps some carriers) will be in Apple’s crosshairs in the next few months.