Microsoft aims to secure patent for 'inconspicuous' smartphone use

Microsoft aims to secure patent for 'inconspicuous' smartphone use

Summary: Could a new patent application stop smartphones becoming an irritating element in public places?


The Redmond giant has filed a new patent application detailing an 'inconspicuous' mode for smartphones.

Microsoft's patent application, submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) in July 2011, describes a new brand of technology called an "Inconspicuous Mode" tailored for smartphones.

The abstract of the patent filing, n.20130012270, says that the "inconspicuous mode of operation" can be used to present a "reduced set of information" on a display, in comparison to when the smartphone is activated in a standard way. By activating the mode, a mobile device's screen "is less obtrusive or conspicuous to individuals."

microsoft inconspicuous patent smartphones mobile devices

The patent also states that this type of mode can be activated manually or through sensors. So, if you are in a dimly-lit restaurant or watching a film at the cinema, then the "inconspicuous" setting could automatically activate based on environment detection, and then revoke back to normal settings later.

Microsoft says:

"Mobile communication devices are increasingly important and are in common use in many environments. Accordingly, individuals often keep them on their person throughout large portions of the day. One problem with the ubiquity of these devices in so many different environments is that their use in not appropriate in all settings.

As one common example, in a theater the sound from a mobile communication device and the light from its display can be distracting to other theater patrons. Even if the user deactivates certain features such as audio notification of incoming calls and text messages, users may still rely on other features while in the theater."

If accepted, the patent could mean that Microsoft could develop a new kind of mode -- going beyond "silent," which would make a smartphone's display subtle enough not to cause annoyance in places where flashing lights and keypad sounds are not welcome.

In the same way as most patent applications, we don't know whether this patent will ever be used. However, it's possible that in the future we will see Windows Phone models that have learnt an element of etiquette.

Topics: Microsoft, Mobility, Patents, Smartphones

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  • Seems like a good idea

    What else to say?
    Simon Tupper
    • I don't think so.......

      I can just imagine the flak when a physician at the movies with his family, misses an emergency call because the phone's functions have been interfered with. Or any other emergency response personnel. Sheesh, what a dumb idea!!!
      linux for me
  • You have to be kidding right ?

    Patenting the bleeding obvious that has been around for years on a multitude of devices.
    Alan Smithie
    • Examples please

      Because this doesn't sound like anything that is currently available on any devices.
      • Auto brightness for a start

        It's just a tweak of that
        Alan Smithie
      • Oh and the lock screen

        which is already a reduced mode of the full active screen.
        Alan Smithie
      • Thats stupid!

        Most probably you weren't born.. or hadn't started using a mobile.
        I remember old brick like phones Nokia 3300, (and older and some newer) phones go to a similar screen when Idle or locked
        • This is basically old wine in new name

          This is basically old wine in new name
    • That's what happens when you staff the patent office with morons & cretins

      They have been employees of the big companies for years, nothing legit has gone through the patent office for decades.
      Reality Bites
    • You have to look deeper into the idea

      This will be much more advanced than what you see today. The software will know your location and adapt with zero interaction. It will probably do this by checking GPS location, audio and lighting levels in the surrounding etc.

      Does your Iphone or Android do that? Didn't think so. It's a great idea. This might scare some people today, but eventually we will all sell our souls to technology. Will we see this before SkyNet takes over....who knows.
      • Try looking a little deeper? Take ur own advice?

        Uh, yah it does. There are Android apps that do this already. Not for iOS however, as a little thing called multi-tasking and access to system hardware/software settings gets in the way.
  • Editing comment

    The word you want is "revert" not "revoke".
  • Crazy what you can "patent"

    I think I'll start patenting things that have been around forever but nobody has ever thought to patent... I could make a billion.
  • . . . example then

    my clock on my mobile phones (3 years old) has a function of putting just the time on a dimmed screen as a desk clock.

    How is this new? Ow this may be new for Microsoft!
    • Did you just look at pictures?

      I suppose reading is asking a lot of people these days. Does your desk mode detect when you're in a very dimly lit room, strip down all information so that the screen gives off almost no light? I'm guessing that if you dig deeper then unlocking the screen also strips everything down to reduce glow.

      And don't tell me existing phones do that. No matter how much you reduce the brightness of a modern phone, it lights up like a flashlight in a movie theater.
      • Did you just look at pictures?

        Look ate the article again
        “The patent also states that this type of mode can be activated manually or through sensors.”.
        So yes, by me changing the screen to only show the clock and having a dim screen would make it exactly what MS is trying to patent!
  • How does displaying only time instead of time and date

    makes it 'inconspitious'? and why would it make smartphones less annoying?

    I think we should patent spitting over right shoulders to ward off evel sprirts, because currently it is done over the left sholder, which does not prove very efficient.
  • The patent office is truly ignorant and insane or probably just bought off.

    Just shows what a lowlife scumbag company microsoft is, patent trolling losers.
    Reality Bites
    • I assume you're forgetting

      Samsung is suing Apple for... the notification center (in Korea).

      Or how about those suits for having a tablet/phone that looks too much like an iDevice?

      Companies love their patents, Microsoft and otherwise.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Now, if they promoted a standard

    ...that allowed say, a church pastor to turn on a device to automatically quiet/dim any phone in the church while she is giving a sermon, and phone manufacturers bought on, now that would be a useful patent.
    Whoops - did I just giver one away?