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Thursday, August 27, 2009, 08:10 am PT (11:10 am ET)

Apple proposes location-based iPhone home screens

The iPhone could offer an automated home screen providing local weather, time, maps and contacts based on the device's location, according to a new patent application from Apple.

Revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office this week, Apple's filing dated Feb. 21, 2008 for "Transitional Data Sets" describes an invention that would display specific applications automatically populated based on dynamic factors like location. The application notes that conventional user interfaces on mobile devices are clunky and cluttered. The new invention would aim to cut down on the number of icons by giving users what they need at a particular moment in time.

In one example, the iPhone would utilize location-aware applications, and populate the home screen with those based on the city in which the user is currently located. Included pictures show an iPhone home screen with a "San Francisco" button, which would take the user to a location-aware screen on the device.

"The user can create a set of location-aware applications that can be populated by transitional data sets," the patent filing reads. "A transitional data set is a data set that can change based on the current location of the mobile device... as determined by a positioning technology (e.g., GPS, cell tower triangulation, Wi-Fi)."

In addition, the feature could change the icons of applications to represent the current location of the phone. The patent filing describes an icon showing the Golden Gate Bridge when the phone is in San Francisco, but that icon could change to an image of the New York City skyline when the phone is in the Big Apple.

Location patent 1


The described system would allow users to save certain transitional data sets so they would automatically activate when the location of the phone has changed.

"If the user's home is in New York, then the user may configure a "weather" widget to display the weather in New York as a default," the filing reads, "and such default information can be persistent. If the user travels to San Francisco, the user can touch the "Here" button... and the "weather" widget will automatically display the weather for San Francisco... Thus each time the user travels to San Francisco, the location-aware mobile device... can automatically populate the "weather widget with transitional data associated with San Francisco."

Location patent 2


According to other patent filings revealed this week, Apple has also investigated:

  • A speech to text feature, which would allow users to speak to a mobile device and have their words translated into text. The application states it could be used for composing e-mails, SMS messages, word processing, data entry, or instant messaging.

  • A method for transferring and scaling images between devices. For example, images from a computer sent for display on a TV would be scaled to display properly on the secondary device.

  • A follow-up to a patent application revealed by AppleInsider in June, in which Apple describes a wireless sensory system that aims to quantify actions or events that can currently be measured only qualitatively. These events would include the strength of a punch or what happened to a delivery package that caused its contents to break.

  • An event-based contact list. This would allow an organizer of an event to create a Web site on a server that would grant participants the ability to add and retrieve information from the site, including the sharing of contact information.