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Apple looking to expand iPhone accessory support with automatic app recommendations

Apple has shown interest in expanding support for third-party accessories for the iPhone and iPad, with a new system that would detect an external device and recommend compatible applications available on the App Store.

The concept was unveiled this week in a new application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Method and System for Locating an Accessory and an Application for Use With a User Device," the filing describes a system that would identify a range of applications usable with a connected accessory.

The system could also work in reverse, and let users know of available hardware accessories that are compatible with applications they already have installed on their iOS device. Such accessories could include game controllers, wireless headsets and external speakers.

Apple's filing even describes a system where a kiosk at a store could connect to a user's iPhone and analyze the applications that are installed on it. From there, a user could be given a list of compatible accessories and their exact locations in that store, such as the aisle and bin numbers.

Accessories could also be sold through online vendors in the same manner. A user could find out on their iPhone what accessories are compatible with their installed applications, and Apple would provide links to online stores where the compatible accessories could be purchased.

"With the number of available accessories growing at an exponential rate," the filing reads, "it is often difficult for a user to determine which accessory supports which software application and vice versa."

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Apple has had more limited accessory support in its iOS mobile operating system for years. Starting with the release of iOS 3.0 in 2008, some compatible hardware accessories have automatically prompted users to download a necessary application from the App Store.

The "Application Not Installed" notification alerts users that "This accessory requires an application you do not have installed. Would you like to install it from the App Store?"

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But Apple's proposed invention would go multiple steps further, providing users with an extensive list of compatible applications once an accessory is connected. And it would also allow users to discover and purchase accessories compatible with their currently installed software.

The application made public this week was first filed with the USPTO in June of 2010. It is credited to Lawrence G. Bolton, Peter T. Langenfeld, and Shyam S. Toprani.