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An interesting patent awarded to Apple on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes a method in which a first iPhone user can share stored content, like pictures or location data, with a second iPhone user that is put on hold during a call.
In the same vein as another call waiting patent granted in April, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,494,123 for an "On-hold visual menu from a user's communications device" involves a system that gives an on-hold caller access to data on another user's iPhone.
Presented as an alternative to the traditional "on-hold message," Apple's patent eschews the usual elevator music or dead silence for interactive content sent from one iPhone to another via a cellular provider's data network.
In one embodiment, the invention describes a system that first determines when a user places a caller on hold. If said user has enabled sharing of content, the device sends an interactive visual menu to the on-hold party's device, from which a number of options are available. The menu can show a dynamic list of content made public by the user, while other sensitive data is kept private.
Examples of shared content can include pictures, music, videos, status updates, upcoming calendar events, location information, hold time, or "any other types of content that may be stored on or determined by the mobile device."
Further, the system can be personalized for specific callers by using a configuration tool that sets level of access for certain content. For example, only family member may have access to personal information like location data, while music and other media is shared with all callers.
When a user is ready to switch back to the caller, the system will end the sharing session and immediately revert to voice communications. The visual menu on the remote device can be configured to alert the on-hold party that the user is ready to resume the call. This signal can be an on-screen message, an audible tone, or a vibration.
As with many Apple patents, the interactive on-hold content sharing invention described above may not ever make it to a production product. The technology for such a system is available, though privacy concerns, as well as data costs, could be prohibitive in the near term.
Apple's on-hold visual menu patent was first filed for in 2011 and credits company veterans Donald W. Pitschel, Imran Chaudhri, Freddy Anzures, and Marcel van Os as its inventors.