Apple Patent Hints At iPhone With Video Chat, Motion Awareness

With the impending release of the iPhone OS v3.0, speculation about a possible third generation iPhone hardware release is also growing; after all, both of Apple’s past iPhone OS releases were accompanied by new handsets.  When it comes to the new handset, there’s plenty of room for improvement — more memory capacity, faster processor, better camera, and perhaps a faster network connection.

The more interesting questions are what other hardware surprises the new iPhone handset could have in store.  After all, despite its revolutionary software interface, the phone lags behind competitors in some hardware areas — such as the quality of its camera and lack of video support.

Two new patents from Apple hint that the company may have some new hardware up its sleeve according to Apple Insider.  The first patent discusses interfaces to be used while the person is in motion.  This patent calls for new motion based gestures that would allow you to navigate the phone intuitively without seeing it, using actions such as a flicking the phone.  The interface could be useful for people who use their iPhones while jogging or driving, allow them to make calls or change music with minimal distraction.  Apple says that onscreen or bezel buttons could help decide the input mode and eliminate unintentional commands during normal use.

Another patent from Apple just published leaks even more beans.  It shows an OS interface that detects motion — such as walking and jogging, and resizes its interface to larger size buttons and font, to make selecting items easier.  But the really interesting tidbit is the inclusion of a front facing video camera in the iPhone drawings.

The new camera could allow video chat on the next generation iPhone, opening up a whole new mode of communications.  It could also be leveraged by game developers to create interesting new games with user video interaction, similar to Nintendo’s short-lived GameBoy Camera, or Sony’s Eye Toy (PS2)/Eye (PS3).  The new camera is positioned along the iPhone’s centerline, at the top of its screen.

While, Apple files scores of patent applications, many of which never see their way into actual hardware releases, this one seems promising given its time frame.  The patent was filed November 2007, and just granted, meaning that Apple may have had enough time to incorporate video hardware into the new iPhone.

Certainly there are no promises of when the new iPhone hardware will arrive, but logic dictates that a handset update is inevitable, given the iPhone’s broad commercial. 

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