Dealing with calls when busy is annoying, and the only solution tends to be turning off the phone altogether, not always the best idea. Apple appears to be addressing this common problem with a new patent filing for status messages that could be displayed to people who are trying to contact you.
The application for the patent, uncovered by Apple Insider, reveals plans for away, available, and busy statuses similar to the ones found on many instant messaging programs as well as on Skype. In theory, this feature could prevent people from receiving calls whenever they are in a situation which prevents them from talking.
Apple filed the patent application for the status messages with the U.S. Patent Office. According to the document, it is for "Methods to determine availability of user based on phone status" or in other words, an away message. Not only would the statuses be displayed to potential callers but the other phone's battery life and location would also be made available.
In the filing, Apple described the feature as follows:
"A command is received at an operating system of a first mobile phone for displaying contact information of a remote user having a mobile phone number of a second mobile phone. In response to the command, a request is transmitted to a remote server from the first mobile phone over a cellular network requesting an operating status of the second mobile phone. The operating status of the second mobile phone is received from the remote server over the cellular network. The operating status of the second mobile phone is displayed on a display of the first mobile phone as a part of contact information of the remote user associated with the second mobile phone, where the operating status includes current locality of the second mobile phone."
Privacy Concerns and No User Interaction
The idea that you could see someone's status, location, and battery life is obviously of concern to more conservative members of society, and rightfully so. Sure, Apple says that the feature is meant to make calling people easier, and while it might do that, someone could potentially misuse the information.
One of the features present in the service is the ability to have this information set and shared automatically. Apple feels that previous status message features were inadequate because users had to set them manually. Instead of doing that, the information available to potential callers would be automatically updated whenever necessary.
Luckily, some privacy concerns can be pushed to the side as there are extra settings that can be put in place to protect privacy. Users are able to prevent people from seeing any updates unless the person is in their contacts list.
Whether or not this type of feature will be present in the next iPhone is probably the biggest question. From the filing, we know that Apple had been putting thought into status sharing since 2012 but there has yet to be a device that Apple could put it on.