Apple has been awarded a patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), suggesting future iPhones will function as answering machines.
Apple’s new patent is called “Audio call screening for hosted voicemail systems.”
“The present invention allows a user to screen messages being left at a hosted voicemail system from a telephone terminal. Incoming calls intended for the telephone terminal are routed to the voicemail system immediately or after attempting to connect incoming call to the telephone terminal. As the caller is leaving a message at the voicemail system, a connection between the incoming call, voicemail system, and telephone terminal is established to allow the user to listen to the message and decide whether to take the call. The user may decide to take the call or let the caller finish leaving the message. In one embodiment, the telephone terminal is equipped to open only the speaker channel for monitoring the message and will provide a fully bi-directional connection if the user takes the call. The supporting switch and telephone terminal communicate with each other to facilitate the monitoring and taking of calls.”
“A method for providing voicemail services, comprising: a first server receiving a first call from a first terminal directed to a user of a second terminal, wherein the first call is directed to the first server instead of the second terminal; in response to the first call, the first server initiating a second call to the second terminal, wherein the second terminal is configured to ring in response to the second call; the first server providing caller identification information of the first terminal to the second terminal; the first server recording at least a portion of a message being left by the first terminal; and the first server allowing the second terminal to monitor the message being left by the first terminal, wherein during monitoring the second terminal is configured to receive audio from the first terminal in a uni-directional manner, and wherein, if the user provides user input to establish bi-directional communication, the second terminal is configured to communicate with the first terminal in a bi-directional manner.”
Since the USPTO awarded the patent to Apple, there’s a possibility the feature will make it to the iPhone 6. Stay tuned.