Apple Wants the iPhone to Use This Landline Technology

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has filed for a new patent that got its inspiration from an unlikely place: the classic answering machine. Patent No. 8,666,034 is titled “audio call screening for hosted voicemail systems” and will allow iPhone users to screen calls by listening in on a voicemail while the caller is leaving the message.

Back in the good ol’ days of landline phones, one could wait for an answering machine to pick up a call and then listen to caller leaving a voicemail to determine whether to answer the call. The voicemail usually told you not only who was calling but why. If it was important, you could pick up while the person was leaving the message. Apple’s patent will allow you to do the same thing with your iPhone.

A report from AppleInsider says that the patent is likely an assignment related to the Rockstar consortium that Apple is a part of along with other tech companies, including Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), and Sony (NYSE:SNE). The consortium bid $4.5 billion to acquire about 6,000 Nortel patents in 2011. Some of the patents have been used in litigation against Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK).

The patent involves sending voicemails to a hosted voicemail system. If a user wants to listen in on the voicemail as the caller is leaving it, a conference call is set up between the user, caller, and voicemail system. While a user is listening in on the voicemail, that person’s own speaker will be off or muted so that the caller can’t hear the other line. If a user decides to answer the call as a voicemail is being left, the connection to the voicemail service is severed and a new one is established between the user and the caller, with the microphone reactivated.

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