Apple has been granted a patent for a sort of intelligent visual caller ID. Like usual, the patent application carries the mundane title of “Image selection for an incoming call”.

In reality, the technique Apple proposes could alert you to the caller’s identity and give you some contextual clues where they are calling from, even their time of day. We can already get an image of a caller, based on the incoming phone number.

But the patent could display an image based on additional filters. For instance, suppose you receive a mid-morning call on the West Coast from someone in Japan. The technology would determine the caller’s location and timezone, and show a photo of the person in the middle of the night. Does this mean I can’t call in sick when I’m actually at the beach?

According to the U.S. Patent No. 8,331,916, first spotted by AppleInsider, one could even determine what picture appears when one’s significant other rings. And by using a star-ratings system, you might downgrade the matching image to one with horns and a mustache.

The method Apple’s researching includes “locating plurality images of the identified caller, and randomly displaying on the mobile telecommunications device’s display screen one or more images from among the located plurality images of the identified caller”.

An image for inbound caller ID could come from a number of sources, including locally stored images or a cloud-based gallery. The system might also tap phone numbers, iMessage email addresses, information about location, date and time and other data points in order to put up the right caller ID image.

The potential is huge, as noted by TechCrunch:

In theory, such a system would know to show you a picture of a friend at home in San Francisco if it detects that a call is coming from there. It could also show a snapshot of you and a significant other on vacation in New York City, if the phone detected that you were travelling there while receiving a phone call from home.

It gets even better than that:

The system can also display photos from approximately the same time of day as that of the origin call, which would actually be a handy visual shortcut to realize that someone on the other side of the world might be calling you very early in the morning or very early at night, regardless of what time it is locally.

Of course, the patent application filed in 2010 does not mean it will wind up in the next iOS update. But the concept seems to be a perfect fit for the iPhone.

If it does make it into one of the future firmware updates, be prepared for a deluge of caller ID-blocking apps.

I already have a photo of myself, busily writing the next time I want to grab some sun.

  • yeah umm sounds umm well yyyeeahh ….BORING

  • But then there would have to be a picture of said person in pretty much every situation. What if they are in New York at night for the first time? There’s no picture to display for that.

    • Could just be a picture of a person with a light or dark background ( like the weather app) ..and time of day there..

  • CooperB

    I’m guessing a watered down version might appear in iOS 9 or 10.

  • Falk M.

    Less patenty, more do-y, Apple.
    Make iOS exciting again! Android’s running circles around iOS in terms of adding new features.

    Now I know Apple is trying to polish and they are working on a lot I bet, however, what the customers – and me too – are seeing is:
    Android = new features all the time, sometimes in less than a year (*sigh* why do we have to wait 12 months for some small features again?)
    iOS = You know what you’ve got, in 12 months we might add a ton of improvements and 1-2 killer features (if lucky).

    I totally see how with iOS6 I not only don’t get a Jailbreak anymore, but I also don’t really see a need for it anymore.
    However, it’s so INCREDIBLY depressing to see Apple patent the shit out of iPhone concepts and don’t do shit about it whilst showing us how little they actually do.

    I’m giving a lot of credit to Scott Forstall here, because I think he’s more of a “I don’t need it – so I bet the customer doesn’t either” person.
    Ive might have a similar mentality, however I think he’s much more listening, humble, forthcoming and boy: I bet he’s got a much better clue nowadays.

    Do I think Scott Forstall did a great job? Yes, I do.
    Do I think it’s good that now somebody else is in charge? Yes, I do.

    I think his time had come, now with Ive, I’m putting all my trust into iOS 7 and 8.

    • healeydave

      What features are you talking about because I can honestly say there is nothing on android that I am envious about being a iOS user!

      In fact the un-curated mess of malware and no control of what even reasonable dev’s do with your private information (let alone unscrupulous dev’s) are reason enough for me to steer well clear of android!

      About the only thing android has that iOS doesn’t at the moment is NFC and since any NFC development has barely scraped the surface in the last 24 months, it just goes to prove that android handset makers are desperate to try and out-spec iOS devices because its the only ammunition they have. With NFC as usual Apple has proven that just throwing in tech thats not ready for prime-time would have been a waste of time & effort!
      That’s not to say it won’t come, but when/if it does come on iOS, it won’t have been sitting there un-used for several handset iterations like it has been on android devices so far. As an aside, I’m still not convinced about NFC, I think clever use of geofencing without the need for additional hardware could be a much slicker and smarter solution!

      • Falk M.

        You’re not quite getting where I’m pointing at I suppose.
        There isn’t much in Android I’d like to see in iOS either, but that’s not the point.

      • IOS is boring as hell.. it stable and smooth and fast … but boring..

    • great post

      • Falk M.

        Thanks 🙂

  • Cool, gonna come in handy when everyone on my contact list is holding an iPhone, which has a 0.1% probability of happening with SJ gone.

    • Falk M.

      Haha, indeed.
      It’s again one of those “Give me features that are beautiful in my ecosystem, that at the same time remind me how I’m one of two people I know use”
      (slight exaggeration)

      Like iMessage or Facetime.
      Hooraaay! I can message three of my buddies for free whilst the rest is on the bullcrap of WhatsApp because Android, have a feature phone still or…