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Apple exploring iPhone audio text message, walkie-talkie feature

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
Apple has been brainstorming a new capability that could allow iPhone users to transmit data -- such as simple text messages -- to each other over voice channels, forgoing a reliance wireless carriers' backend servers, in a manner similar to Nextel's walkie-talkie feature.

The concept is detailed in a company filing made this past November and discovered for the first time by AppleInsider on Thursday. As Apple explains, conventional text messaging systems require the use of what is referred to as a backend server that may be limited in the amount of information that can be handled at a particular time and is therefore capacity limited.

Furthermore, the company notes that reading of text messages can be troublesome due to in part to the small size of the typical display screen on a handheld device, especially in situations where the recipient is impaired or preoccupied with another task, such as driving.

"With the rapid deployment, proliferation, and technical advancement of mobile personal communication devices, such as cell phones, a user of these devices is presented with any number of ways to communicate with another user," Apple wrote in the filing.

"For example, a user can send type a text message using, for example, Short Message Service-Point to Point (SMS-PP) protocol as defined in GSM recommendation 03.40 where messages are sent via a store-and forward mechanism to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC), which will attempt to send the message to the recipient and possibly retry if the user is not reachable at a given moment. Therefore, SMS-PP requires the use of a backend server to provide the necessary support for transmission of data between sender and receiver."

As such, the iPhone maker calls for a new mechanism whereby data is passed between a sender and receiver unit by way of voice channel only, bypassing use of the data channel used in conventional arrangements.

"In this way, a sender can select that data which he/she desires to send to a receiver unit using by first converting the data into an appropriate vocal/voice format which is then forwarded to a receiver unit by way of the voice channel," Apple said. "Once received at the receiver unit, the vocalized data can be converted to an audio signal, which is then output by way of an audio output device (such as a speaker, earphone, etc.)."

More specifically, the filing suggests that a sender would be able to vocalize any textual data on their display screen -- such as a phone number -- in order to pass it by way of a voice channel to another iPhone or any number of other iPhones or compatible personal communication devices. Once received by the recipient, processing of the vocalized data would be performed based upon a prompted user request or based upon a pre-selected protocol.



"For example, once received [by an iPhone], the vocalized phone number can be passed to an audio output device that (in the case of a speaker) generates an audible rendition of the vocalized phone number," Apple wrote. "In another case, the vocalized phone number is forwarded to a voice mail server where the receiver records the vocalized phone number as a voice mail message for subsequent playback."

In the latter case, Apple notes that the sender can pre-select the option that forces the generated audio message to stored in the receiver's voice mail server. Alternatively, the company said additional processing can be performed whereby any vocalized multimedia data received is automatically converted back to text and displayed and/or converted to an audible message.



Additionally, Apple said the concept is open to alterations and permutations, which would include a walkie-talkie-like feature, where the sender transmits a voice snippet rather than text clippings. The filing made November 23, 2009 is credited to iPod grandfather and former Apple vice president Anthony Fadell.
post #2 of 44
"brainstrorming" is an unfortunate word to use given the previous article!
post #3 of 44
This idea sounds like a cell phone modem. It's just a slight rejiggering of an old technology.
post #4 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by akf2000 View Post

"brainstrorming" is an unfortunate word to use given the previous article!

I do agree. Where's the novelty in this? Seems like existing text-to-speech things and Push-to-talk over Cellular (PoC). Or am I missing something here? Yes they are combining some parts, but voice SMS playback and phone number playback has been available on phones for years. PoC (Nextel in the US) is established tech as well.
post #5 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by jahonen View Post

I do agree. Where's the novelty in this? Seems like existing text-to-speech things and Push-to-talk over Cellular (PoC). Or am I missing something here? Yes they are combining some parts, but voice SMS playback and phone number playback has been available on phones for years. PoC (Nextel in the US) is established tech as well.

So how come no one's done it yet, if it's so obvious?

And it's not voice SMS playback.
post #6 of 44
This sounds like converting an SMS (or other text, e.g. a phone number) to voice at the sender's phone. Then send the voice message via the voice channel - e.g. a voice message instead of a text message.

Or it could be converting the text into an encoded audio signal (good old modem tech from the 80s Squeeeeee!). Sending that via voice mail and the receiver decoding back to data. Reading the article again, it also seems to cover using voice recognition to convert back to data. So:
Sender: "555-1212" gets converted to spoken "five five five one two one two"
Receiver: Either speak the message, voice recognize it to turn it back to "555-1212", and/or save the "vocalized data" to voice mail for later use.

I can't imagine audio encoding of data would be anywhere near as efficient as using a carrier's data channel. And I'd have to think carriers would frown on the inefficient use of bandwidth.

And how reliable is the voice channel? Does the waveform encoded at the sender make it to the receiver with enough fidelity to encode data?

I'm guessing "company filing" means a patent filing? The article doesn't use the word patent anywhere. Assuming it does mean patent filing, this could be a case of coming up with an idea and defensively patenting it before anyone else does - whether or not implementing the concept makes any business sense.

If Apple does follow through on a capability like this, I expect resistance from carriers. Someone will have to run the numbers on cost of sending a "spoken text message" vs sending a "data text message". If one has a high minute plan with pay per text message (and especially unlimited night & weekend minutes), it could be a lot cheaper for the user to send "five five five one two one two" and let the phones handle text-to-speech-to-text instead of sending actual text messages.

The big problem I see with this is delivery. Data is delivered immediately - it goes to the phone without the user answering the call. But voice invokes the ringer and the user has to answer the phone to get the message or navigate to voice mail to retrieve it later. That hassle could make this technique less useful.

- Jasen.
post #7 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by jahonen View Post

I do agree. Where's the novelty in this? [...] Or am I missing something here? Yes they are combining some parts, [...]

Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

So how come no one's done it yet, if it's so obvious?

Yes, exactly, although, I don't think the OP was really interested in much besides criticizing Apple.

But, it's an interesting question, of what does innovation or invention consist? Some seem to think that it's a matter of creatio ex nihilo, but, to misuse a phrase, I think it's accurate to say that ex nihilo nihil fit. Everything -- technology, art/music, cooking, religion, ... -- is derived from something. Everything new is a combining or recombining of parts in some novel way, and it is either hubris or ignorance for the "inventor" to think otherwise.

Much of the criticism of Apple we see on these forums is along the lines of, for example, "there is nothing in the iPhone that hasn't already been on some other phone before." But, there was nothing on those other phones that wasn't on something else before either; it's the way Apple put it all together that makes it innovative, not whether it came from nothing. Another often heard criticism is that the iPhone isn't innovative because it lacks some feature that exists on some other phone, but, sometimes, what you leave out contributes just as much as what you put in, and I think this is a philosophy in ascendancy at Apple.
post #8 of 44
:hits the snooze button:
post #9 of 44
I am missing the innovation here too, especially given that there is no analog voice channel in a gsm phone.

The network benefit to SMS is that you need minimal connection time/energy to get a message, so you can get the message with intermittent connectivity. I just wish Apple could use the SMS channel for push notification like the Blackberry, and extend that to voicemail.
post #10 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

I am missing the innovation here too, especially given that there is no analog voice channel in a gsm phone.

The network benefit to SMS is that you need minimal connection time/energy to get a message, so you can get the message with intermittent connectivity. I just wish Apple could use the SMS channel for push notification like the Blackberry, and extend that to voicemail.

That may be how it works technically, but how does it work from a billing point of view. Are users charged differently - possibly even more - for using the data channel vs the voice channel? If I'm charged $0.15 per text message but have unlimited minutes, I'll gladly use bandwidth to send text messages as voice.

This could help drive carriers to a flat usage cost. Bits is bits - whether voice or data. As the filing points out, though, there are differences in the back-end/network handling of the two channels. But from the phone to the cell tower, it's all zeros and ones.

- Jasen.
post #11 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougMcNerd View Post

This idea sounds like a cell phone modem. It's just a slight rejiggering of an old technology.

I suppose so... \

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post #12 of 44
I can actually see practical application for this especially for the part where you can send a message directly to a persons voicemail. Everyone who said that this is just SMS/text to speech obviously didn't read the article. This is different in that the SENDER controls whether or not it is delivered as text or speech or directly to the unit or voicemail. This has practical application because I know if my Mate is driving he might not be able to read/respond to his text message so I can send him some quick instructions as voice or send him an address or phone number or other relevant information straight to his voicemail so it's there waiting for him when he arrives at his destination.
post #13 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

So how come no one's done it yet, if it's so obvious?

And it's not voice SMS playback.

That's exactly what it is. They're just using technical mumbo jumbo to describe it.
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post #14 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

I am missing the innovation here too, especially given that there is no analog voice channel in a gsm phone.

The network benefit to SMS is that you need minimal connection time/energy to get a message, so you can get the message with intermittent connectivity. I just wish Apple could use the SMS channel for push notification like the Blackberry, and extend that to voicemail.

You obviously don't know that Blackberry does not use push notifications. You get a copy of your e-mail pushed into the device not a notification that you have e mail.
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post #15 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Yes, exactly, although, I don't think the OP was really interested in much besides criticizing Apple.

But, it's an interesting question, of what does innovation or invention consist? Some seem to think that it's a matter of creatio ex nihilo, but, to misuse a phrase, I think it's accurate to say that ex nihilo nihil fit. Everything -- technology, art/music, cooking, religion, ... -- is derived from something. Everything new is a combining or recombining of parts in some novel way, and it is either hubris or ignorance for the "inventor" to think otherwise.

Much of the criticism of Apple we see on these forums is along the lines of, for example, "there is nothing in the iPhone that hasn't already been on some other phone before." But, there was nothing on those other phones that wasn't on something else before either; it's the way Apple put it all together that makes it innovative, not whether it came from nothing. Another often heard criticism is that the iPhone isn't innovative because it lacks some feature that exists on some other phone, but, sometimes, what you leave out contributes just as much as what you put in, and I think this is a philosophy in ascendancy at Apple.

Wow you're a natural born BSer I see. I don't think it's criticism towards Apple when things like that are saud but more to shut a fanboi up.
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post #16 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Yes, exactly, although, I don't think the OP was really interested in much besides criticizing Apple.

If I'm the intended OP I actually am interested. I didn't intend to critisize Apple at all. Patent system maybe (if it's as simple as it looks at first glance). To me this looked like SMS playback with a twist combining SMS to voice conversion with PoC. The PoC and SMS text-to-voice have both been done before. They just haven't been put together.

That's why I put the "Am I missing something here?". It's hugely propable that I am as my first reaction was that there's nothing new here and that it's a data->Voice->data conversion type of thing (good old Modem) running on top of PoC.

I'll try to read the filing (if available) when I'm a bit less busy to try to understand this better.
post #17 of 44
I use something like this with my friends already. The Messenger app on my phone lets me record a quick voice clip, send it off, then it plays to someone on the other end of the IM, whether they're at their computer or using the messenger app on their own WM phone. I can even connect a bunch of people to a single conversation.

So if this is an iphone to iphone only feature, then I could easily say it's already been done as a WM to WM feature, or computer to WM, or WM to computer
post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Wow you're a natural born BSer I see. I don't think it's criticism towards Apple when things like that are saud but more to shut a fanboi up.

The use of the word "fanboi" is indicative of intent. Back under your bridge.
post #19 of 44
Ladies and Gentlemen, this EXTREMELY innovative engineering marvel took hundreds of man years to develop can be all yours of a low low low low low price of $19.95 per month (for 10 messages) or $5.99 per use when not tied to any discount plan.
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post #20 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

But, it's an interesting question, of what does innovation or invention consist? Some seem to think that it's a matter of creatio ex nihilo, but, to misuse a phrase, I think it's accurate to say that ex nihilo nihil fit. Everything -- technology, art/music, cooking, religion, ... -- is derived from something. Everything new is a combining or recombining of parts in some novel way, and it is either hubris or ignorance for the "inventor" to think otherwise.

Simpson's did it! Simpson's did it!

even if apple didn't "invent" the idea it, they do have to patent/ implement their own way of doing it. Sounds like a feature some might like.
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post #21 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGee View Post

Ladies and Gentlemen, this EXTREMELY innovative engineering marvel took hundreds of man years to develop can be all yours of a low low low low low price of $19.95 per month (for 10 messages) or $5.99 per use when not tied to any discount plan.

It's not innovative at all, text messages work fine. Even better in fact.
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post #22 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCO3 View Post

The use of the word "fanboi" is indicative of intent. Back under your bridge.

The term "trolling" stems from a fisherman who's angling, or dragging a line through the water with a lure on it to catch a fish, not the monstrosity that lives under bridges in fairly tales
post #23 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by jahonen View Post

If I'm the intended OP I actually am interested. I didn't intend to critisize Apple at all. Patent system maybe (if it's as simple as it looks at first glance). To me this looked like SMS playback with a twist combining SMS to voice conversion with PoC. The PoC and SMS text-to-voice have both been done before. They just haven't been put together.

That's why I put the "Am I missing something here?". It's hugely propable that I am as my first reaction was that there's nothing new here and that it's a data->Voice->data conversion type of thing (good old Modem) running on top of PoC.

As I pointed out earlier, It's the "twist" part that makes something novel. An invention need not be made up of wholly new parts, and never is. It's the combining them with a twist that constitutes innovation. It's also not necessary that every invention usher in an earth-shattering revolution for it to be considered an innovation. No, it's not as exciting as releasing an iPhone, but most patents aren't.
post #24 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Wow you're a natural born BSer I see. I don't think it's criticism towards Apple when things like that are saud but more to shut a fanboi up.

You've made three posts of exactly zero content. Shut.
post #25 of 44
I just thought of something. Apple has a chance here to take sexting to a whole new level
post #26 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by chronster View Post

The term "trolling" stems from a fisherman who's angling, or dragging a line through the water with a lure on it to catch a fish, not the monstrosity that lives under bridges in fairly tales

Yes, but implying that an Internet troll has characteristics more in keeping with a loathsome monster with nasty personal habits living in a dark, dank environment is not only more satisfying but more apt as well. Replace "bridge" with "mom's basement" if you like.
post #27 of 44
5 grammatical errors in your story - You need to proofread!!
post #28 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by chronster View Post

I use something like this with my friends already. The Messenger app on my phone lets me record a quick voice clip, send it off, then it plays to someone on the other end of the IM, whether they're at their computer or using the messenger app on their own WM phone. I can even connect a bunch of people to a single conversation.

So if this is an iphone to iphone only feature, then I could easily say it's already been done as a WM to WM feature, or computer to WM, or WM to computer

So essentially Apple is looking to make their own version of BlackBerry Messenger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by itpromike View Post

I can actually see practical application for this especially for the part where you can send a message directly to a persons voicemail. Everyone who said that this is just SMS/text to speech obviously didn't read the article. This is different in that the SENDER controls whether or not it is delivered as text or speech or directly to the unit or voicemail. This has practical application because I know if my Mate is driving he might not be able to read/respond to his text message so I can send him some quick instructions as voice or send him an address or phone number or other relevant information straight to his voicemail so it's there waiting for him when he arrives at his destination.

But what's the difference with an actual text message? The same information will be available on the text message screen, as opposed to him/her needing to dial voicemail and go through all the button-pressing hoops just to get it and write it back down.

That being said, when I had my BB, I believe that if any address was sent as via text or BBM, I had the ability to send it directly to Google Maps and route me to it. Or if it's a phone number, automatically call it. Much faster than having to listen to it via voicemail and then write it down again.

Also, don't some phones already have the option to automatically read texts as they come in?
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post #29 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

I am missing the innovation here too, especially given that there is no analog voice channel in a gsm phone.

The network benefit to SMS is that you need minimal connection time/energy to get a message, so you can get the message with intermittent connectivity. I just wish Apple could use the SMS channel for push notification like the Blackberry, and extend that to voicemail.

The real innovation would be able to reduce the exorbitant cost that AT&T applies for use of their SMS!

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post #30 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmmx View Post

5 grammatical errors in your story - You need to proofread!!

It's quite maddening. I have a wish that one day the authors credited with filing stories on AppleInsider be so fortunate to understand and gain the benefit of a skilled professional editor before they are published. This remains my wish. We should all be so lucky to read something that is both well written and accurate and that goes doubly for my posts!

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post #31 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

It's not innovative at all, text messages work fine. Even better in fact.

But do they cost more? If users can send text-as-voice messages and side step the text message charge will they? It gets a bit more clever when Apple can encode the text in a known voice. So the voice-to-text recognition on the other end can be simpler than a general voice recognition tool. And if the iPhone already supports voice dialing, then voice recognition code & CPU power is already there to use.

- Jasen.
post #32 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCO3 View Post

Yes, but implying that an Internet troll has characteristics more in keeping with a loathsome monster with nasty personal habits living in a dark, dank environment is not only more satisfying but more apt as well. Replace "bridge" with "mom's basement" if you like.

He could live in a high-rise apartment with all the friends in the world, trolling will mean the same thing.

nvm. fine. He's a big bad troll with nasty teeth and eats children who stick their legs over the side of the bridge.
post #33 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


Another often heard criticism is that the iPhone isn't innovative because it lacks some feature that exists on some other phone, but, sometimes, what you leave out contributes just as much as what you put in, and I think this is a philosophy in ascendancy at Apple.

It was extremely innovative that they left out cut and paste, but that didn't stop the whiner's!

Now they innovate by finally banning flash, and all the whiner's can say is that they left out flash.

Whats next with these whiners? Will they say the iPad is not innovative because it uses a standard screen size?

Well the iPad won't drive you to work either, and it will not make breakfast. So the whiner's say it is no good. Yeah that makes sense.
post #34 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by iLuv View Post

It was extremely innovative that they left out cut and paste, but that didn't stop the whiner's!

Now they innovate by finally banning flash, and all the whiner's can say is that they left out flash.

Whats next with these whiners? Will they say the iPad is not innovative because it uses a standard screen size?

Well the iPad won't drive you to work either, and it will not make breakfast. So the whiner's say it is no good. Yeah that makes sense.

I'm curious...

How was leaving out copy/paste innovative? It's extremely useful when you get information from one place and you want to put it in another.

For example, a business name that you receive via e-mail that you want to search more about online. Or information from a website that you want to save in a note app to reference later.
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post #35 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

It's not innovative at all, text messages work fine. Even better in fact.

You MIGHT wanna re-read what I actually wrote..

Perhaps cutting them down into bite sized chunks will help you better understand my REALY feelings on the feature.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this EXTREMELY innovative engineering marvel"

"took hundreds of man years to develop"

"can be all yours of a low low low low low price of $19.95 per month (for 10 messages) or $5.99 per use when not tied to any discount plan. "

I was simply mocking the entire idea and included a totally ridiculous price that some carrier would likely charge for this stupid and redundant feature. I was sure that me indicating a $5.99 per use fee would make that quite clear I was mocking it not to mention the "took hundreds of man years to develop" jab.

As for me, I still don't get the reason why they feel they can charge separately for IMs on top of an 'unlimited data' plan... And yes yes yes.. someone will likely post a followup and explain how IMs don't use data but a different cellular mechanism to shuttle the information and are entitled to charge for them but I still don't believe they should be able to charge users for this ability.
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post #36 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by iLuv View Post

It was extremely innovative that they left out cut and paste, but that didn't stop the whiner's!

Now they innovate by finally banning flash, and all the whiner's can say is that they left out flash.

Whats next with these whiners? Will they say the iPad is not innovative because it uses a standard screen size?

Well the iPad won't drive you to work either, and it will not make breakfast. So the whiner's say it is no good. Yeah that makes sense.

Well, I guess that confirms my theory that iLuv is a new teckstud persona.
post #37 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

So how come no one's done it yet, if it's so obvious?

And it's not voice SMS playback.

Ever hear of profit motive? No one wants to pay for it and jahonen is correct. Just about all Nokia phones have had this capability for YEARS. Nothing new here, but because Apple decided to do it, it is new worthy.
post #38 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by sapporobabyrtrns View Post

Ever hear of profit motive? No one wants to pay for it and jahonen is correct. Just about all Nokia phones have had this capability for YEARS. Nothing new here, but because Apple decided to do it, it is new worthy.

It is newsworthy in the sense that if Apple WERE to roll out a feature such as this WITHOUT a patent of their own to show the original idea and/or implementation (design?) then the first thing Nokia would is SUE... Something that they will likely do ANYWAY (just as Apple would if the roles were reversed) but with Apple having an approved patent it goes along way in defending their case.

So NO this isn't 'new' it wasn't 'new' when Nokia did it either and it wasn't new when Nextel did it.. this form of communication goes back to WAY before the telegraph... The pony express, Indian smoke signals, etc. Sure the technology has advanced but 'send something' ... 'hear something' ... 'send something' has been the basis of long distance communication for an extremely long time.

Sure in todays world we're able to do lots of different forms of communications all in one go.. but the concept of asynchronous communication is as old as dirt.
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post #39 of 44
Say you were using an iPhone on a network that didn't allow simultaneous transmission of voice and data.

You're talking to someone and they ask for a number from your contacts, cut, paste, send without hanging up the call!

Cue the 'Twilight Zone' music, let the speculation begin.

I spy with my little eye something beginning with...

...V.
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post #40 of 44
Nothing new???

Nokia uses the DATA channel to push voice over with it's "Push to Talk" service.

This is a different kettle of fish altogether, using the VOICE channel to push data over.

jahonnen is wrong.

This is novel and can be used on a CDMA network to enable voice AND data at the same time.

If someone had done it before we would have heard about it during the Verizon Droid campaign, someone, somewhere would have used it to counter AT&T's and Apple's claims re: simultaneous voice and data.

A lot of people are probably scratching their heads, going, "why didn't we think of that?"

Such is the nature of invention.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapporobabyrtrns View Post

Ever hear of profit motive? No one wants to pay for it and jahonen is correct. Just about all Nokia phones have had this capability for YEARS. Nothing new here, but because Apple decided to do it, it is new worthy.
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