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Apple patent may allow iPhone users to snoop on voice mails for live call screening

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday assigned Apple a patent covering passive audio call screening via an off-site voicemail service, a feature that can theoretically be applied to cellphone platforms like the iPhone.

Voicemail


Likely an assignment from the Rockstar consortium purchase of a Nortel patent cache, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,666,034 for "Audio call screening for hosted voicemail systems" could potentially bring a staple landline technology to cellphones.

In 2011 Rockstar, a consortium of tech companies including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research in Motion and Sony, successfully bid $4.5 billion for a collection of more than 6,000 Nortel patents. It was later learned that Apple footed the lion's share of the bill, equating to some $2.6 billion.

While the Rockstar consortium has leveraged key patents in litigation against Google and Samsung, other properties have slowly been making their way to Apple. Such is the case of the '034 patent.

Those who owned personal answering machines either at home or at the office may remember screening calls by letting the machine pick up, then listening in on the message. If the call was urgent or worth taking, the recipient could simply pick up the phone and answer, automatically shutting off the recording.

As Apple's new patent deals with hosted voicemail services, which are ostensibly off-site and in some ways similar to those provided by cellular operators.

Voicemail
Source: USPTO


As described in the document, incoming calls intended for a user's telephone terminal can be routed to a hosted voicemail system if a user does not answer. As a caller is leaving the message, a conference call connection is established between the incoming call, voicemail system and user, thus allowing a user to listen in on the message in real time.

Alternatively, the incoming call may immediately be sent to voicemail, but the same connection between caller, voicemail and user is established. In all embodiments, the system revolves around a switch that controls incoming calls, bounces them off to the voicemail service and manages passive screening.

When a call is received at the switch, it may be sent to a user's phone or directly to voicemail depending on predefined preferences. If passive screening is enabled, the switch will hand off the call to the voicemail service, then establish a connection with the user's phone.

On the receiving end, a user's phone may only open a speaker channel for monitoring purposes, leaving the microphone disabled or muted. Although not mentioned in the patent, when applied to the iPhone, this facet of the invention can be controlled on the hardware end.

Voicemail
Illustration of an ideal telephony switch and screening system according to one embodiment of the invention.


The user may decide to let the caller finish their message without interrupting, or they can pick up by initiating a bi-directional connection, activating both the speaker and microphone. According to the patent, an in-band or out-of-band signal carries the instructions to the switch.

The basic structure of the system is based on older telephone technology, though the patent does note that the invention is applicable in wireless environments. In theory, the idea can be translated to modern cell networks and even telephony services like FaceTime Audio.

Apple's passive voicemail screening patent was first filed for in 2003 and credits Samuel H. Christie as its inventor.
post #2 of 19
I pretty much always hang up on answer machines. It's nice to leave those who use them guessing, though caller ID has taken the fun out of it a bit.
post #3 of 19

Even with caller ID, the decision to speak with a caller often depends on what they want to talk about.

It is well worth while to snoop on the voice message to just listen and decide.

 

It's also important to have these technologies in place for IP calls because VoIP will eventually take over for POTs and Cell networks.

It does not hurt to augment the Nortel Patents where they left off.

 

Go Apple Go.

post #4 of 19

Cool feature, but misleading headline.  "Snoop?"  Total sensationalism designed to drive traffic.  It's voicemail call screening.  That's all.  

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post #5 of 19
Google Voice does this now. Or at least used to. I wonder if they're doing something different than this patent.
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post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeowulfSchmidt View Post

Google Voice does this now. Or at least used to. I wonder if they're doing something different than this patent.

Google Voice still does this.  Not seeing anything in this patent that appears any different than what Google Voice *already* does.

post #7 of 19
BLOCK CALLS APPLE! How many people have to ask for this?
post #8 of 19
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post
BLOCK CALLS APPLE! How many people have to ask for this?

 

The telecoms won’t let them. It’s more profitable to only allow customers to block five numbers for free and then pay individually to block more.

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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post #9 of 19
iOS can already block calls / callers...

Also, if you 1st route all your calls through google voice on to your iPhone, you can selectively send some callers a 'disconnect' signal.

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/09/19/ios-7-feature-focus-block-calls-texts-and-facetimes-from-individual-numbers
Ask me about.... The 80's!
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Ask me about.... The 80's!
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post #10 of 19

"Snoop" come on! How is listening to a message meant for you snooping?

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by w00master View Post
 

Google Voice still does this.  Not seeing anything in this patent that appears any different than what Google Voice *already* does.

 

Patents are not about protecting the act of doing something, but the methodology of how something is accomplished. So two companies can both let users listen to voice messages live. and both can have patents provided the methodology is different.

 

Moreover, and not that it necessarily matters, Apple's patent is dated to 2003, and Google Voice launched in 2009. Grand Central, the Company Google bought to acquire the technology, was formed in 2005. So, it is possible if Google uses the same methodology, it is using technology Apple holds a patent to. It does not matter that Apple is not currently using the technology. 

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBell View Post

Patents are not about protecting the act of doing something, but the methodology of how something is accomplished. So two companies can both let users listen to voice messages live. and both can have patents provided the methodology is different.

Moreover, and not that it necessarily matters, Apple's patent is dated to 2003, and Google Voice launched in 2009. Grand Central, the Company Google bought to acquire the technology, was formed in 2005. So, it is possible if Google uses the same methodology, it is using technology Apple holds a patent to. It does not matter that Apple is not currently using the technology. 

That brings up a point about the current patent system. Company files for a patent. USPTO turns em down for obviousness, prior art, whatever. Same company then changes a claim or three and resubmits it. Turned down again, similar reasons. Same company tries another rewording of the claims. Same result, denial. This can go on for years until they finally either wear down the examiner and/or hit just the right phraseology to get his sign-off. If the claims weren't inventive enough the first time it doesn't make a whole lotta sense to me that they become inventive enough several years later, but whatever.
melior diabolus quem scies
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post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

The telecoms won’t let them. It’s more profitable to only allow customers to block five numbers for free and then pay individually to block more.

What in the world are you talking about? iOS can already do this for calls and texts. Not to mention this can also be done on my carrier at least as well. I simply log in to my account and there is options for blocking numbers for either texts or voice calls.They also allow you to block up to 50 numbers not five. I know this because I have an activated iPhone.

 


Edited by gwmac - 3/4/14 at 11:48am

 

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post #14 of 19

The feature I most want to be added is the ability to record calls. Google voice allows this with incoming calls only. There are also other work arounds like using a VoiP app to make calls that can be recorded but nothing as simple as many phones, even dumb phones from 10 years ago, that simply had a record call button that worked for incoming or outgoing calls. Before the iPhone was even released I had an old HTC Touch Pro that ran the old Windows Mobile OS that could easily record calls and I believe many other flip/clamshell type dumb phones offered that as well. There are many examples of why recording calls can be very useful. Some states require you to let the other caller know the call is  being recorded and many more only have one party consent. There are apps that allow this but you have to pay usually around $10 to record longer than 60 seconds. This is a feature that should be included for free in iOS. Those call recorders also have to use a work around for 3 way calling which I do not like since it is being recorded by some app company somewhere in the world. I want my calls stored locally on my iPhone for privacy.

 

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Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. 

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post #15 of 19
Originally Posted by gwmac View Post
I know this because I have an activated iPhone.

 

My telecom limits me to five.

 

I’m interested in how you’d implement call recording, though. Both parties must be informed for it to be legal; do you throw a modal popup to the other guy, who confirms or denies?

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
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post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

My telecom limits me to five.

 

I’m interested in how you’d implement call recording, though. Both parties must be informed for it to be legal; do you throw a modal popup to the other guy, who confirms or denies?

Just because your telecom limits you to blocking only 5 don't assume that is the rule for all of them. I find 50 more than adequate. Most states do not require 2nd party consent for call recording. In fact only 12 states require this and consent is a misnomer since you really only need to give notice with beeps or a message. Talking after notice is given is consent. Google voice for example simply says "this call is now being recorded". Current Samsung, Nokia, and many other phones already offer this feature. No need for any popup. People that decide to record calls should be aware of the laws of their state or country just like they have to be aware on many other differences in laws like driving or marijuana use for example. Most states are one party consent and require no beep or notification at all. 

 

I am not sure is this is the best option or not but at least there are no additional fees beyond the $9.99 price. Some other apps ask for subscription or to buy credits to continue to record. This should be a free feature like other phones however and would be simple for Apple to implement. 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/call-recorder-free-record/id637819447?mt=8


Edited by gwmac - 3/4/14 at 2:31pm

 

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post #17 of 19

I am interested in Visual VoiceMail, I hope this mean Apple could finally offer Visual VoiceMail without the blessing of those Stupid Carriers.

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ksec View Post
 

I am interested in Visual VoiceMail, I hope this mean Apple could finally offer Visual VoiceMail without the blessing of those Stupid Carriers.

What prevents them from offering Visual Voicemail like Google Voice does?


Edited by d4NjvRzf - 3/5/14 at 12:24pm
post #19 of 19

Yep, it looks the same, but it says this patent was filed in 2003 so that may mean Google Voice is now in violation.

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