Microsoft Patents ‘Inconspicuous Mode’ For Cellphones


Microsoft has patented an “inconspicuous mode” for making sure cellphones behave themselves in movie theaters and similar settings. But the patent is vague about exactly how the setting would be triggered.

After applying for the patent, titled “Inconspicuous mode for mobile devices” in 2013, Microsoft received the final thumbs up from the US Patent and Trademark Office last week.

The concept has two main elements. The first is that a single setting could change multiple phone settings and features that could be a problem in a dark and quiet location, without the need to turn the phone off completely.

Examples include not just putting the phone on a silent vibrate setting, but also switching off notifications, dimming the display, and switching the clock digits to giant size so that owners who use a phone in place of a watch can check the time with just a nano-glance. Users would be able to tweak the mode to enable or disable specific phone features.

It’s the other element — when to trigger the mode automatically — that’s the problem, and here Microsoft really does seem to be coming up with ideas rather than giving the clear explanation of how they’d be implemented that you’d hope to see in a granted patent.

The listed possibilities include the following.

* Activating the mode when the phone is in a dark and quiet location. As The Telegraph points out, that seems to describe most people’s pockets as much as it does a movie theater.

* Using GPS to detect known movie theaters.

* Scanning for Wi-Fi networks with an SSID containing relevant terms such as “theater” or the name of a movie theater chain. (In other words, rename your WiFi network ‘AMC’ for instant peace and quiet.)

* Checking the user’s calendar for entries that relate to quiet settings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the lack of a clear implementation plan, it doesn’t appear Microsoft intends to add the feature to its phones any time soon.