Apple wins patents on Game Center, iPhone Burst Mode

US Patent and Trademark Office grants 59 patents to the iPhone maker, adding to its already huge trove of intellectual property.

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A look at Apple's Burst Mode patent drawings. Apple

Apple's patent war chest has grown ever larger with a boatload of new intellectual property granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Monday.

In total, Apple was granted 59 patents on Monday, according to Patently Apple, which keeps track of the company's patent filings. Two patents were of particular note: one covering the iPhone camera's Burst Mode and another that focuses on the inner-workings of Game Center.

Apple's Burst Mode camera feature, which debuted in the iPhone 5S, allows the phone's built-in camera to capture 10 photos per second. The feature is designed for capturing fast movement like a person skiing or a child running. It uses both the company's 64-bit A7 processor and Apple's own image signal processor to rapidly capture the stills.

Apple's Burst Mode patent details exactly how the feature works, including its reliance upon a hefty processor, image sensor, and enough memory to capture the photos in seconds. More specifically, the patent, dubbed "Digital camera having variable duration burst mode," describes how that 10 frames per second could be more or less, depending on the technology built into the respective device. It also describes how the technology can continue to capture pictures in Burst Mode over the course of an entire action.

Smartphone have become one of the most popular ways for people to snap photos, creating an arms race between device makers. Nokia fired the first shot when it unveiled the Nokia 808 PureView, with a jaw-dropping 41-megapixel camera, at Mobile World Congress in February 2012. Since then, several device makers using Google's Android mobile operating system have joined the picture parade.

Samsung and HTC have both unveiled devices that attempt to take on the 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 5S, the company's highest-end device at the moment. The Samsung Galaxy S5, which went on sale in April, boasts a 16-megapixel camera, while the 4-megapixel camera on the HTC One M8 comes with dual-lens technology to add depth and reduce blur in images

Rumors are swirling that Apple has plans to fire back at competitors with a better rear-facing camera in the upcoming iPhone 6. It's believed that Apple will announce the new handset in the next couple of months and focus heavily on what its new camera tech might feature.

Bring on Game Center

Apple was also granted on Monday a patent for its Game Center app on iOS and OS X. The application tracks a user's gaming exploits across titles and maintains leaderboards, performance indicators, and more. In some ways, Game Center's social features are Apple's answer to some of the features -- but not all -- found in Microsoft's Xbox Live.

Apple's patent on Game Center is surprisingly generic, describing "methods and systems for providing a game center having player specific options and statistics." More specifically, Apple says that its technology allows gamers to build out their own social profiles on the game network and friends' profiles. The patent also provides Apple protection on its ranking technology.

Game Center, which initially launched on Apple's iOS mobile operating system in 2010, has been slowly but surely becoming more important to the company's plans for the gaming space. Gaming on mobile devices has become the most popular activity for casual gamers and has since beaten out traditional portables, like the Nintendo 3DS, to become the top destination for gaming.

Apple has been doubling down on services like Game Center to keep gamers fully entrenched into its own gaming apps. The company has so far not extended Game Center to the television through its Apple TV, but recent rumors have suggested such a move is possible in future set-top box updates. If that's the case, it's entirely possible that Apple could use Game Center to challenge the online-based services found in today's consoles, like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Although these two secured patents are based on real products, not all patents Apple -- or any other company, for that matter -- files for make their way to devices. For every patent Apple wins on device design, like the one on the iPad Air's design it was granted on Monday, there are several others that are technologies brought to the USPTO for protection against competing technologies and will never hit devices.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment on its recently granted patents. We will update this story when we have more information.

 

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