Every now and then a particular patent application gets granted that seems obvious, especially because almost every other company that competes in that space does the same thing on their product. The latest such patent was granted to Apple and covers the ability to start and switch apps while continuing a phone call in the background.
As soon as I read the original report from Patently Apple I immediately had my brother call me on his Droid and switch apps during the call. The interface for doing so is nearly identical to that in iOS.
With Apple already in court fighting Samsung on various design and copyright charges, this latest patent grant only adds to its legal firepower. As with other iOS-based patents that Apple has won, this process for switching apps during a phone call is not just an intuitive part of Apple's mobile OS that it wants to protect, it has become a staple UI choice for many smartphone OSes that have the ability to run apps during calls.
It will be interesting to see how, or even if, Apple uses this patent win to help legislate its position in the smartphone market. Certainly Google cannot be happy, as the Android interface, as I mentioned earlier, is strikingly similar. Of course, as broken as the patent system can be, I would not be surprised if Google had a similar patent in its arsenal that it could use in its defense.
The technology world seems to have become a cold war of stockpiling patents with a constant threat of nuclear litigating always on the horizon. Should Apple use its stock of patents more aggressively against its competitors or maintain a more passive approach and only use them to defend against legal attacks? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!