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Apple looks toward iPhone chat app

A patent application surfaces that details Apple's work toward an instant-messaging feature for a portable gadget with a touch-screen display.

At its iPhone SDK event last month, Apple touted an adaption of AOL's instant-messaging client for the iPhone. Now comes news of Apple's own patent application for a chat feature.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the application, titled "Portable Electronic Device for Instant Messaging," on March 6--the very same day Apple was providing details on its software development kit for the iPhone, including AOL's test version of the first "official" native Web chat for the gadget.

The news of the Patent Office's action was first reported by the AppleInsider site late Monday.

AIM for iPhone
AIM for the iPhone, as shown at Apple's March 6 event. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

From the patent application, which Apple filed in August 2007:

The GUI has a set of messages exchanged between a user of the device and another person. The set of messages (is) displayed in a chronological order. In response to detecting a scrolling gesture comprising a substantially vertical movement of a user contact with the touch-screen display, the display of messages (is) scrolled in accordance with a direction of the scrolling gesture.

The iPhone already offers SMS messaging.

As demonstrated last month, the AIM-on-iPhone application--which AOL developed in just two weeks--offers a buddy list and lets users easily toggle among multiple instant-messaging conversations with a finger swipe.