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Apple patent details in-house Bump competitor

A new Apple patent application details a system for transferring files from one iOS device to another using gestures and proximity.

A depiction of "pouring out" files from an iPhone to an iPad.
A depiction of "pouring out" files from an iPhone to an iPad. Patently Apple

In the future you could selectively transfer files from one iOS device to another as easily as pouring out a tall beverage on your phone, a vision that's been detailed in a new Apple patent application that was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today.

The application, dubbed "Intuitive, gesture-based communications with physics metaphors," was unearthed by blog Patently Apple, and outlines a system for transferring data between iOS devices with the use of a "physical gesture."

Sound familiar? Perhaps you've used or heard of Bump from Bump Technologies, a service that enables information sharing between two smartphones once their owners tap them together. In the case of this patent, the gesture is described as more of a turning of the device, or a "sweeping gesture made in the general direction of the target devices." In other words, no contact necessary.

Beyond Bump, parallels can be made to HP's file transfer efforts between its WebOS devices, which Patently Apple points out. HP's technology allows two WebOS devices to transfer things like Web bookmarks when the two are touching one another.

When it actually comes to the ferrying of files from one place to another, this wouldn't be like watching the progress bar move. Instead, Apple's patent suggests a system where you might actually be entertained while waiting for the transfer to finish with real life analogs like pieces of sand going through an hour glass, or "pouring" content from one device to another like you would a glass of water:

For example, transferred files can appear to "drop" onto device 120 at a point directly below device 110 and then spread out onto interface 122 to simulate sand or liquid being poured onto a surface having friction or a viscous drag. The rate at which each object moves on interface 122 can be based on the size or "mass" of the file represented by the object. Larger files that have more "mass" can have their object animated to move slower in interface 122, and small files that have less "mass" can have their object animated to move faster in interface 122.

In the patent, Apple notes that the technology used to identify the two devices to one another could be Bluetooth or Radio Frequency Identification, while the actual file transferring technology could be something else entirely.

Apple's long been hands-off when it comes to accessing the file system of the iPhone. Unlike the iPod, which had a long history of doubling as a portable hard drive, the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad have focused more on letting applications tap into things like music, photos and videos while keeping the desktop paradigm of files and folders from entering the equation.

That same hands-off approach has been woven into iCloud, which arrives later this year. That service, which will be free to users, can ferry over photos, applications, application files, and purchased media to other devices behind the scenes, so that there's never a need to do that work yourself.

As a reminder, this is a patent application and not a patent that's been granted to the company. And as always, it's worth taking these illustrations and ideas with a grain of salt, as they are not guaranteed to become a part of shipping products. Nonetheless, many have.