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Microsoft working on phone that silences itself in the cinema

Microsoft has a vision of a future in which phones silence themselves when they realise they're in a cinema or other situations.

You've just sat down to watch Les Misérables and Russell Crowe's just opened his mouth to bark, when the air is filled with the sound of... Marimba? As you scramble to switch your phone to silent, you can look forward to Microsoft's vision of a future in which phones silence themselves when they realise they're in a cinema.

Microsoft has filed a patent, spotted by Infoworld, that allows your phone to put itself into "an inconspicuous mode of operation" in certain circumstances. Inconspicuous mode makes it sound like KITT going invisible when chased by bad guys with big flapping collars or something, and is in fact silent mode on steroids.

Not only does the ringtone go silent, but the screen brightness is lowered and new alerts, like texts, are simplified to be less distracting. Handy not just for trips to the local fleapit but also concerts, meetings, classrooms, libraries, or even when you go to bed.

The phone changes modes based on both GPS information and at least one environmental factor, like the light or sound level. So the GPS tells the phone it's in a particular location and the camera or microphone tells it the situation.

The GPS might record you've walked into the pictures, and the camera records that the lights have gone down, so it's time to stop texting and start munching popcorn. Or if it records that you've arrived at a gig venue and the mic picks up music, the phone will go quiet and the screen darker so you can tweet about how much this band sucks without annoying the person next to you.

When the lights go up or the music stops, the phone can then automatically set itself back to its normal bleepy, alert-y, look-at-me settings.

Changing a bunch of settings in one simple movement is, for me, a big feature that phones haven't mastered yet. There are times when we want our phones firing on all cylinders, but if they did that all the time the battery would be drained faster than a bottle of sherry left unattended in CNET Towers.  

One way of quickly changing a bunch of settings on your phone is to use NFC tags. They're little NFC chips that can be programmed to perform specific actions when you tap your phone against them. Examples include Samsung TecTiles for Samsung phones or Sony Smart Tags for Sony Xperia phones.

But a phone that knows when you're otherwise occupied and dials things down accordingly would be a fantastic invention. What do you think of your phone making changes depending where it is? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.