Apple patent shares iPhone info with others nearby to shortcut conversation

Apple wants to make it easier to find cool new people when you're all alone in a bar. Its new patent would allow total strangers to find one another based on the content of their iPhones.

Andy Merrett
Andy Merrett has been using mobile phones since the days when they only made voice calls. Since then he has worked his way through a huge number of Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson models. Andy is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Andy Merrett
2 min read

Apple wants to help you meet new people -- by sharing what's on your iPhone. The company has filed a patent for a method of "ad hoc networking based on content and location" which, simply put, allows you to contact complete strangers nearby based on your shared interests and phone usage.

Apple wants to ease the awkwardness of meeting like-minded people in the real world, TUAW reports. Apparently, when away from the safety of your laptop and Facebook friend requests, you have to talk to people face to face to get to know them. A sobering thought.

However, this "often requires a substantial amount of and time and effort because identifying new persons with common interests for friendships is difficult," according to the application. Indeed, life isn't always played out at speed-dating pace and people don't walk around with 'Like' buttons grafted to them.

"When two strangers meet, it may take a long and awkward conversation to discover their common interests or experiences," Apple says. Yeah, we hate it when you have to put any effort into a conversation.

Apparently it's far better to sit down with your iPhone or iPad and use it like a radar, pinpointing other people in the vicinity who you might get along with.

Obviously, Apple doesn't want another privacy disaster on its hands, so users would have to opt in to share various tidbits of information about themselves. As well as filling in a few basic facts about their likes, dislikes and hobbies, the handset might also match people based on the music and photos stored on their phone and what places they've visited.

If you like listening to Rebecca Black, have taken lots of photos of black labradors, recently returned from a conference in Blackpool and pretend you have a black belt in karate, Apple's system may be able to find someone for you. Let's hope she doesn't look like the person in the patent drawing.

A previous Apple patent would allow existing contacts to find one another if they were in the same area. Services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places do a similar thing already and you don't have to own Apple gear to use it.

Would you appreciate it if technology helped you to get to know complete strangers, or are old-fashioned concepts like eye contact and talking still best at initiating contact?