Apple patent application involves theft-alarm for phones

Application imagines a smartphone that could decipher what kinds of movement take place during a phone robbery, and then sound an alarm.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
Apple's iPhone 5. CNET

Imagine if an iPhone had the equivalent of a car alarm. Would a loud, annoying alarm sound when a thief ran off with the device? Or would the alarm ring out when a stranger just tried to look at the phone?

These are questions Apple explores in a patent application filed today. Titled "Acceleration-based theft detection system for portable electronic devices," the application involves a smartphone deciphering what kinds of movement take place during a phone robbery.

According to the patent filing, the smartphone's alarm would be activated once it decides, "a theft condition is present." To determine this "theft condition," the device would rely on its built-in accelerometer -- which is the same tool that can tell the way users are holding their phone. It would also use software to decide if the movements recorded by the accelerometer fit the "profile characteristic of theft."

The filing states that the reason for working on the antitheft invention is "the drive toward miniaturization of electronics," which has resulted in easier portability of devices but also ease of theft. "While the rightful owner of a portable electronic device may conveniently transport it almost anywhere, so can a thief," the filing says.

Apple won 34 patent awards last week, including patents covering 3D video apps on a mobile device, a way to play stored content on Apple TV, and a way to change backgrounds on Apple's iChat videoconferencing feature.

The granting of a patent, however, doesn't necessarily mean a marketable technology will result.