/ Technology

Apple’s patent could disable your iPhone in the cinema

Apple has been awarded a patent that, if put into practice, would mean it could remotely disable particular iPhone functions in certain locations. For example, blocking your iPhone from shooting video at a music festival.

The patent, according to Apple Insider, means that Apple could:

‘Disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theatre), for preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings), and for forcing certain electronic devices to enter sleep mode when entering a sensitive area.’

Potentially, cinemas could sign up to the technology and automatically disable the ring-tones on your iPhone while you’re watching the film. It’s also possible they could disable any video functions on your phone to prevent you making a pirated recording of the film.

Schools could automatically turn off phones in the classroom and, even better, train operators could bar phones from trains altogether so that I don’t have someone shouting in my ear ‘I’m on a train’ for the entirety of my commute.

Still, most cinemas and schools already have policies in place about where and how you’re allowed to use your mobile phone. Similarly, many train operators have quiet carriages where mobiles aren’t allowed. Most people respect these rules.

Crippling your phone due to where you are

That said I do have some concerns about – if implemented – how this patent would work. Do you really want companies crippling your device because of where you happen to be? Should corporates have the ability to limit the use of a product you’ve bought?

To give you an analogy, cars are capable of doing over 100mph despite the 70mph limit that applies on motorways. I don’t advocate breaking the speed limit – far from it – but I wouldn’t want my car’s manufacturer controlling my speed remotely either.

The technology could also be used to stop the iPhone’s camera working in, for example, a public swimming bath or a public play area.

As a parent, I’m all too familiar with signs telling me I can’t take photographs of my daughter enjoying herself in these locations. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect her, but on the other  I have, on occasion, felt I’ve missed out on capturing precious memories.

Apple’s technology might be able to provide further protection for children in these environments. However, hi-tech solutions, notably parental control software, aren’t foolproof and are no substitute for common sense.

There’s no guarantee Apple will act on this patent but, if it does, I hope it takes a transparent approach that considers consumer choice and works in conjunction with existing safeguards.

Roger says:
4 September 2012

Perhaps they could start by preventing drivers from using phones whilst driving……..

Great idea, allowing phone calls only via a Bluetooth connection. However, how would the phone know whether the user was the driver or a passenger?

Preventing drivers using phones is a higher priority than ensuring passengers can use them.

I disagree. Preventing passengers from using phones is taking this too far. Drivers should not be using their phones anyway, regardless of any physical ability to use them. Furthermore if the driver’s phone is connected to the car’s sound system via Bluetooth, why should passengers be prevented from using their phones without Bluetooth?

I don’t mind if such restrictions are optional and configurable. For example, I would find it very useful to configure my iPhone to go automatically into silent mode when entering a cinema or church for example. It would save the hassle of having to remember to do this manually. Whilst I never forget to mute my phone when entering quiet places, I often forget to un-mute it when leaving which can result in missed calls.

If you switch off the phone the caller will get a message to that effect. They can send a text if there is any important message.

That’s not what I want to happen. I mute my phone so I can see missed calls and occasionally use the phone’s other silent functionality, either passively or actively. If I switch my phone off, I don’t know how many missed calls I’ve had or who the calls were from.

Is it not possible for passengers to do without their phones for the duration of a journey if it will make our roads safer for them and others? Having been maimed for life thanks to the actions of someone else I feel keen that we should do what we can to make our roads safer, even if this involves making some minor sacrifices to convenience.

these comments I hope don’t reflect popular opinion but judging by the stupidity of the general public they probably do. If you all are so stupid that you want other people to control a device that you purchased no matter what the reason NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON I REPEAT NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON SHEEPLE then you deserve the worst the police state has to offer you and while your at it Apple overcharges and ships jobs to China where the workers conditions are so poor that the factories come equipped w suicide nets. If people are not able to realize the potential for abuse that this could cause then you really are asleep and willfully ignorant. I could go on for quite a while you sheeple just make me sick

There is no need for passengers to be prevented from using their phones. It is the driver that needs to be prevented from using a handheld mobile. Therefore the proposed solution would be unworkable. Forget the idea.

Sarah has done a nice introduction to this topic, indicating the problems caused by phones, potential for control and the problems that this control could generate.

When I was younger, ‘parental control’ was something to do with teaching children to behave considerately and responsibly. The TV had to be switched off if there was a visitor and I had to offer my seat on a bus to an older person. Had mobile phones been around in the 1950s I’m sure that I would have been told to consider other people.

Unfortunately, it is not just children who have no respect for others. I regularly had students who would take calls and write text messages when in the middle of a conversation in my office. One took four calls during a discussion about how he could appeal against termination of his degree due to failed assessment. I politely suggested that he switched off his phone.

Last week I was on a busy train without a quiet carriage. We had to endure one young man playing a video with a loud music accompaniment. I asked him to turn it off for the benefit of other passengers and was rewarded with a mouthful of abuse. I would have been very happy if his phone was unusable on the train.

MetalSamurai says:
5 September 2012

OK, let’s take a step back, stop hyperventilating and think this through. This is quite similar to an earlier Apple patent that caused panic last year based on infra-red lights that would disable the camera to prevent filming in cinemas and shows. The same things apply here: it will never happen.

Apple owns the patent. That means only Apple can make phones with this “feature”. Other companies would have to *pay* Apple to license this and cripple their phones. That makes no sense, who would do that? So that leaves only Apple phones. Who’s going to pay for the licensing and equipment to disable only a percentage of phones? How many potential iPhone purchasers will be put off buying an iPhone?

Essentially, by patenting this, Apple have *prevented* anyone else from actually implementing this.

If you were recording a film in the cinema, you certainly wouldn’t use the camera on an iphone.

Besides, seeing as most pirate camera recordings come from eastern Europe and Russia from an actual mini camcorder (without large bright touchscreen), this is a completely erroneous patent