Location Sharing is one of latest technologies recently released into the mainstream by Google in the form of Latitude, last year Google tried to put the application on the iPhone but Apple rejected the app, maybe this patent shows the reasoning behind that.
Apple’s method of location sharing involves sending SMS messages between phones. The message would be encoded in such a way that the phone can then extract your current location. Locating sharing is only part of the package — another patent titled ‘position fix indicator’ focuses on ways of displaying the user’s location, and the location of people that you’re connected with.
The diagram also seems to suggest a forward-facing camera, something that was speculated for the iPhone 3GS but turned out false, perhaps meaning the iPhone 4G will have this feature. It’s possible the diagram is just a placeholder (it looks identical to the one used in other patents), but it could be indicative of a forward-facing camera in the iPhone 4G arriving later this year.
Apple has filed a few changes to the SMS messaging interface. The first, called Multiple Recipient Messaging Service for Mobile Device (# 20090176517), allows sending a message to multiple recipients at once (as shown above), this could be helpful for sending texts to maybe a team of people. Apple suggest that the app to check the status of the messages after a certain interval of time to see if they were received. If some of the messages weren’t received, it offers an interface in which the sender could easily resend the message to those who didn’t receive it, and also giving the user the option to send it through a different medium such as email.
The other patent application, called Systems, methods and apparatus for providing unread message alerts (# 20090177617), suggests way that make it easier for the user to read unread messages. For example, it suggests checking to see if someone you are about to contact has sent you a message you haven’t, it gives the user a way of viewing the message before contracting them. It would cross-check unread emails, SMS messages, voicemails etc. for that contact.
This patent explains the different ways the iPhone could filter text based communications in your iPhone. Apple says the main use for this is, to censor objectionable text like swear words in email for children, or to help someone learn a foreign language by forcing someone to send emails in that language.
…control application includes an instructional tool or study aid where the administrator sets one or more modes, such as language, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation and/or other content of a text-based communication based on, for example, a user’s age or grade level. This can be especially useful, for example, such as when a child’s grades go down. A parent can then institute a condition to improve a child’s grades. For example, the control application may require a user during specified time periods to send messages in a designated foreign language, to include certain designated vocabulary words, or to use proper designated spelling, designated grammar and designated punctuation and like designated language forms based on the user’s defined skill level and/or designated language skill rating. If the text-based communication fails to include the required language or format, the control application may alert the user and/or the administrator/parent of the absence of such text.
At the SyScan conference in Singapore, Charlie Miller described a vulnerability in the iPhone’s SMS system, a flaw that could “allow an attacker to remotely install and run unsigned software code with root access to the phone.
It’s unlikely that this will be exploited vastly, but it’s still a very serious risk due to the sheer numbers of iPhones out there. According to the security researched said that the attack “exploits a weakness in the way iPhones handle text messages received via SMS (Short Message Service),” however he has made an agreement with Apple to keep the details out of the press so that Apple have a chance to fix it before someone else figures it out and makes matters more serious.
Miller only gave the following information concering the vulnerability: “The SMS vulnerability allows an attacker to run software code on the phone that is sent by SMS over a mobile operator’s network. The malicious code could include commands to monitor the location of the phone using GPS, turn on the phone’s microphone to eavesdrop on conversations, or make the phone join a distributed denial of service attack or a botnet.”
Miller will be going into more detail of this at the Black Hat USA expo in Las Vegas later on this years, giving Apple a chance to patch it. Apple have planned to get a fix ready for later this month.