A long, long time ago (the 1990s), screening your home phone calls with a home answering machine was standard practice. You would let the phone ring and then listen as the caller left a message: If you wanted to talk, you could pick up the phone mid-message and have a chat.
Now Apple might be bringing that forgotten tradition back.
As noticed by Apple Insider, Apple was recently granted a patent for the iPhone titled “Audio call screening for hosted voicemail systems” that would allow a call recipient to “conference-in” live as a voicemail message is being left. Your microphone would be muted so the other party couldn’t hear you listening in. And, similar to the way a cassette or digital home answering machine used to work, this system would allow the call recipient to “pick up” in the middle of the message being left.
The patent is thought to be a part of a cache purchased from Nortel in 2011. As with all patent stories, you should note that every technology company is granted hundreds of patents for features and products that are never produced or put into practice.
If this idea by Apple evolves into a real feature, however, it would seem to be a first for live mobile phone voicemail screening. But it’s not the first time a tech company has tried to improve the tired medium.
Visual voicemail apps like YouMail and Google Voice have tried to make checking messages quicker by auto-transcribing them (sometimes not so accurately) to text messages for reading. And an Android and iOS app called Libon allows you to designate a personalized voicemail greeting for particular callers.
Apple, of course, revolutionized voicemail with its first iPhone when it introduced “visual voicemail.” That feature showed you a list of your new voicemails, letting you choose which ones you wanted to listen to, and in what order. It also gave you a Pause and Play button for the lengthy ones.
Anyway, as long as people are still choosing to forgo email or text and leave long voicemail messages, we welcome innovation in the field. And even if no company ever figures it out, at least we’ll always have Caller ID to bypass messages from certain people we never want to hear from, period.
Want more? Like Yahoo Tech on Facebook, where we promise never to screen your messages.