Instant messaging for the iPhone

22 Apr 2008

Apple has filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office that describes adding real-time instant messaging (IM) functionality to the iPhone, according to

The patent, which was filed in August 2007 and published publicly by the US patent office in March 2008, is for a ‘portable electronic device for instant messaging’.

The patent describes IM functionality for a touchscreen handset, using scrolling hand gestures and was filed by Apple Computer Inc.

Further descriptions within the patent suggest an IM chat client that works like the current SMS function on the iPhone, where text bubbles in alternating colours pop up each time a message is sent and received by the handset.

The patent states: “Portable device-based instant messaging (IM) services are becoming increasingly popular. But most IM services on portable electronic devices have a rudimentary user interface. It is cumbersome to create instant messages on such devices.

“A user often needs to press a telephone keypad repeatedly to choose a character. It is also difficult to find and view previous instant messages. For example, it is inconvenient or even impossible for the user to view a series of previous messages with a particular user while composing a new message for that user.”

Apple suggests that with IM these “deficiencies and other problems associated with user interfaces for portable devices are reduced or eliminated.”

This is not the only IM solution proposed for the iPhone – when Apple released the Software Developers Kit (SDK) for the touchscreen handset, as part of the announcement AOL demonstrated an IM client that worked with both the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Apple proposes to license applications like this that have been developed by a third party, and make them available for download to iPhone users. There has been over 100,000 downloads of the iPhone SDK since its launch on 6 March 2008.

By Marie Boran