Apple files patent for instant messaging on the iPhone

Apple has filed for a patent which brings instant messaging to the iPhone and other touchscreen devices it produces.

The patent's abstract describes the application as follows: "One aspect of the invention involves a graphical user interface (GUI) on a portable electronic device with a touch screen display. The GUI has a set of messages exchanged between a user of the device and another person."

Continuing: "The set of messages are displayed in a chronological order. In response to detecting a scrolling gesture comprising a substantially vertical movement of a user contact with the touch screen display, the display of messages are scrolled in accordance with a direction of the scrolling gesture. The detecting of the scrolling gesture is substantially independent of a horizontal position of the user contact with the touch screen display."

At first look, the messenger appears to maintain the iChat-like theme the iPhone currently uses for its SMS interface. However, the patent introduces some changes that improve upon the experience.

For example, text is typed directly into the chat message bubble, and the text entry box is replaced with a list of suggested words.

Media suggestions that Apple's patent is about instant messaging instead of advanced SMS functionality may prove to just be guesses, though. The patent text mentions both SMS and "IM" throughout.

Instant Messaging is something that iPhone users seem to be requesting the most, and the demand for such an application can be seen in the works on Apple's Web Applications platform and in unofficial third-party software.

AOL is developing a AIM client through the iPhone SDK, however it will not be able to run in the background. This means that once the user exits the application, his IM connection will be severed.

It's likely that Apple's version of the IM client will not be subject to such a limitation.

News of the patent application was first reported by AppleInsider on Monday.

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