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Courtesy Answering for Cell Phones


SOLD at Ocean Tomo Fall IP Auction - 2007


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Making Cell Phones Courteous!


To a large percentage of the populace, cell phones can be quite annoying - especially when operated by people who are less than courteous.  This document describes functionalities that reduce the level of annoyance, or in some cases, eliminate it.


These functionalities fall into three categories:


Ø   Flip-Phone Ring Truncation

Ø      Courtesy Answer method

Ø      Vibrating Bluetooth Headset

§         Remote Ring Indicator/Controller/Communicator






Flip-Phone Ring Truncation


Ring Truncation provides a reduction in the level of annoyance for those unfortunate enough to be in close proximity to someone with a flip-type mobile phone configured with a loud and persistent ring tone.  In recent years, the ability to download a wide variety of ring tones has become quite popular.  Some phones now come with a default ring tone which plays a song or orchestration as opposed to a conventional ring.  Such ring tones tend to be persistently annoying since they are not intermittent but instead, are constant.  Also, flip-type phones have proliferated in recent years and are available from most phone manufacturers.  They are quite popular and may represent the bulk of mobile phone sales today.  For many of these phones, the user must open the phone to observe the display in order to determine who's calling and then decide on how to answer the call.  To provide an external display of the caller’s ID is an extra expense that many users would rather not pay for.  From the time the user opens the flip-phone, many seconds can pass before the decision is made and the action is taken.  In the meantime, nearby individuals must suffer the intrusion of a loud orchestration.



The invention which mitigates this problem is called Flip-Phone Ring Truncation, now covered by recently allowed claims in US patent application number 10/074,610 which will issue in Q1-2007.  Here, when an individual begins to open their flip-type phone, the ring tone stops immediately.  It is subsequently replaced by a silent ring indicator which may be vibration, a flashing icon, or a combination thereof.



While the annoyance of the initial ring tone remains, at least the duration has been truncated and the annoyance level for nearby individuals is reduced.  Not only is this appreciated by neighboring individuals, it is also appreciated by users who feel badly annoying others but feel an audible ring tone must be used in order to avoid missing important calls.  By truncating the annoying ring, the user is also less pressured to make a quick decision for processing the call, and is therefore less likely to make mistakes.


Courtesy Answer method


Even when a person receiving a cell phone call wishes to be courteous, they have a problem when they are in sensitive locations and their phone rings - even if the phone is set to vibrate.  Locations where this can occur include:



Conference Rooms




Commuter Trains


Gatherings of all kinds


The problem is that all mobile phones require you to initiate the conversation immediately upon pressing the key that answers a call.  If you need to leave the room in order to talk, a time delay of up to a minute or more may pass, and it is unacceptable to leave the receiving party hanging during this time period without a word from you.  Even in business conference rooms, it is relatively frequent that someone notices their phone vibrating, observes the caller ID, and regardless of how important or intense the current dialog is, feels they must take the call.  And, rather then initiating the call after they leave the room, they press the button to initiate the call and feel compelled to start talking immediately thereby disturbing the entire meeting.



A solution to this problem is what we call Courtesy Answer mode. This mode is mostly used when the receiving party has their phone in vibration mode in order to receive a silent ring indication.  Upon receiving a call and observing the caller ID, instead of answering the call directly, the receiving party activates Courtesy Answer mode.  This effectively places the calling party on hold while playing a message for them indicating, for example: "Please wait a few seconds while I move to a location where I can take your call".  When the receiving party arrives in a suitable location, they press a button to activate the phone and remove the caller from hold.  In this scenario no one is disturbed by the call, and thus with this feature, cell phones may be used in the variety of sensitive locations listed above.


Without Courtesy Answer, most people tend to take the call where they are, even if it's in a restaurant, on a commuter train, or in a conference room during an important meeting.  Also, once the conversation has started, the individual tends to talk much louder than normal.  This is the tendency of most people when talking on mobile phones.  Hence, even in a restaurant or commuter train where talking does occur, the individual on the phone becomes decidedly annoying due to their volume level.



If Courtesy Answer mode were available, some of these individuals would have a means to courteously take an incoming call in a timely manner, and would leave the room or gathering in order to take the call.  If a commuter train designates an area as a “phone zone”, in order to preserve “quiet zones” for most passengers, having a phone that implements Courtesy Answer mode is key to enable passengers to move to a phone zone without a chance of missing the call or annoying the calling party.


In order to provide more information to the calling party relative to the amount of time delay expected before the conversation can begin, optional Courtesy Answer methods are available (and covered by allowed claims in US Patent application number 10/074,610) that enable the expected timeframe to be conveyed as part of a synthesized message - based on numerical key presses prior to initiating Courtesy Answer mode.




For example, one, two, or three numerical digits may be pressed prior to activating Courtesy Answer mode.  This causes a message to be synthesized indicating to the caller that some number of seconds or minutes and seconds are expected to pass before the receiving party will initiate the call.  For instance pressing 30 prior to activating Courtesy Answer might play a message for the calling party such as "please wait approximately 30 seconds while I relocate in order to take your call".  Alternately, pressing 130 prior to activating Courtesy Answer might play a message for the calling party such as "please wait approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds while I relocate in order to take your call".  Pressing no digits prior to initiating courtesy answer would play a default message indicating no specific timeframe (as in “please wait while I relocate…”).





Vibrating Bluetooth Headset


Remote Ring Indicator/Controller/Communicator




The universal method for receiving a silent ring indication is that your cell phone vibrates.  However vibration has its limitations and problems.  Many users don't want their phones in a pocket or holster.  Women may not have a pocket in a dress, and a holster isn't exactly stylish either.  Dress slacks may not have a belt, and the unsightly bulge of a cell phone in a woman's pocket may not be desirable.  Voice enabled PDAs are too large to fit in pockets or holsters comfortably if they have a screen large enough to be useful.  As a result, cell phones sometimes are left in briefcases or purses where vibrations go unnoticed - and important calls are missed.




A solution to the problem is to have a separate miniature device which functions as a remote controller and communicator for a cell phone or phone-enabled PDA.  This remote controller can be kept in physical proximity to the user (in circumstances where this is not possible with a cell phone), and the remote controller then vibrates to provide a silent ring indication.



Remote controller devices for attaching to a belt can be designed with gold or silver cases and effectively become a form of jewelry, or at least appear somewhat stylish.



Remote controller devices could also function as pins or pendants or even wristwatches.  A remote controller watch could be the user’s sole wristwatch, or alternately, an additional watch on the opposite wrist as shown here.



A variety of styles and functions are possible to suit different needs.  Remote controller devices can have displays and keypads and can provide caller ID information as well as incorporate the buttons necessary to execute Courtesy Answer mode functionality.



Thus, someone with a cell phone in their briefcase or purse would notice their Remote Controller/Communicator vibrating (since it is in a pocket or attached to their body in some way), they would activate Courtesy Answer mode, relocate to an area where they can take the call, and then proceed to take the call on their cell phone or phone-enabled PDA.



The remote controller/communicator can also take the form of a wireless Bluetooth headset, an accessory becoming very popular these days - especially for phone-enabled PDAs.  The vibrating remote controller function can be designed into existing wireless headsets, or new wireless headsets could be created as shown below - including the caller ID display along with buttons necessary to activate Courtesy Answer mode or alternately, answer the call directly.



A wireless headset Remote Controller/Communicator could be carried in a pocket or attached on the ear.  A possible use scenario is shown below - again in conjunction with Courtesy Answer mode.




New solutions are needed!


Without better solutions, cell phones and phone/PDAs will eventually be banned or discouraged at most gatherings - preventing doctors, businessmen, and even parents from receiving critical emergency calls.  Vibrating ring indicators are not enough, especially for larger wireless devices.


Vibrating Remote Controller/Pager/Communicators will enable courteous use of cell phones and phone-enabled PDAs, and wireless Headset/Controller combination units will conveniently allow anyone to use vibrating ring indications, regardless of where they carry their phone.


Courtesy Answer is the solution!


Courtesy Answer solutions will make cell phones effective where they are not used today, and make cell phones courteous where today, they are annoying.  The public is learning to live with the annoying aspects of cell phones because they don't know that a better solution could be made available.  Given a choice between an annoying phone and a courteous phone, many people would choose to follow the Golden Rule and take the path to more courteous cell phone use.