Subscribe to Inc. magazine

The Trouble With Apple's "Transparent Texting"

It's not a new idea. Oh, and it's not that useful, either.

If you subscribe to the theory that innovation slows as a company grows, here's more fuel for that fire.

Apple Insider today reports that a two-year old patent application for an invention by Stephen T. Payne filed by Apple in 2012 has surfaced on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site. It's a fine idea for integrating our cell phones better into our environment, because, as the publication so insightfully notes: "Due to their inherently mobile nature, smartphones are often used while moving." Uh-huh.

Apple's "Transparent Texting" would replace the background of a mobile device's text messaging application with a continuous real-time video feed. You'll be able to see your texts, and, imagine this, not walk straight into a tree. Or be quite as rude if you're an urban pedestrian.

So it's not the biggest idea. But the fact that there are already multiple apps on the market that allow users to do the exact same thing--text over live video of what's behind their phone--makes the patent even more shrug-worthy. 

Here's an illustration from Apple of how such a feature--the technology for which is already in place--would work:


And here's an existing iOS app, called Type n Walk, by a developer called CGactive, which seems to have been in existence since 2009, which accomplishes the same thing. It's been written about in the New York Times, Gizmodo, and Boing Boing. It's not a complete unknown:


And here's one that works on Android, called Walk and Text, from the Google play store: 


Now, it'll just be extra disappointing if Apple doesn't integrate this idea into its next iOS.


Last updated: Mar 27, 2014

CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer

Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.

Register on today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments

Or sign up using: