Apple has been granted new patents by the US Patent and Trademark Office that hint at potential features for the fifth-generation iPhone.
A radio-mapping patent reveals that the smartphone maker may be planning to add an FM, AM and a satellite radio tuner in the next iteration of the iPhone that will allow the handset to pick up multiple signals simultaneously based on a pre-selected station and automatically tune listeners to the best possible station from stations “broadcasting the same program on different frequencies at substantially the same time”.
While FM receivers are regular fixtures in most handsets nowadays, Apple’s unique twist on the tried-and-tested formula could make it a key selling point for commuters and radio fans alike.
A drawing of the radio app also shows that users will be able to select radio stations nearby on an interactive map, with names and signal strengths displayed for each station.
A separate patent reveals a possible new “radial menu” system for the iPhone 5. This would allow users to perform “radial gestures”, much like the click-wheel on the original iPod, to navigate menu items in 360 degrees.
Drawings of the patent (see below) show the interface being used in the Settings app as well as the Safari browser, so it’s likely to become a uniform feature throughout the operating system rather than limited to a specific app.
Apple has previously patented user-tracking and wireless transaction features based on Near Field Communications (NFC), the same tech on board the recently unveiled Google Nexus S.
With Android breathing down on Apple’s neck, it seems almost inevitable the iPhone 5 will launch next June.
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