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Microsoft hopes to patent an 'inconspicuous mode' for phones (updated)

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We've all seen That Person in the movie theater: the one whose compulsive texting guarantees a distraction for everyone through the bright screen. Microsoft might not change that disruptive behavior, but it could save us from noticing through a new patent application. The team in Redmond is exploring an "inconspicuous mode" that would dial down not just the screen brightness and sound, but also the information on the display -- it could remove a bright background and limit the number of attention-grabbing notifications. The technique could even detect certain conditions, such a very dark bedroom, and invoke the mode without having to ask. Like with most patents, we don't know if Microsoft plans to use the technology in earnest; we've reached out, just in case a similar mode has previously lurked in the background. When the patent filling is crafted with Windows Phone in mind, however, we wouldn't be surprised if some future version of the mobile OS learns to mind its manners.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson did get in touch after our inquiry and confirmed that there hasn't been such a mode so far. We've also been reminded, as we mentioned, that Microsoft "regularly applies for and receives patents" and that "not all" of them will ultimately reach shipping products.

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