Apple has a new patent application published by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) that makes it easier to remember who you’re texting. This could help alleviate the incredibly painful SMS fails where you send a message to the wrong person, occasionally with catastrophic results. The system works using contact pictures employed in the background of text conversations as a big, glaring visual cue telling you exactly who’s receiving your communiqué.
The system would put the contact picture of the person you’re conversing with in the background of your message window, with your actual conversation overlaid on top. For group chats, the system suggests using multiple contact pictures for the backdrop, either arranged Brady Bunch style in a grid, or in a cycling carousel, or with various visual cues like showing some grayed out and one in color to indicate which one sent the last received message.
If there aren’t any images associated with a contact, the system could employ generic male or female avatars to at least give you some kind of cue. Also, the patent goes on to describe how this might be made available to other, third-party apps via API, too.
Text message fails aren’t as easy to fall into as DM fails, really, but they do still happen and they can still have disastrous effects. Apple’s patent seems like it could mess up the clean UI approach they’re going for, but it also includes provisions to make the images shown more subtle, like opacity changes, instead of just garish full color wallpapers. Like most Apple patents, it’s not likely to make its way to shipping product anytime soon, but it’s another example of the company’s targeted small UX changes in core phone experiences.