Apple has filed a patent for a location-based interface that could fundamentally change the way iPhone and iPod users make product purchases in the bricks-and-mortar world.
Dubbed “Graphical User Interface with Location-Specific Interface Elements,” the 49 page patent application covers a variety of location-based services, but in its entirety highlights Apple’s interest in facilitating iTunes store purchases when people are on the go.
For instance, a person hearing a song playing in a music store would be returned a display specifying the song name, performer and other relevant details. On the same page would be a purchase button that would take the user directly to the relevant iTunes purchase page.
The Register believes this would be a benefit to both Apple and bricks-and-mortar retailers, but I think this is only of benefit to Apple. Sure, in a perfect Apple world where everyone had iPhones, such an application could reduce product inventory for retailers, ultimately lowering costs. But while the iPhone’s market penetration has grown exponentially since its launch, it still has only 10.7 percent of the overall market. Right now, the effect of this application on store inventories would be next to nothing. While the store owner that facilitated the iTunes purchase may get a cut of the profits, I can’t see the cut being enough to benefit anything but Apple’s bottom line.
Another variant of the patent application is simpler. The iPhone’s GPS could trigger “establishment-specific display panels” based on location. In essence, both GPS positioning and maps have become so accurate that a Starbucks ad could be sent to your phone while you’re in line at Starbucks.
It has become clear over the past few months that Apple sees huge potential in location-awareness. The company filed a patent envisioning future user interactions with digital maps in January, its iPhoto ‘09 software suite now incorporates geotagging, and the impending Snow Leopard OS X release is expected to use the iPhone’s CoreLocation Framework to bring location awareness to the desktop.