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Future iPhones Could Swap Files Just by Snapping Photos

The iPhone doesn’t support NFC, but your future Apple smartphone may be able to connect to another device by simply taking a photo of it.  On Tuesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the company a patent titled “Digital handshake between devices,” which details plans to use a smartphone’s camera to create a communication path between two devices.

After using your iPhone to snap a photo of the smartphone you wish to share data with, your iPhone would use this image to generate a digital handshake key. This key would be used to establish a Bluetooth or WiFi-based connection between handsets. Currently, users must manually type a password or phrase to gain access to another device’s content, as the patent notes. This would just allow the other phone user to accept the connection and begin sharing contact information, text files, music, etc. 

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Apps such as Bump serve a similar purpose by allowing devices to share data by simply “bumping” them together, but this only works if two smartphones output smart matching algorithms. Apple’s method wouldn’t be subject to these restrictions since it uses an image to extract a key associated with the other device. Essentially, this means Apple’s process would offer wider compatibility between devices.

If you accidentally take a photo of more than one smartphone, your iPhone will be able to decipher which handset is requesting a key by examining its location, distance and the content displayed on its screen. Once the handsets are connected, you’ll be able to share content from any app that isn’t currently running.

Apple’s patents suggest the company could be planning some significant upgrades for its future smartphones. Apple was recently granted a patent describing biometric fingerprint protection, hinting that forthcoming iPhones could feature a fingerprint sensor instead of the “Slide to unlock” slot on its touch screen. Another recent patent detailed technology that would allow an iPhone to switch its orientation while in mid-air, preventing the device from falling on fragile components if it’s accidentally dropped.

Apple is clearly attempting to crank up the innovation in its future products. In recent weeks, the company saw its stock plummet to the lowest it’s been since 2011, while reports from the supply chain indicate a slumping demand for the iPhone 5.