A new feature in Apple 'Find my iPhone' service could help boost the technology giant's smartphone sales.
Apple's current 'Find My iPhone' service allows you to locate your phone if it's lost or stolen.
However, Apple has filed for patent a new feature that can even allow the lost or stolen iPhone's owner to see or hear where it is located by remotely activating the phone's camera and microphone.
Moreover, the new feature will allow the owner of the lost/stolen iPhone to select specific files and apps and lock them. the owner can scramble them to protect them. After recovering the iPhone, the owner can unscramble them to recover the data.
This new feature has not been confirmed or announced by Apple but was found in the filings of the company published by USPTO.
The drawings and descriptions in the filings also suggest that the iPhone owner can pick and choose what data and applications can be accessed by the thief or the one who has found the lost iPhone.
The patent also describes that the thief/finder of the iPhone would get a message that the device is being pinged for its location. The thief/finder will then have two choice: either enter the correct password to cancel the request or contact the owner of the iPhone.
Incidentally, the 'Find my iPhone' service turned two years last week. The service was originally released as a part of the paid MobileMe service but it is now free for anyone with an iPhone 4, iPad, or 4th generation iPod touch (iOS 4.2 or later required).
The new feature of 'Find my iPhone' can decidedly swing sales in Apple's favor, as iPhone is currently struggling to keep pace with Android sales.
Apple has been facing a huge challenge from Android smartphones lately. According to a comScore report, the market share of Google's Android surged to 36.4 percent while Apple's IPhone dropped down to second place with 26 percent market share or barely ahead of RIM's BlackBerry (25.7 percent).
In terms of mobile phone sales in the U.S., Apple ranks No.4 (8.3 percent) behind Android smartphone makers like Samsung (24.5 percent), LG (21 percent) and Motorola (15.6 percent).
A Nielsen survey also reveals that Android users download more apps on average than iPhone users despite Apple's App Store being more than twice bigger than Android Market Place.