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Power Key/Proximity Sensor Call Handling

Probably only likely on Android devices, but intended for all smartphones
  [vote for,

There seem to be an *awful* lot of smartphones coming out these days, especially those of the Android variety, which lack physical dial/end call keys. On the Android system, what you usually have is a physical volume rocker, a physical power key, and 3-4 capacitive touch keys along the bottom of a capacitive touchscreen. Very few modern smartphones have resistive touchscreens.

When receiving a call or making a call on such a device, the only current method possible is to manipulate the touchscreen, which requires either being barehanded, wearing special gloves, using a capactive stylus, or looking like a damned fool using your nose. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem. It *becomes* a problem in the colder months in northern locales when taking the time to remove a glove to answer your phone can result in missing a call, and you have to either leave your glove off the whole time so you can end the call when you want to, or put the glove back on and remove it again when you want to end the call.

Come on, we can do better than this! We have the technology... we can revamp it.

My idea is twofold. First, it addresses the difficulty in answering incoming calls, and on an Android phone (hence the subtitle) should be easy to implement because apps frequently make changes to the functionality of the various keys on the device.

When receiving a call, you simply click the power key, which activates the voice command function. Simply say 'Answer' or 'Decline' to answer or decline the call.

When you are ready to end a call (this is where the title comes into play), simply pull the phone away from your ear. The proximity sensor detects this and lights up the screen (this behavior is already standard on many Android models), automatically mutes the call , and also activates the voice command function. Simply say 'Resume' or 'End Call'.

The whole feature set is enabled/disabled via the standard call settings menu.

21 Quest, Feb 02 2012


       I wonder if it would be possible to recognise an ear - either using the camera or the touch screen. That way, simply raising it to your ear (when it's ringing) would answer. The voice command might still be a good idea, though.

       Using a physical button to activate voice command might be a good idea in general, not just for answering.
spidermother, Feb 02 2012

       The other day, T.G.F.J. and I were riding a chairlift up to the top of a ski slope when she did something slightly startling. It was quite cold and she didn't want to take of her gloves but, alas, it was absolutely vital that some adjustment be made to her mp3 player before the next run, and the touch-screen only works with bare skin...

       Well, let's just say that dangling from a steel cable halfway up a snow-covered mountain is the last place I would have expected to catch my wife licking her iPod.

Alterother, Feb 02 2012

       I though about the ear recognition, which would be simple enough for phones with front-facing cameras. Certainly a system such as Android 4.0's Face Unlock feature could be used to recognize not only an ear, but possibly specific ears. The difficulty arises when wearing a hood, hat, earmuffs, balaclava, or long hair.

       Alter, tell her I commend her ingenuity, but would recommend the nose instead of the tongue.
21 Quest, Feb 02 2012

       Except if I take the phone away from my ear to look something up on it, or put it on speaker, I don't want it to hang up.

       Also, iPhones have a hard hang up button, the power button will do it (not the home button).
MechE, Feb 02 2012

       I'll tell her, but I don't think she'll listen. Very set in her strange ways, you see...
Alterother, Feb 02 2012

       @ Mech, Well then you say 'Speaker' and do what you like. I kinda figure if you're going to be doing more than simply making/receiving calls, you're gonna take off the glove anyway. I suppose the voice commands function can work by tapping the power key while you're on a call, without muting the mic, but unless it's muted it's going to sound weird to whoever you're talking to.

       One innovative way to overcome the multitasking issue is to have the power key enter Walkie-Talkie mode as soon as an active call is initiated. Hold down the power key to mute the mic and say a voice command, and release it to unmute the mic.

       I dislike the automatic power key hangup, though. If you drop the phone and it lands top-down, or if you tap the power key while fumbling to catch it, you've lost your call. If you try pulling it out of your pocket and bump that key while trying to answer an incoming call, you're similarly screwed.
21 Quest, Feb 02 2012

       My (very old and non-smart) cell phone has voice-activated functions, which come in quite handy when the screen craps out. I can call any number on my contacts list, answer incoming calls, end a call, and do a number of other things which I've temporarily forgotten about, all by repeating commands in a loud and progressively more irritated voice until the damn thing understands me. Has this ultra-convenient function simply gone out of vogue, or are modern phones too smart for such shenanigans?
Alterother, Feb 02 2012

       I believe my phone has a feature which I've never tried out, that it can answer a call by flipping it. The accelerometer detects the sudden rotation. Probably not the best thing to try with thick gloves on though.
mitxela, Feb 03 2012

       A lot of flip phones have that option, mit. Most flip phones, however, also have physical send/end keys and are not smartphones.

       <Later, after some thought> Or did you mean a touchscreen smartphone that you turn over? <L, ast>
21 Quest, Feb 03 2012

       I don't even have a smartphone (I have a cheap gophone that I only turn on when I want to make a call) but I can see the advantages of this. But change the title to "voice activation button" and the usefulness multiplies amazingly.

       It wouldn't have to recognize an ear though. It's a capacitive surface, it could recognize when your skin is no longer against it. And the choice to "resume" or "end" is good - when I started reading this article I thought, "oh wait, what if you wanted to put the phone down but didn't want to end the call," but triggering a hold while it waits for a voice command to either resume or end the call is good.

       I'll send you a bun through the 4G network.
Psalm_97, Feb 05 2012

       This addresses one of my biggest pet peeves about my Android. Bun here.
RayfordSteele, Feb 07 2012

       I don't have a lot of pet peeves with Android, but this is definitely one of the few UI quirks almost universal to capacitive touchscreen phones.
21 Quest, Feb 07 2012


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