With Apple apparently preparing for a revolutionary iPhone 7 in 2016, the latest rumor is that it could be to some degree voice operated. On April 16, 2015, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple entitled “Speech Recognition Wake-Up of a Handheld Portable Device.” It seems clear that this is intended to enable a future mobile device produced by Apple to be unlocked via a voice command, and it is possible that this could be debuted with the release of the iPhone 7.

iPhone 7: Will Apple Include Voice Unlocking?

Throughout the last few years there has been a general push among smartphone manufacturers to produce devices that have ever more sophisticated safety functions built into them. For example, Apple’s Touch ID is intended to secure the iPhone system from theft or misplacement. But as impressive as this system can be, the idea of being able to unlock an iPhone via voice recognition will certainly appeal to many iPhone owners. And it is vastly superior to the prospect of continually having to unlock a smartphone via a manual password.

Touch ID improvement sought

Although Touch ID is pretty fast, Apple is thinking of an alternative method of unlocking your iPhone that may be faster and, more importantly, hands free. This is an aspect of computing technology in general which is becoming increasingly prominent. The recent Microsoft Xbox One video games console made a huge deal out of the fact that it could be operated via voice when it was on unveiled and later released. And technology such as Siri is ensuring that people are interacting with computing devices via their voices on an increasingly regular basis.

Already technology exists which enables people to dictate writing to word processors via voice recognition, and there are also translation services available which purport to translate the spoken word via technology. In such a context, it is not particularly surprising that Apple has decided it it can make the iPhone 7 more attractive to consumers by offering such voice recognition technology.

However, the text of this patent application is slightly confusing, as it doesn’t hugely successfully communicate to the layman or woman what the precise purpose of this invention would be in a real-world scenario. Although the name of the device makes it quite clear what the intention is, this is still to some degree a nebulous technology, and it is certainly not clear from the patents how it will operate in a practical sense.

iPhone 7: Will Apple Include Voice Unlocking?

iPhone 7 tipped for voice operated unlocking

But according to some analysts, a voice-operated unlocking iPhone 7 could release next year, with the 2015 iPhone more likely to be an upgrade of the existing iPhone 6. This will give Apple a year to perfect the technology, and build it into future versions of the iOS operating system. One would expect iOS 10 to be resident in the iPhone 7 if predictions about the schedule of Apple’s smartphone portfolio turn out to be correct

While voice operation would then become a major part of the average iPhone user’s every day smartphone experience, there would still be a place for Touch ID in the portfolio of Apple functions. Experts are already suggesting that Apple will definitely want iPhone consumers to utilize Touch ID for the day, and enter their existing code at some point. What would happen theoretically is that once this has happened one time in a 24 hour period, the phone would then accept voice commands in order to unlock. This would save iPhone consumers the hassle of having to perform multiple steps to revive iPhone’s functionality several times per day.

Of course, it is worth remembering that Apple applies for literally dozens of patents. There are so many outstanding Apple patents that it is almost practically impossible to keep up with everything that has been approved. One often wonders what is the precise reason for having so many different elements of technology approved, and the most likely explanation is simply that Apple doesn’t want them to fall into anyone else’s hands.

So there are all manner of technological innovations which have already been sketched out by Apple engineers that have yet to see the light of day. So it naturally follows that this voice-operated iPhone may not be released in the foreseeable future, or even conceivably not at all. The latter of these two assertions seems considerably less likely, as the direction of the mobile and confusing industry is certainly veering in the direction of voice-operated technology.

Assessing voice unlocking feasibility

But it is certainly plausible that far from including the voice unlocking technology in the iPhone 7 that Apple may instead decide to keep it under lock and key for several years. There have been many other patents passed which Apple users have got particularly excited about that have yet to be included in any of the corporation’s mainstream devices.

Apple will also be closely monitoring the way that this technology will be received. Microsoft thought that it was achieving something extremely cool and attractive when it demonstrated the Xbox One voice operation system. But little did the corporation suspect that the sort of hardcore gamers who were actually watching the initial presentation were largely indifferent to such technology, and were even actively hostile and mocking towards it. From the perspective of the hardcore Microsoft Xbox One audience, voice-operated technology was a needless gimmick which merely illustrated the extent to which the manufacturer was out of touch with the people that it was supposed to be attracting.

Apple has been a supreme example of branding in recent years, and has continually delivered technology and functionality which pleases its core audience. And it will certainly want to continue this happy process when it releases the iPhone 7, particularly as the iPhone is the most obvious flagship device which Apple produces. A voice-operated iPhone might sound super cool, but nothing is super cool if it’s not required by the audience it is aimed at.

In the coming 12 months, Apple will be assessing this, the feasibility of instigating voice-operated technology, and the expense involved, before committing any resources to including it in the iPhone 7.