Cell Phones – Smart Switching Phones

This week’s issued cell phone patents reveal a bit more on smart switching between mobile phones and networks. NEC received an issued patent on a WiFi and cellular phone that uses proximity to determine which network to use while Sprint received a patent on typing with a special code + phone number that identifies which system you want to use. Finally, Cingular got a patent on a means for switching from a cell phone to another phone that is close to it.

In a patent just issued to NEC Corporation, it has received a smart 2-channel phone that can determine proximity to 2 networks, e.g. a cell network and a wifi network, and automatically change the device communication to the system based on proximity. Japanese company, DoCoMo, announced the NEC N900iL in 2004, but the market has been a bit slow to find the right business model.

Today, Sprint received a patent on another way to switch from a cellular network to a WiFi network by keying in an identifying code that signals the phone to use a different network to dial out. While this patent largely discusses the use of peer-to-peer Bluetooth, the claims were written broader and can include the concept of using a VOIP network as well.

Of note, Motorola has also been active since 2004 in similar systems, announcing a partnership with Avaya and Proxim focusing on businesses as an enterprise solution.

GigaOM appropriately asks whether the VOIP v. VOIP and wireless v. wireless market reviews are looking in the right direction. Clearly the iPhone’s use of both technologies marks the tipping point of what will likely be a major market move that involves using WiFi when available and cellular when WiFi is not.

In related cell phone patent news, Cingular (OK, now AT&T) received an issued patent dating back to a filed application from 1999. Its technology covers a system for finding a secondary phone that is physically close to your cell phone and arranging for the transfer from the phone in your hand to the phone on your desk, based on the way you set it all up. Smart transfers, nice, perhaps something iPhone can dial into?