A patent application from Microsoft has appeared over at the USPTO detailing what the Redmond company calls an "Inconspicuous Mode" for smartphones. With the mode, a handset will display a limited number of notifications with a darker background and less visually obtrusive items. This mode could be useful in settings where the regular display is less than welcome.
Says Microsoft: "Mobile communication devices are increasingly important and are in common use in many environments. Accordingly, individuals often keep them on their person throughout large portions of the day ... One problem with the ubiquity of these devices in so many different environments is that their use in not appropriate in all settings." It goes on to use theaters as an example, where one might use a smartphone to check the time, disturbing other patrons with the light from the phone in doing so. This is where inconspicuous mode would be handy.
The patent application describes the mode pertaining to a "communication device" that has the ability to toggle between a regular mode of operation and an inconspicuous mode. The inconspicuous mode displays less info on the homescreen than regular mode, and is accompanied by changes in display brightness and contrast, which will reduce visibility to those around the user.
While the inconspicuous mode is something that can be turned on manually, the patent application also explains that in certain settings the mode may activate on its own. This automatic change will be performed by detecting specific conditions via a sensor, such as a certain level of light or noise. The user can then toggle it back into regular mode, or let it switch back on its own when the environment changes.