A new Apple technology could make it easier for you to manage incoming phone calls.
Approved today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the patent dubbed "Dynamic Context-Based Auto-Response Generation," describes a method to intelligently manage an incoming call, whether you're on the line with someone else or simply unavailable.
In one scenario, the system can be totally automated. So if you can't answer the call, the caller receives a specific pre-recorded message based on the caller ID and other attributes. In that case, the caller would be prompted to leave a voice mail. As one example, the phone could detect if you're driving or otherwise occupied and automatically forward an incoming call to voice mail.
Another scenario lets you manually determine how to handle the call, so you can choose to answer it, place it on hold, or send it to voice mail. Putting the call on hold allows you to determine the hold time and relay that information to your callers, letting them decide whether to remain on hold or switch to voice mail.
Messages left in your voice mail can also be converted to text, so you can read them even when you're occupied with another call, and then determine how and when to respond.
Apple's iOS 6 does let iPhone users choose how to respond to an incoming call, even allowing them to set up customized messages.
But the new technology patented by Apple would take this concept several steps further, assuming it ever sees the light of day.