Attentive Phone: Smart Features Every Phone Should Have

Even before Microsoft worked out a reported $1 billion deal with Nokia (s nok), I decided to make a small investment of my own by purchasing a secondhand HTC HD7 last month. I’m enjoying the Xbox Live integration and games as well as some of the top-tier apps, even if I do find several shortcomings with Microsoft’s (s msft) platform. The latest was the inability to connect to a hidden Wi-Fi network this past weekend, a smartphone must-have for consumers, and even more so for enterprise users. But I also found another must-have that’s only available for Windows Phone 7: it’s called Attentive Phone.

The application, an HTC-developed exclusive, only does four things, but its simplicity and usefulness makes it a must-try for any Windows Phone 7 owner with an HTC handset. Here’s what it offers:

  • Quiet ringer on pickup: reduces the ringer volume if you move the phone as a call is being received.
  • Pocket Mode: increases ringer volume if the handset is in a pocket or bag.
  • Flip for speaker: activates speakerphone mode when turning the phone over on its face when in a call.
  • Flip to mute ringer: turning the phone over on its face silences the phone ringer during an incoming call.

Perhaps I’m easily impressed these days, but when you think about it, nearly any smartphone today could offer these useful functions, leveraging the internal sensors that fill handsets today. The software knows when the phone is in motion by monitoring either a gyroscope or accelerometer, for example. And that little proximity sensor that disables the touchscreen when you bring your phone to your face could be useful, too. That same sensor can tell when you’ve flipped the phone over, for example. Finally, ambient light sensors can detect when the phone’s in a purse or bag.

Om made note of these “smart” functions in November when he pondered the question, “Can Mobile Phones Think?” Back then, he pointed out a piece of Nokia software similar to Attentive Phone, called Nokia Situations. It, too, offered smart features such as the ability to intelligently modify ringtones based on a particular scenario, and the ability to auto-reply to missed calls via SMS. On the Android (s goog) side of things, I’ve used similar apps that I can recommend: Tasker and Locale are both worth a look, although Tasker relies more on the user to configure when and where automated functions are triggered.

Regardless of the platform or handset, maybe it’s time these types of functions should become native to our handheld devices. After all, the sensors that enable these smarter features are, in most cases, already there. While I may be too far ahead of the curve by thinking our smartphones are capable of ushering in an era of home robotics, it’s hard to argue against simple software that can make our smartphones even smarter.

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