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Apple wants future iPhones to power down when you’re not directly looking at or interacting with them. Or at least, that’s what we can surmise from a recently granted patent application for an “Attention detection service”.

The proposed system, as spotted by Apple Insider, is essentially a more advanced version of what we already have. While our iPhones, iPads, and Macs will enter a sleep state when they’re not interacted with for a while, this more advanced system would use gaze detection, the in-built microphone, and any touch-sensitive surfaces to ascertain your level of attention more quickly and precisely.

Essentially, then, this is another energy-saving measure. Nothing drains a mobile device faster than lighting up a large display, after all. But it would also help in a wider sense, stopping wasteful processes.

For example, this feature would also be handy when viewing a movie or some other form of video content on your phone. If your iPhone could sense when you’re not looking at the screen, it could potentially pause the video and dim the screen, which would be a great help all around.

This being a simple patent application, and Apple being Apple, there’s no guarantee this attention detection system will make its way into a finished product. But it’s interesting to learn that Apple is looking into tracking our attention alongside so many other metrics.

For more on Apple patents past and present, see our recent Apple Patents Revisited feature.