A recently-uncovered patent application shows that Google has - or may have had - plans for a broader feature set for Android Beam, the NFC-based technology that allows users to share a variety of data between Android phones.
Announced in October 2011, Android Beam is new with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The software uses a phone's built-in near-field communication (NFC) chip to pass a wide variety of data back and forth between phones (provided, of course, that those phones are running Ice Cream Sandwich and have NFC capabilities). With Android Beam you can transfer contact information, music, videos, files, and even apps just by tapping two compatible phones together.
Pretty impressive, right? Well, it turns out that Google may have more in mind for Android Beam. A patent application filed by Google has come to light during the Google-Oracle trial that deals with using NFC to transfer application states between devices. With Android Beam as it is now, if you want to send an application, what you actually send is a link to that app's download page on Google Play. According to this application, which was filed in May of 2011, Google is looking at ways to use Android Beam (or something like it) to transfer an application's state from one device to another. Now, this wouldn't transfer the application itself, only the application's state, which means you would need to have the same app on each device.
According to the application, the technology would be aimed at users with multiple devices. For example, a user could read an email on their smartphone, begin a reply, and then use this technology to transfer the draft of the reply to a tablet or laptop computer to finish it. It could also be used to transfer one's position in a video from from one device to another. That is, start watching a video on your smartphone, and use this technology to pick up where you left off on your tablet, computer, or even your TV.
It's not at all clear what Google's plans are/were for the technology detailed in this patent. It may have been a feature that was intended to be part of Android Beam at launch. It could also be a feature that might be coming to Android Beam in the future.
Several interesting details about Android's development history have come out during the ongoing trial between Google and Oracle. One report from 2010 revealed Google's predictions for Android-based tablets running Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Another interesting tidbit showed that Google had originally wanted to subsidize data plans for Android phones. The first part of the trial is winding down now with a verdict due any day now.
What do you think of this patent? Would you like to see application state syncing in Android? Let us know in the comments.