Apple iPhone 5s-Dialer

A new Apple patent discovered on Tuesday wants to introduce a voicemail-screening function that will be familiar to anyone who owns a landline answering machine. Via Apple Insider, Apple looks to be using its acquisition of Nortel to put that intellectual property to good use, with a feature that will let users listen in on, interrupt and answer a person as they're leaving a message.

If you've ever owned an answering machine, you may remember letting the machine pick up a call, and then listening in on that message. If you determined that call was worth picking up, you could do so and talk to that person, or simply let them finish. If you did interrupt their message, it would simply shut off the recording.

While we have things like visual voicemail, we're unable to listen in on messages as they're being left, instead having to wait until we get that voicemail notification. Apple's solution would essentially create a conference call bridge between a user and a hosted voicemail system, which would supposedly be offsite.

If implemented correctly, the feature will allow users to better screen and control their calls, and make it easier to decide if you actually need/want to talk to the person calling you. For a look at the patent in greater detail, you can head on over to Apple Insider. But, basically, the passive voicemail feature would be similar in execution to listening in on a voicemail as it's being left. Although, who even owns answering machines anymore, or landlines for that matter?