There are various ways in which this invention might be "embodied," according to the website. For example, "power saving and/or power efficiency may be realized" or the device may "provide an operating state based on the presence and/or absence of the user." Patently Apple has a tendency to say the same thing over and again, as here: "In response to a positive determination that the user is present or upon achieving a threshold probability that the user is present, the device may power up, exit a sleep mode, and/or provide some feedback to the user."
Heady stuff. Especially this part: "Bayesian optimal thresholds may be implemented that achieve desired performance." If you're not au courant with Bayesian probability theory you can check out what Wikipedia has to say about it.
So, the invention uses sensors to detect presence or absence, and the iPhone responds. What kind of sensors, you ask. A radar sensor to "detect and/or locate a heartbeat in the room." A depth sensor using a whole flock of infrared-based techniques like "active IR time of flight" or "passive IR (motion detector)" or "passive IR thermal imaging (2D)," not to mention "stereo vision" and "polarization techniques."
There could even be a ... skin tone detection sensor. "The method includes capturing an image using an image sensor and computing at least one of the following from the captured image: a skin tone detection parameter, a face detection parameter, a body detection parameter and a movement detection parameter."
To its credit, Patently Apple never implies that a patent application means that the invention will appear in the next iteration of the iPhone. The presence technology invention here is attributed in part to Myra Haggerty, who is listed in LinkedIn as senior director, Mac technology software.
But the iOSphere is even more celebratory than Patently Apple. Andrea Weidlemeyer, writing at a site called Press Blue, was the first to boldly go where many more will follow: "Apple has applied for a new patent which may offer an insight into one of the most advanced features the iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S may carry upon its eventual release."
What's the Bayesian optimal threshold for that?
iPhone 6, or 5S, whatever, starts trial production run in December