iPhone users will reportedly get to ring in the new year with the latest Apple iOS update, version 10.3, which is rumored to include a new feature that may affect the usage of cell phones in movie theaters. While no official details about the update, dubbed iOS 10.3, have been released yet, this feature is reportedly called Theater Mode, which users will be able to access through a popcorn-shaped control panel. Apple's iOS 10.3 is rumored to drop on January 10, but that date hasn't been confirmed by Apple yet.
The news first surfaced from a Twitter user named Sonny Dickson, who regularly leaks inside information regarding upcoming Apple products. While Sonny Dickson wouldn't elaborate what could be accessed through the "popcorn-shaped Control Center icon", The Daily Mail adds that Apple filed a patent back in 2012, and while it doesn't specifically mention "Theater Mode" by name, it describes technology that would automatically activate this mode when entering a theater, through GPS coordinate. Here's an excerpt from the patent below.
"While the user is in the movie theater, the mobile device deactivates its cellular communications interface and/or automatically sets the device to a silent mode. When the user leaves the movie theater, the portable device enables phone communications and/or restores the ringer setting to the setting utilized prior to the device's deactivation."
Another report claims this Theater Mode will, "quickly disable sound systems and haptic feedback, block incoming calls and message and reduce initial screen brightness during a movie." It's possible that a dimmer screen could encourage users to use their phones and/or start texting even more during a movie, but it's worth noting that there already is a very common fix for this problem, simply turning one's phone off during a movie, manually. The Alamo Drafthouse New York suggested moviegoers follow this simple advice in a tweet earlier today, in response to news of this iOS upgrade.
If this feature is confirmed as part of the new iOS update, it will be interesting to see how movie theaters will respond to this upgrade. Last year, AMC Theatres enlisted a strict no-texting policy, after briefly considering an option of setting aside certain screenings where viewers would be allowed to text and use their phones. The Alamo Drafthouse theaters have long had a no talking/no texting policy in place at all of their theaters. Take a look at the initial tweets that broke the news about the iPhone's upcoming Theater Mode, along with the Alamo Drafthouse's response.