An intriguing new Apple patent hints at exciting things: iPhone owners could push encrypted data to another device to keep it safe.

The company published its new invention on Thursday, Aug. 13, revealing efforts toward new means of data sharing. If an iPhone owner struggles with connectivity issues, for instance, and cannot store files in the cloud, they could push them to a "friend device" until they can retrieve them.

According to the filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple's new invention refers to a "secure ad hoc data backup to nearby friend devices." The patent further details how iOS users could create peer-to-peer connections with another device and send encrypted files.

This would imply searching for friend devices nearby via Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth or other such options. The user can make a request for backup, the device works in the background to cross-reference nearby friend devices with information from the user's Contacts or other such app, while the signal makes the ad-hoc connection request and determines whether another device can accept the backup file in question.

If the targeted friend device, for instance, doesn't have enough space or battery life for the file, or the connection is not strong enough, one would not be able to make the transfer. If the friend device is suitable to accept the file transfer, the ad-hoc data backup will get the green light.

When the ad-hoc data backup is complete, the user who needed the backup will get a notification that their data is available from the friend device or the network-based storage system, allowing for later retrieval. The user can then restore the backup data.

The patent further notes that the user would be able to send instructions to the friend device or the network-based storage system to ditch the backup data when safekeeping is no longer necessary. As Apple explains, users could set a limited amount of time and once that time expires, the backup data on the friend device will be "purged, removed or deleted." Another method, meanwhile, would involve purging, removing or deleting the backup data on a friend's device as soon as it's retrieved to the mobile device or network-based storage system.

"After receiving backup data from the user's mobile device, the friend devices may notify the network-based storage system that backup data is available when the friend devices have connectivity with the network-based storage system," Apple explained in its patent. "In some implementations, the friend devices send the stored backup data to the network-based storage system so that the backup data can be retrieved by the user at a later date (e.g. when connectivity is available for the user)."

Apple details a variety of potential implementations for this invention, but nothing is set in stone just yet. It remains to be seen when or if this feature would materialize and become available, but it sounds promising.

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