Apple iGroups Patent Hints at Social Networking Plans

Filings with the U.S. Patent Office indicate that Apple is working on its own social networking service dubbed iGroups. The service looks to be designed for iPhone and MobileMe users, and will let friends find each other when they are near each other at events like conferences, expos and concerts.

iGroups can use the iPhone’s built-in GPS to identify a user’s location, shows where other iGroups users are, and lets users talk with each other. For users that don’t have GPS capabilities, iGroups will fall back on a “virtual GPS” technology — presumably cell tower triangulation.

The service will also encrypt communications between users for security and privacy.

Simply filing a patent doesn’t necessarily mean Apple plans to launch its own Twitter or Facebook-like service, but the company has already shown an interest in the social networking scene, and iGroups could be another feature to make MobileMe more enticing.

[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up.]