In accordance with Apple’s newly granted patent, a method for network device discovery monitors a compass output in a portable electronic device. As the portable device and an external device come closer to each other, a magnetic field signature is computed based on the monitored compass output. A determination is then made as to whether the computed signature could be associated with or implies that a previously defined type of electronic device (with which a network device discovery process can be conducted) is in close proximity. In other words, as the two devices come closer to each other, their respective magnetic characteristics cause the compass output to change in a way that implies that a network device discovery process should be initiated between the two devices.
The detected change in the compass output could be compared to one or more previously stored, compass output patterns (magnetic field signatures). Each of these previous patterns may have been determined empirically or otherwise, to be the magnetic profile of a given type of external device that has come into proximity. A previous compass output pattern that best matches the newly detected compass output pattern is selected, and the device identification type or protocol information of the matching pattern is then used to perform a network device discovery process (using other signaling mechanisms). For example, if the detected compass output pattern matches that of a typical smart phone, then a WiFi or Bluetooth setup protocol is initiated in the portable device.