iPhones are beautiful, well-made devices – but one slip and their looks can be marred forever. Even protective cases can’t always stop a broken screen or a dented corner – which is why Apple’s latest patent has made us sit up and take notice.
A document published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office describes a system that would not only protect a falling iPhone from drops onto hard surfaces, but also from sinking when dropped in water.
The system uses the phone’s onboard sensors to determine when a free fall is occurring – accelerometers, cameras, microphones, gyroscopes and more can all monitor for the sort of changes that signal an uncontrolled drop – and then triggers shock absorbers that spring out of the device’s housing.
These bumpers pop out in several directions, from all four corners of the device, and thus prevent any part of the handset body itself hitting the floor. They’re also buoyant, so if the iPhone takes a tumble into a swimming pool or fishpond, it’ll be easier to retrieve. It’ll still get wet, of course, but we expect iPhones to be properly waterproof by then (if, in fact, they aren’t secretly already). The bumpers would be replaceable after deployment (presumably either by the user or via a visit to the Apple Store or a licensed repair shop).
The patent suggests that there may be hope on the horizon for the kind of butter-fingered iPhone owner that can’t own a new iDevice for a week without shattering its screen, but we wouldn’t suggest you hold your breath for it to become a reality. As with all patents, its existence doesn’t necessarily signal any strong intent by the filer to actually create the technology described – it could simply be to prevent rival companies from doing so. Still, if you do see it appear on the iPhone 10, remember where you heard about it first, eh?