Skip to main content

Apple patents technologies for protecting dropped iPhones

Anyone with a pricey smartphone has likely felt that moment of panic when it slips from your fingers and tumbles to the floor. "Please be ok, please be ok," you say to yourself, praying for a responsive gadget and a screen free of cracks.

A new patent suggests that Apple is looking to cut down on damage caused by drops. As noted by Patently Apple, the patent - published Thursday - tips an electronic device that could alter its centre of mass during a fall to reduce the risk of it breaking or being damaged upon impact.

The patent runs through a number of different tech-based solutions - from rotating while in free fall to ejecting the battery during a drop.

"In one example, the protective mechanism is configured to alter the device orientation as the device is falling," according to the patent application. This means a more sturdy part of the iPhone or iPad might hit the floor first, protecting its more fragile components.

"For example, the protective mechanism may be activated to rotate the device so that it may impact a surface on its edge, rather than on a screen portion," Apple writes.

How would it do this? The patent cites a "thrust mechanism" to reorient the device, like "a gas canister that may deploy the compressed gas outside of the device to change its orientation."

A gadget might also eject a mass - like its battery - "in order to alter the angular momentum [to] increase the chance that the device may impact a surface in a desired orientation."

Apple also mentions an "air foil" that would "reduce a velocity of the free-fall of the device by producing a lift force," which sounds somewhat like the smartphone airbag for which Amazon chief Jeff Bezos filed in August 2011. Apple was rumoured to be developing this technology as well back in November 2011.

Another idea is retractable buttons or headphones and power cords that grip tightly to the device when they detect freefall to prevent them from being ripped out.

Image Credit: Patently Apple