Apple Patents Technology to Protect Falling iPhones From Damage

The Apple patent application covers technology that rotates the phone as it falls to protect its most vulnerable glass parts.


Future iPhones from Apple could include a cool technology that will protect the most delicate parts of the phone if it is dropped by automatically rotating the device in midair to help it fall in a less vulnerable way.

The idea for the rotation technology was granted in a patent application approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to a Dec. 3 story in India's The Economic Times. The patent was awarded for a protection system that will consist of two parts, the detection mechanism and the rotation mechanism, the story reported. "The phone will be able to detect that it is rapidly falling downwards and identify its distance and angle from the ground," the report stated.

The idea will take advantage of existing components in iPhones, including the "accelerometer, gyroscopic sensor, distance or position sensors, location sensors, image sensors [and] sound or audio sensors," as well as other parts that might be added, the story reported. "It is likely that combination of the different sensors will be responsible for the effective implementation of that function, and the patent describes a sequence in which they are activated to land on the 'mathematically least vulnerable' part of the phone. "

The patent even includes details about more exotic phone movement methods, such as an internal gas canister "that may deploy the compressed gas outside of the device to change its orientation," the story reported. "For the perfect landing, the force used has to be precisely calibrated, but the patent said that the phone may collect data, to produce a memory bank of sudden impacts."

Earlier this week, rumors began surfacing about potential new iPhone models that could be expected in 2015. The rumors, which were based on unnamed supply chain insiders, are predicting a new iPhone 6S and a new iPhone 7 for release sometime during 2015.

The rumors and purported timelines could, of course, be entirely or partially wrong, but that's the intrigue of following rumors about product launches.

No matter, it continues to be an interesting and lucrative time for Apple, which continues to see big sales of its iPhone 6 smartphones that were launched in September.

The new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones were a big hit during the first weekend of sales starting Sept. 19; Apple sold more than 10 million units of the devices after their debut, setting a new all-time record for first-weekend iPhone sales since the smartphones first hit the market back in June of 2007, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Preorders for the new iPhones reached huge levels, with more than 4 million devices preordered within 24 hours of the process opening on Sept. 12, just seven days before the official device launch date. That high demand quickly led the company to advise customers that many devices wouldn't be delivered until October due to short initial supplies.

Some early iPhone 6 owners reported bending problems with the new devices when kept in pants pockets. The reported phone bending problem was not the first time that a potential problem has cropped up with new iPhones. In July 2010, Apple dealt with antenna issues surrounding its then new iPhone 4 that were inspired by consumer complaints of poor call quality when they held their phones. Called "Antennagate" by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the time, the problem was the location of the antenna inside the devices, which was solved with an add-on thin rubber case.