Apple Wants To Give Your iPhone Screen-Protecting Airbags

Apple Wants To Give Your iPhone Screen-Protecting Airbags

Apple’s iOS devices, especially the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, are famous for their inability to endure even the smallest of drops without their displays shattering into a thousand tiny pieces. However, according to a patent application from the company, future iPhones could employ a fancy airbag system that prevents them from cracking when they hit the ground.

Uncovered by PatentlyApple, the patent describes a number of solutions for crack resistant glass for portable devices such as the iPhone. In one, Apple envisions a device that features a “shock mount” between the its body and its display, which is automatically inflated when it detects the device has been dropped. PatentlyApple reports:

Apple’s patent FIG. 5 shows a housing and a cover glass in cross sectional view having a tunable shock mount 505 disposed there between. The tunable shock mount could comprise of an inflatable bladder 506 filled with a fluid 507. Tuning could be done in various ways such as by selection of materials for the bladder and fluid, and by varying an amount of inflation. Hmm, think of it as a form of air-bag for portable devices.

Moreover, Apple suggests another advantage to this solution is that the internal components within the device could be protected from water damage by introducing a waterproof seal.

Other solutions detailed in Apple’s patent include one that’s already in use with its latest iOS devices, which is the use of alumino silicate glass, better known as Gorilla Glass. PatentlyApple notes the Cupertino company could also employ other glass materials such as sodalime and borosilicate, which are known to make glass resistant to shock.

I’ve dropped and destroyed a number of iPhones over the years, so a device that features inflatable airbags (or the equivalent) for protection seems like a dream come true to me. What about you?

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  • bplano

    They could just use Gorilla Glass and call it good…

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  • Kc7gnm

    They already do.

  • Yake12

    Umm, please dear god no. What happens when I come home and toss my iPhone onto my bed? Instant inflation, fucking up my phone and my day. And for those who would say stop throwing your phone on your bed, I challenge you to qui an ingrained habit cold turkey! It’s bound to happen at some point. For the love of go apple don’t do this

  • bored

    Airbags on a phone? Seriously? With “fluid” filling them up as it falls? This is 1. unrealistic and 2. stupid. 
    1: Where would the fluid reside when NOT inflating this airbag? What happens when you shake your phone? Does it pop out then? What happens after the airbag is deployed? How do you put it back together? Is the phone’s screen useless? 
    2: This would do little to save the glass. The phone would still drop on a corner. The image above makes the glass screen look more prone to shattering than the current design.

  • Diego

    “…famous for their inability to endure even the smallest of drops without their displays shattering into a thousand tiny pieces”

    Hyperbole much?

  • Travis-norton

    Haha, classic! Good one, COM. ;)

  • Travis-norton

    Nailed it!

  • volodoscope

    If you read the patent you might have answers to your questions. This is done on microscopic level. There’s no bucket of fluid in the device. Few drops that are pushed out to the screen layer.
    1. Software is smart enough to know if you’re shaking device on purpose. It’s how nano works. When you’re running, the nano doesn’t shuffle songs. Only when you take it in your hand and actually shake it. Apple can set a specific event that triggers this layer or cushion. For example: Speed, distance, orientation to Earth, sound etc. I am sure the device will not be useless after the deployment, because this whole process wouldn’t be needed if that was the case.
    2. Yes, current iPhone 4 might not survive many drops, but this is patent for future iDevices and you don’t know what they are, how they look like and what material is being used.
    Again, patents are covering basic idea. How it’s done and with what technology is open.

  • volodoscope

    There’s simple solution. Acceleration stop different ways if the device is dropped on hard floor or soft bed. If iPhone detects that acceleration is slowing softly this will not deploy the cushion. How do you think car airbags systems work? They work in microseconds. I know it’s hard for a human to think in such time scale, but it’s pretty simple for a computer.

  • volodoscope

    iPhone 4 and 4S do use Gorilla Glass on the front.

  • Armanix_14

    Remember it is apple

  • bplano

    Really? Then how come it shatters?! o_o

  • Eva B

    Thank you, Vlad! That’s what we have benen waiting for!,

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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