No more screen-smash: Apple files patent for self-righting iPhone


March 25, 2013

Apple's patent application could raise hopes that smashed iPhone screens may be consigned to the history books (Photo: Per Axbom)

Apple's patent application could raise hopes that smashed iPhone screens may be consigned to the history books (Photo: Per Axbom)

In a move that may just stoke a faint ember of optimism in anyone unlucky enough to have suffered from a case of smashed iPhone screen syndrome, Apple has filed a U.S. patent application for a protective mechanism that would "selectively alter a center of mass of" an electronic device, and which goes on to describe various aeronautics-inspired means by which a device such as an iPhone might self-right when dropped.

Wading into the specifics of the application, claim 9 describes a method for protecting a "vulnerable area" of a device by means of a sensor capable of detecting when the phone is in free-fall, its orientation when falling, and the likely point or area of impact. If necessary, a mechanism would then set about "selectively changing the orientation of the device."

Other claims suggest that the mechanism would alter the angular momentum of the device in free-fall using a weight connected to a motor. However, the application also describes an alternative "thrust mechanism" to change a falling device's orientation by evacuating compressed gas from a canister. The patent further describes how electronic devices could deploy "air foils" to alter the aerodynamics and speed of decent by producing lift. In the future, it seems, iPhones may come equipped with thrusters, parachutes or wings.

In an attempt to slow impact, or even prevent it entirely entirely, the patent describes possible "gripping members" that would turn power cords or headphone connectors into makeshift grappling hooks, perhaps with teeth or hooks that bind into the device in the event of dropping it.

The patent seeks to protect more than mere "areas" of devices. Buttons and switches may retract into the device's outer case, the application says.

Apple's reversion to an aluminum back addressed half the problem of smashed iPhone screens. With this patent application, it appears Apple may be seeking to eradicate the other half.

The patent seeks to cover "any type of electronic device" including MP3 players and laptop computers, though iPhone is the only specific Apple product name that appears in the patent.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, via Apple Insider

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

why not just an airbag system that covers the screen?


oh just make an anti-gravity engine and stick in there...


Joseph Boe

Like Steve Job's return - iGhost, this is surely just another joke from Apple. Talk about vague patents! Apple seems desperate to become the ultimate litigator. Here is another idea. Just tape your precious phone to the back of a cat It may be hard to tell if it's vibrating or purring but your screen will never land face down.


is there an app for that?

Bill Bennett

If I remember my physics and Newton's laws of motion correctly only forces acting on a free falling device or one that has been knocked out of hand would be gravity and air resistance. Only way to orient the device would have to act against / alter effects of these forces.

How about a reusable ultra fast, and I do mean ULTRA, deploying parachute ?


How about just making a screen that doesn't break ;)

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