Five ways Apple will automatically rotate a falling iPhone

Fragile smartphones and short battery life are two of the biggest problems for smartphone manufacturers and consumers right now.

Five ways Apple will automatically rotate a falling iPhone

Wouldn’t it be nice if your iPhone or iPad rotated in mid-air to protect your screen the next time you drop it? Apple’s latest approved patent application hopes to do just that.


In a document approved by US Patent and Trademark Office, the Californian computer giant goes to great lengths to highlight several scenarios in which it plans protect its iPhones, iPads and other mobile device from damage when dropped.

Here’s where we break down the technologies presented and explain how they will work.

Rotating iPhone screen patent: the vibration motor

The first way Apple hopes to reduce damage works by altering a device’s angle on impact.

As detailed in the image below, it uses motion detectors to recognise a fall; determine the current angle of the device; then the distance to surface and calculate projected position at time of impact; finally it would use an internal (vibration alert) motor to alter the angle of impact the least fragile position.


Rotating iPhone screen patent: battery ejection

The next way Apple stipulates it can reduce damage to its iOS devices is by breaking up a device when falling.

This is easier to get your head around and has the potential to reduce the severity of damage to a dropped iPhone.

The technology works in much the same way as method one, in that when a fall is detected, the Apple product will react accordingly. The difference here is the device will change its angle through the altered centre of mass caused by removing and/or ejecting a battery.


Rotating iPhone screen patent: grippy headphones

This example has actual potential to be implemented in the near future.

Essentially, this would work by a device detecting a fall, to which the headphone jack would respond by contracting and gripping the attached 3.5mm pin.

It would then rely on the wearer’s ears to be strong enough to hold then smartphone, or their reactions to be quick enough to catch the flailing headphone cord.


Rotating iPhone screen patent: gas canister

When in free fall a “thrust mechanism” may deploy compressed gas external from a “canister” to alter a device’s momentum or orientation.

This one is a little far-fetched for us. In terms of theory though, it is possibly one of the most sound. However an iPhone with an internal and refillable gas canister is impractical and very improbable.

Rotating iPhone screen patent: aerodynamics

The aerodynamics entry is a little vague, but essentially the patent describes a mobile electronic device activating an “air foil” to reduce the velocity of the fall. The accompanying drawing details a flap being created to increase drag.


Data collection

Interestingly, the patent also describes that it would collect fall and impact data such as drop height, frequency, orientation and velocity. Such data would be used to “better estimate a predicted free fall orientation and activate a particular protective mechanism”.

This data alone could be the biggest step towards stronger smartphones as design teams could and should react accordingly.

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