A new patent by Apple shows the iPhone could shift its mass during free fall to avoid heavy damage. Photo: AppleInsider
The feeling of dread is familiar to anyone who has ever dropped their mobile. But picking up an iPhone from the floor hoping that the screen has not cracked could become a thing of the past.
Apple is working on a system that detects when a dropped iPhone is falling, then spins it around so that it lands face up.
The idea sounds like an early April Fool's prank, but comes from plans filed by Apple to the US Patent Office.
The patent application for a ''protective mechanism for an electronic device'' says it aims to prevent some or all of the damage to any electronic device with a processor, such as a tablet or a laptop, but specifically mentions the iPhone.
A number of solutions are proposed to position the phone on landing: the movement of a weighted mass within the device; aeroplane-like foils that extend out from the surface of the device; and a thrust mechanism such as a small gas-propulsion device.
The system needs a sensor to detect when the device is falling and its position relative to the ground, the Appleinsider.com website reveals.
Position and speed of falling could be measured using simple gyroscopes, accelerometers or position sensors, although the patent also mentions more sophisticated equipment such as GPS and imaging sensors.
The system does not appear to be close to going into production and leaks about such a seemingly fanciful system may be met with some cynicism at a time when Apple is under fire for ceding ground to rival Samsung.
It would, however, set them against Amazon, which recently patented the (some would say equally outlandish) idea of a phone with airbags.
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