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iPhone 7 release date rumours & new features

David Price | June 23, 2016
Apple to ditch usual upgrade cycle, save features for iPhone 8 | iPhone 7 headphone jack 'safe for now' according to reports.

The concept is centred around modules within the speaker cavities that can be made more or less hydrophobic, depending on the charge applied to them: when liquid is detected, charges would be applied across the various modules in such a way that the liquid would be moved across the modules and ultimately expelled from the cavity.

We love the idea almost as much as the name of the patent, but as with most of the more interesting patents we hear about, it's unlikely to bear fruit in a real shipped product for a little while.

iPhone 7 new features: Wet finger support

Even if Apple doesn't go for a fully waterproof design, we could see Apple introduce a new feature that would allow you to use your touchscreen with wet fingers. Apple supplier Japan Display has revealed that it has developed new display technology that can operate with wet fingers, something that most smartphone screens are currently unable to do.

But this technology could be taken even further if Apple does indeed make it's phone completely waterproof, as it could allow the touchscreen to be used underwater for capturing photographs of sealife, for example.

iPhone 7 new features: Self-healing ports

One solution to the waterproofing conundrum used on rival smartphones has been small removable caps that sit over the ports that are vulnerable to water. But these tend to be fiddly, and a bit ugly: not very Apple. What about if the ports were covered, but you didn't need to take anything out before plugging in your headphone or charging cable?

This sounds more sci-fi than R&D, but a patent application published on 10 December 2015 shows that Apple has been looking at the possibility of using port seals that can be pierced by a male plug connector, and then heal themselves back to waterproof integrity after the connector is removed.

Patent application 20150357741, called ELECTRONIC DEVICE WITH HIDDEN CONNECTOR, describes "a self-healing elastomer applied over one or more external electronic connectors" that may "provide environmental protection for the connector and the electronic device".

iPhone 7 release date & new feature rumours: Self-healing ports

The plug is forced through the elastomer seal whenever a connection is needed.

"Electronic probes may temporarily penetrate the self-healing elastomer to mate with the electronic connector," the application explains. "After removal of the probes the self-healing elastomer may elastically reform and self-heal."

Self-healing materials are currently used in a variety of products, such as smartphone cases and screen protectors, so this isn't quite as fanciful a concept as it might sound to the uninitiated. We haven't been particularly impressed by such products thus far, but part of the problem is aesthetic: when you've got a scratch on your iPhone's screen protector you would expect the self-healing mechanism to remove the scratch so effectively that you can't see it was ever there, but our experience suggests that isn't practical with current technology. But Apple's concept only needs the self-healing to be effective in a crude, broad sense - making the aperture waterproof again, without it having to look perfect.

 

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