back to article Apple patents NEVERSMASH iPHONE for fumbling fondlers

Apple has filed a patent that could save iPhones from certain death when they crash to the ground. The patent is called "protective mechanism for an electronic device" and allows an iThing to rotate whilst in freefall. When it begins its journey to terminal velocity, the iPhone will be saved by a motor connected to an " …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best Kebab in Dalston

    Could have called a taxi if the phone hadn't broken.

  2. Waspy

    Ooh Turkish Best Kebab in Dalston...

    I reckon losing an iPhone for a Turkish Best Kebab seems a fair deal, especially at two in the morning!

  3. sjsmoto

    Ah - a moggy motor!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah - a moggy motor!

      The iPUSSY......always lands glass side up.

      1. Fungus Bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Ah - a moggy motor!

        The iToast -- always lands jelly side down

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. SuperTim

    Physics.

    To get a 100+gram phone to rotate at the sorts of speeds it needs to between butterfingers and concrete would require quite a motor and reaction wheel. The wheel would need to be quite large, or the motor quite fast, but either way, it would need a huge impulse to work. Satellites have these systems to allow them to rotate without the need for rocket fuel, but the weights work best when they are NOT eccentric. I suspect this is to utilise the existing vibration motor.

    It won't work unless they beef it up a couple of orders of magnitude, by which point they will have attracted a whole new market!

    Oh, and they would need three motors/wheels.

    1. Jonte Monkey

      Re: Physics.

      Not necessarily. Whilst one motor will only give one degree of freedom in the way it can rotate the phone - this might be enough to stop it landing at an angle that would cause the most damage e.g. on one of its (rounded) corners.

      1. SuperTim

        Re: Physics.

        true, they could use one if it flipped around the long axis, but it would need to have several protective zones for that. I still don't think it would work.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Physics.

          "I still don't think it would work."

          It doesn't need to. Somebody in Apple has just hit the incentivised target for registering patents, the company gets free publicity from a (largely) credulous press, and the adoring fanbois will now buy any Apple device and believe it includes this technology.

          All of which is a lot better for Apple than the simpler approach of designing devices that are easy to disassemble or replace parts on. Where's the value in that? Next thing you know fanbois would be replacing batteries themselves, instead of upgrading to the next shiney because the last one goes flat in eight hours.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Physics.

      Why not use harpoons? It worked for Philae. After all that bounced so high, it took 2 hours to come down again...

      Oh, hang on. I think I've got that wrong. OK, how about it harpoons your leg, and avoids bounceage that way. I'm sure none of us would mind a small leg wound, in order to save our precious mobiles.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Physics.

        " OK, how about it harpoons your leg, and avoids bounceage that way. I'm sure none of us would mind a small leg wound, in order to save our precious mobiles."

        Um, how about a simple lanyard connecting the phone to your pocket?

        Then if you drop it, it just ends up slapping your knees.

        Most people already seem to use it like a pocketwatch, might as well dress it like one, eh?

        I apologize for adding a serious comment to your query, but I value mt epidermal integrity highly, since I'm allergic to harpoons.

        (They HURT!)

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Physics.

          >Ironically removing the issues of tight clearance and miniscule crumple-zone which causes a drop to generate serious damage in the first place.

          [my emphasis]

          Really?

          Just buy a case - available on every high street for next to eff-all.

          Regardless of whether its an Apple, Samsung, HTC or whatever phone- the user can buy a case for it that is suitable for the user's day-to-day environment. The user is a better judge of that environment than the phone vendor. Phones should not all be built like tanks, because that would limit the user's ability to balance bulk against resilience to their taste.

          That said, a certain Japanese phone manufacturer has a well-received range of phones that feature nylon (as opposed to ABS) corners.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Physics.

          I apologize for adding a serious comment to your query, but I value mt epidermal integrity highly, since I'm allergic to harpoons.

          (They HURT!)

          CaptainDaFt,

          What a wuss! What's a little pain, compared with having the shiniest smartphone?

          Anyway, I'm sure you exaggerate. I doubt you're really allergic to harpoons. Just harpoon intolerant...

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: Physics.

            "I'm sure you exaggerate. I doubt you're really allergic to harpoons. Just harpoon intolerant..."

            Nope, full on allergy triggered by the pointy end.

            Symptoms include sudden appearance of holes in the body, outbreaks of streaming blood, and profuse swearing.

    3. Steve Evans

      Re: Physics.

      By the time they've fitted in the size of weights required to perform this tumble, the phone is going to be twice the thickness and weight it was before.

      Ironically removing the issues of tight clearance and miniscule crumple-zone which causes a drop to generate serious damage in the first place.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In free fall, no one can hear you scream, "Which way is up?".

      Aside from the issue of how to generate enough torque to spin the gadget to a safe orientation (which, BTW, would probably require motors on two orthogonal axes), there is also the intriguing question of how the iThing can determine which way is up once it is free-falling. Without that information, there's no way to identify a "safe" orientation to try for. Finding "up" while falling (or being thrown) is trickier than you might think; an object in free fall experiences no external G force to tell it which way is up (neglecting air friction, a reasonable approximation here), and the device orientation Before The Fall isn't much use either, as it will be pretty random. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that it will be effectively impossible for the free-falling iThing to reliably identify "up" in this situation.

      This leaves only one option: an iAirbag (presumably NOT Bulgarian).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: In free fall, no one can hear you scream, "Which way is up?".

        And somehow it calculates its height above some object below it? How, just HOW?

        1. John Tserkezis

          Re: In free fall, no one can hear you scream, "Which way is up?".

          "And somehow it calculates its height above some object below it? How, just HOW?"

          Easy. If my name happened to registered on that phone (*), it knows, the freefall trajectory is actually a higher velocity arc thrown over some distance, and first impact will be some brick wall. Second impact would be a concrete floor a certain distance above the first impact (calculated by my height, throwing arm, velocity detected leaving my hand, time in the air etc. It would even be in the air for long enough to call up the weather service and calculate for windspeed.

          Of course, all of this requires significant firmware, possibly not leaving room for other things, like phone functionality, or less so, a calendar, or other non-important things like apps and such, OK, may be one farting app (so choose wisely!).

          (*) Chuckle, I would never put my name to any Apple device. I was done with that many years ago.

      2. Martin Maloney
        Trollface

        Re: In free fall, no one can hear you scream, "Which way is up?".

        "This leaves only one option: an iAirbag (presumably NOT Bulgarian)."

        Aren't fanbois iAirbags?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Butter/Toast Principle

    Hmmm....

    Why not then, fill the rear case of a device with curned cow-juice and then vacuum-seal for freshness? Shirley it would then always fall on its back, thus protecting the fragile glass-frontedness from harm.

  7. Yugguy

    Hmmm

    Cue a stream of comedy videos as drunk people chuck their iphones out of 3rd-floor windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm

      Why drunk? I'd throw an iPhone out of any window stone cold sober just to see if it bounces and I wouldn't even bother taking it out of the pocket of it's owner.

  8. Alpha Tony

    Why not

    Just staple it to a cat?

    1. Snivelling Wretch

      Re: Why not

      ...with buttered feet.

    2. Anomalous Cowturd
      Stop

      Re: Why not just staple it to a cat?

      Or buy a £2 grippy silicon case, and not drop the fucking thing in the first place.

      As an added bonus, it actually protects the phone from all but direct pointy thing to screen damage.

      I've never dropped mine in four years of smart-phone use, and my current one year old Moto G is completely unmarked.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Why not just staple it to a cat?

        "Or buy a £2 grippy silicon case, and not drop the fucking thing in the first place."

        Just superglue it to your hands. This will instantly solve the main problem of it being dropped, and have additional benefits: Those fanbois who like to show off their iShiny will have it permanently on show, and it will also be harder to steal.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not just staple it to a cat?

        >Or buy a £2 grippy silicon case

        Proof that iPhone users are sooo sad they don't have a sense of humour. My first thought was to butter the back of it. Buying a case? That's for wussies.

        I'd proffer that yours and many others have never been dropped nor marked because nobody ever calls you and as such remain in pristine condition. What's that? What about the calls made by you? Probably to sex phone lines made from the safe environment of you bed.

        1. Anomalous Cowturd
          WTF?

          Re: Why not just staple it to a cat? @Chris W

          Moto G != iPhone

          While your fervent anti-Apple beliefs are admirable, your reading comprehension is risible.

          Do try to keep up.

          ;o)

  9. MisterHappy
    Alert

    Are we sure...

    This is not a BOFH article in disguise? An "Eccentric Mass" sounds like the kind of thing the PFY would be caught doing in the back of the server room!

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Samsung's patent will surely follow:"

      Rotating the device is the best Apple can do 'cos it's all integrated.

      Samsung could incorporate a battery launcher that fires the removeable battery at the floor momentarily slowing the phone before impact, so that the final free fall is a matter of a few cm. And they could also promote the kinetic battery launcher as a self defence tool.

      Obviously mixing the sort of pyrotechnics used in a seat belt pretensioner with a lithium battery might have some downsides, particularly for Tesla drivers.

  11. Tim 11

    Parachute

    I would have thought if they're going to bother to implement anything this big and complex, it would be easier just to put a parachute inside the phone and use the accelerometer to trigger the release mechanism

    Then again, we all know patents aren't about actually inventing things; they're about using litigation as a revenue stream as part of your normal business model :-(

    1. Mark 110

      Re: Parachute

      Or an airbag?

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Parachute

        Jeff Bezos has that one already

  12. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
    Pint

    Motor, eccentric weight...

    ... a bit like what's in Hitashi's finest then? Interesting.

    On second thought, forget that shit. I want a proper delta wing for my phone, deployed if it detects a fall, able to locate the nearest source of ascending currents, and to use that to gain altitude and land back in my hand. I think I'd even give up on getting a flying car for a phone like that.

  13. frank ly

    Oddball weights

    "As well as eccentric weights, which are already used in the gyroscopes of iPhones, ..."

    I thought the integrated gyroscope used micro-machined beams with a mass at the end and force/strain gauge sensors on the beams? Am I thinking too 'modern'? One day, they'll use ring laser gyros I suppose.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Oddball weights

      Hmm, gyroscopes. Anyone remember Eric Laithwaite?

      1. tirk
        WTF?

        Re: Oddball weights

        Eric Laithwaite. The man who epitomised the difference between engineers and scientists. Remember his TV lectures well!

  14. Filippo

    They could combine both the motor and compressed air methods to have the phone make a soft landing in a standing position whenever it's dropped. How hard can it be? I mean, it's not rocket sci... oh wait.

  15. Adolph Clickbait
    Coat

    Why not anit-grav?

    So it just floats?

    1. RainForestGuppy
      Coat

      Re: Why not anit-grav?

      If you strap a piece of toast (butter side up) to the back of a cat and throw it out the window, the competing forces will result in the mass coming to rest in equilibrium approximately 8 inches above the ground.

      It has been calculated that as few as 329 cats used in this manner could support the average passenger train. HS2 was originally designed to exploit the cat/toast levitation effect and would have been known as the Interkitty express.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        HS2

        They've also cut down on tunnelling costs by simply painting a railway tunnel onto the side of the hills and training a flock of road runners to drive the trains.

  16. x 7

    sorry,my tomcat is claiming "prior art" on this

  17. Rabbit80

    I've been doing this with motors for years - in my RC cars (Which weigh in at over 6KG with batteries).. Hit the throttle and it backflips whilst in the air, hit the brakes and it forward flips.. Steer and do either of the above and it is possible to control sideways angle to a degree as well.

    Point is - a suitably fast brushless motor (maybe around 100K RPM) and a smallish weight should be enough to alter the angle of a 150g phone!

    1. Matt Piechota

      "I've been doing this with motors for years - in my RC cars (Which weigh in at over 6KG with batteries).. Hit the throttle and it backflips whilst in the air, hit the brakes and it forward flips.. Steer and do either of the above and it is possible to control sideways angle to a degree as well."

      It's also a well-known tactic for motocross racing to orient the motorcycle for landing.

  18. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    This looks like a stupid idea because...

    ... if the motor whatnots can spin it fast enough to make for a less damaging landing that pretty much guarantees that if you catch it, the phone will twist itself out of your hand and bounce down the nearest drain.

  19. Cameron Colley

    Or, perhaps, just don't make the phone as fragile.

    Seriously, why is it that everyone seems to be convinced that the "best phone" is a bendy", buttonless, water-sensitive, glass-covered slab anyhow (and I'm not just talking about iPhones)?

    How about, since everybody has decided that physical keyboards don't work, designers use the lack of keyboard to make the phones highly shock and water resistant? That way every second person on the train won't be looking at a cracked sheet of glass. I can only assume that people like to own phones with cracked glass and expensive insurance.

  20. x 7

    why can't we just print mobile phones, circuitry and all, as one solid block using 3D printers???

    one solid lump, hard to break, and more compact. Should even be possible to print the battery

  21. fruitoftheloon
    Joke

    Buttered toast - meet floor

    D'oh,

    if you buttered the OTHER side instead, then it wouldn't hit the floor butter side down would it?

    j

  22. Rabbit80

    How exactly..

    ..can the phone estimate the time until impact? It could be dropped from a table, a hand at head height, off a building etc..

    And what would this system do if you throw the phone across the room?

    Drop it down the stairs?

    etc..

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: How exactly..

      Perhaps Apple's software can use a combination of cell tower triangulation, GPS and the accelerometer to determine position and height above ground to the centimetre.

      All it then needs is to re-route battery power to a fine wire mesh on the outside of the phone, at each intersection the mesh passes through a maize kernel, the current rapidly heats the wire, thus popping the corn which cushions the landing and provides the fanboi with a nourishing snack after the prevention of a potentially horrendous accident ( providing it doesn't land in doggy doo or a similarly unpleasant landing zone.

  23. Barbarian At the Gates

    They totally missed the most profitable use of this technology

    What if it maneuvered the phone so that it maximized potential damage? There's where the money is at!

    1. Sanctimonious Prick
      Happy

      Re: They totally missed the most profitable use of this technology

      With added features... like, Make It Fall, Aim For Toilet, Boost Fall Speed, etc :D

  24. Mookster
    Meh

    This is way old... read about it in the Summer. (does this mean that there's prior art on the Patent?)

  25. Andrew_b65

    Self righting, hmmm, I have an idea...

    Might the proposed system also be used to prevent iMuppets from accidentally filming all their video in portrait mode?

  26. YARR
    Black Helicopters

    It's all lies!

    The real intention is to do the opposite - add a hidden feature which deliberately rotates a falling iPhone to ensure it lands on the most vulnerable point. No one wants an iWatch, iPads have peaked and they've run out of ideas to sell new iPhones. With peak Apple approaching and an expensive HQ to pay for, they've got to come up with a way of increasing future sales of iPhones.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Technology already exists

    1. Nokia feature phones - separate into front, back, battery and guts on impact (3-5mm air gap between LCD and outer plastic window, too)

    2. Wii remote - wrist strap

    3. Key cards / lanyards / retractable clips

    4. Soft rubberised floors like in Playparks. Actually, yes - this should be rolled out everywhere to protect our iThings. Much more convenient than 1,2 and 3 ;-)

  28. Mahou Saru

    All of this fancy tech and they can't do

    what a Nokia 3210 could do 15 year ago...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If passed apple will have to sue all cats...

    I suggest a cat is an "eccentric" weight and it can also extend aerofoils (feet and tail) and manipulate its center of mass during freefall.

    I would be impressed if the iPhone survived a 2 story fall better than a fumbling grip near ground level as effectively as cats.

    Given the technical overlap I am afraid the "kitty" will have to be raided for licences insted of food...:)

  30. David Cantrell

    " We all have stories of broken-mobile woe "?

    Really? I don't, because I look after my expensive devices.

    1. Yugguy

      Aye, without wishing to tempt fate I've never broken a mobile phone.

  31. Alister Silver badge

    Why don't they make it boomerang shaped, then it would come straight back...

    It wouldn't suit "latest-greatest" Fanboi though - you would never be able to throw it away...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frightening

    Maybe this is the long rumoured phone of the Apple apocalypse to come, The Fruity one's "Very very Frightening" feature, the actual Phone has become a Drone which follows your every step, connecting to every Web service you desire, Incredible, Amazing and "it will just work, Drone!".

  33. chris lively

    All my iDevices are protected by LifeProof cases. Each have been in swimming pools, dropped repeatedly on concrete, thrown down the stairs ( multiple times by the kids) and I've never had so much as a scratch on any of them.

    Expensive case? Yep. But I've never had to replace a device because it was broken. I'm pretty sure the materials cost about $0.50. Seems like phone manufacturers could just include a free case.

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