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Apple patents mid-air flip technology for protecting phones

The technology would allow a phone to flip in mid-air to make shattered screens a thing of the past.

As smartphone owners know, even in the world of Gorilla Glass, accidents involving shattered screens still happen.

Figure 17 from patent application 20130257582. (Credit: Apple/USPTO)

Apple's patent application number 20130257582 — "Protecting an electronic device" — aims to minimise breakages by causing your phone to flip in mid-air and land on a specifically ruggedised edge.

The system would work by using a motion sensor to detect if the device is being dropped and having that sensor communicating with a processor that determines the orientation of the phone — ie, what surface is currently hurtling towards the ground.

From there, it gets particularly clever:

The electronic device further includes a motor in communication with the processor and a mass operably connected to the motor. The processor is configured to drive the motor when a drop event is determined, and the mass is configured to rotate with respect to the motor to alter the orientation of the device.

So, the idea is that this motor would spin the mass in such a way as to ensure the device falls on to a protected area.

Even better, Apple goes on to suggest that a different method could be to use a "propulsion system" to direct the fall of the device. "The propulsion system may be implemented as a fan, a jet or other suitable propulsion device," according to the patent application.

So, if Apple has its way, we might not have flying cars, but we will have jet-propelled phones.