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Apple granted patent for flipping an iPhone in free fall, so it doesn't land flat on its face

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Apple granted patent for flipping an iPhone in free fall, so it doesn't land flat on its face
Those contraptions for preventing smartphone drop damages are starting to shape up much better now than their initial variations which include airbag deployments to cushion the blow, for instance. Straight from the US patent office comes Apple's latest grant that deals with automatically protecting your iPhone during a free fall.

Thankfully, this one doesn't include any airbags stuffed inside the handset, but rather engages the sensors that are already in the handset anyway - accelerometer, magnetometer and the like - for determining quickly the side and point of impact. Afterwards, a dedicated processor calculates the needed adjustment for a fraction of a second, and engages a motor with eccentric mass to adjust the phone's position mid-air, and land it on its least breakable side, instead of face-down on the concrete, for instance. 

In fact, the vibration motor that is already in the handset, can be used for the purpose, just with stronger vibe impulses, compared with the ones that are used to alert you for messages or incoming calls when the phone is on mute.


source: USPTO via AppleInsider

56 Comments
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posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:05 25

1. mercorp (Posts: 1021; Member since: 28 Jan 2012)


How about making sure that it dosen't bend first?

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:08 2

15. power_x (Posts: 264; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


They have a solution
It's called don't put your $700 device in your back pocket sitting on it

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:47 6

21. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


There are report that people bend their phones when they are in the front pocket though. However, this might be one thing that is truly innovating coming from Apple in a long time.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:13 3

30. wilsong17 (unregistered)


how come i put my note 3 on my back pocket and it doesnt bend

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:50

36. dirtydirty00 (Posts: 418; Member since: 21 Jan 2011)


i thought everyone was looking foward to a flexible phone???

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 12:39 2

43. InspectorGadget80 (unregistered)


How bout using IP RATINGS instead of filing for patents and use it to sue others later one.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:14 2

2. tech2 (Posts: 3333; Member since: 26 Oct 2012)


Seems like Apple took last year's PA's joke literally and really started working on a feature that would prevent damage to phone from falling:

http://www.phonearena.com/news/iPhone-5S-design-unchanged-will-have-gravity-defying-properties_id41407

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:30 3

5. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


This is fair game for patentable innovation - technical solution to a problem. Props to Apple.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 14:00 1

47. maherk (Posts: 3370; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


Nah, they ll just patent it and wait for someone else to make it happen. Then they come with their lawyers to make sure they take your invention and make you pay millions on top of that.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:18 1

3. rantao333 (Posts: 322; Member since: 21 May 2013)


yes, i definitely wish to have this feature!

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:24 1

4. uchihakurtz (Posts: 358; Member since: 12 Nov 2012)


The ladies are gonna like jumping around if this was in the new iPhone

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:33 2

6. vuyonc (Posts: 983; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


Airdrop version 2 :P

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:42 6

7. darkkjedii (Posts: 19478; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


Not bad Apple, not bad at all.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:46 10

8. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


I doubt this would work practically. The inertia of a heavy phone falling is too much.
I took a look at the phone falling face first.
F=mg = 172 grams (iPhone 6+) * 9.8m/s^2 = 1.686 kg m/s^2
To counter-act this inertia, we have to balance this with the centripetal force equation, F=mrw^2 (w= lowercase Omega, m = the "eccentric mass" ) = 1.686 kg m/s^2
This thickness of a 6+ is 7.1 mm, so the maximum radius this could ever be is about 3.5mm (.0035m).
Let's call the angular velocity 1,000RPM or about 100 radians/second (read: FAST)
so F = m * .0035 * 100^2 = 1.686. Solving for m, m = .048 kg = 48 grams!!!
48 grams is so substantial compared to the overall weight of the iPhone, we would have to iterate to get the correct, heavier weight!
Unless Apple has something entirely new (doubt that at this point), this just does not seem feasible to me.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:50 1

10. rowdysheeter (Posts: 74; Member since: 10 Sep 2014)


thanks for the explanation.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:05

14. Leo_MC (Posts: 964; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


Speed.
If you put the speed into the equation, the results will be different.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:18 1

18. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


Speed of what? The electrical motor? It's in there and estimated at 1,000 RPM which I don't think is possible to reach in the less than 1 second it would take for the phone to drop 2 meters.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:36

20. Leo_MC (Posts: 964; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


People didn't think it was possible to walk on the moon.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 07:00 1

23. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


Ignoratio elenchi.
Google it, if you need to.
In English, we'd call it a Red Herring.
Maybe Google that too.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 09:59

40. Leo_MC (Posts: 964; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


The calculus ignores some variables; I don't know physics well enough to explain it in English.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 10:32

41. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


I looked at worst case, which is generally how you should do it. Look below (post 33) for a more realistic approach that yields a similarly unpractical mass requirement.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 12:13

42. Leo_MC (Posts: 964; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


For rotating corps F (vect) = mvr (vect)/r.
So, the force is proportional with the speed (the higher the speed, the bigger the force).

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 07:14 2

24. duartix (Posts: 275; Member since: 01 Apr 2014)


Thank you for the report! :)

Why do you limit the radius to 3.5mm?
You can have a much bigger centripetal forced if aligned with the plane defined by the screen. You just can't make the phone turn in a 3D space though.
But maybe that's not needed for the protection effect and you can just relax this major constraint.
What are your thoughts on this?

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 07:53 1

27. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


I assumed this mass would be required to rotate in any direction, depending on the phones exact orientation when falling. In order for the eccentric mass to rotate, the diameter must fit within the phone's thickness. A 7.1mm phone thickness meant a max 3.505mm radius (I rounded for the calculations).
I think this will be really, really tough to make practical. They need to focus on shatter proofing the screens. Sony had these (Xperia Z1) but people hated the coating that was required to make them shatter proof, so Sony stopped using it. Improve the coating and bring it back!

posted on 03 Dec 2014, 08:44

54. duartix (Posts: 275; Member since: 01 Apr 2014)


I'm thinking a bigger challenge will be to determine how far from the floor the phone is.
Unless of course they can easily correct the trajectory for overshoot correction inertia once the phone has achived an horizontal fall on it's back, which I assume is the optimum.
BTW, 2m isn't enough distance. I believe the median drop height is probably more close to 1m, which will demand for twice the reaction speed. :(

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 07:30 1

25. imnotascammer (Posts: 160; Member since: 22 Aug 2012)


Whew. Nerd alert!

Lol. Just kidding man.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 07:55 3

28. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


I'm an aerospace engineer designing plane, rocket and satellite components. (Been to Space X which was freaking awesome BTW) These calculations are what I do every day. I am a super nerd and proud of it!

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:22

32. TournaFlyer (Posts: 24; Member since: 20 Sep 2014)


I understood every word of that...about 3rd grade level where I come from...lol

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:24 2

33. vuyonc (Posts: 983; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


It would be nice if the comments system allowed free body diagrams.

Anyway, equating gravitational force to a counter-acting centripetal force doesn't seem to make sense. Wouldn't rotational motion over time be the controlled factor to protect the face?

Mass moment of Inertia of Iphone 6+ along its height for example (I) = 1/12 * mass * (width^2+thickness^2)=1/12 * (.00778^2+.00071^2)= .00605 kg.m^2
Assuming the fall takes 1 second (t), initial angular velocity being zero, the phone spinning perfectly around (angle theta = pi radians),

Theta =.5 * alpha * t^2
From there alpha = 2 * pi = 6.28 rad/s^2

The counter-acting torque (T) = inertia * alpha = .038 Nm
Taking your angular velocity of 1000rpm (105 rad/s)
The minimum angular acceleration of the contraption (alpha2) = 105 rad/s^2
The minimum inertia of the contraption = torque / alpha2=3.62 X 10^-4 kg.m^2
With your radius of 3.5mm, the mass = 10 grams

But then you would need to account for gyroscopic torque if the phone's already spinning. Meh, negligible in small masses. Too lazy to continue.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:40

34. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


I complete agree.
I tried to look at a worst case scenario where the phone has to completely overcome the entirety of the gravitational force. In real life, this would never be the case. I took the lazy man's approach. Thanks for your additions. But, I think even at 10 grams it would take up too much space and weight in the phone to be feasible.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:45 1

35. vuyonc (Posts: 983; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


Correction: 30 grams. And that's just the moving parts.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:51

38. NexusPhan (Posts: 608; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


Wow that's still a lot. How on earth is Apple possibly planning to implement this? Any ideas? I feel like this just impossible.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 09:43

39. vuyonc (Posts: 983; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


They could implement SONAR so the iPhone can detect it's height above the ground. Apple seldom cares about battery life and battery size so that's probably how they'll do it. Shave a few 1000mAh and free up a little space.

posted on 03 Dec 2014, 08:55

55. duartix (Posts: 275; Member since: 01 Apr 2014)


Possibly they wouldn't need SONAR. They could just correct the trajectory as fast as possible and from the moment the phone is in the optimum landing position they can keep correcting for overshoot inertia until it lands. Like a cat.
BTW, it's easy to detect if the phone is being handled and switch off the fall protection when the phone is on a table, on your bedside or even on your pants' pocket. Battery shouldn't be an issue.

posted on 03 Dec 2014, 11:34 1

56. vuyonc (Posts: 983; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


Sounds like dark magic. Worst case scenario, the M-whatever coprocessor would probably explode from location tracking, image stabilisation, image signal processing, fitness tracking AND mimicking a cat's inner ear to prevent falling damage.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 16:56

50. Dingy_cellar_dweller (Posts: 237; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


It needs to be made out of plastic for it to work.

posted on 03 Dec 2014, 04:19

52. shahrooz (Posts: 702; Member since: 17 Sep 2013)


I can't believe that your calculations have 8 upvotes, you are literally trying to overcoming gravitational forces by a centrifugal force? What is this a failed UFO design? :D

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 05:46 1

9. rowdysheeter (Posts: 74; Member since: 10 Sep 2014)


Good innovation. But I wonder, why not make certain part of the cellphone a little heavier, such that, when the cellphone falls, it lands on that end. I mean, what is wrong with this solution?

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:01

12. Nathillien (Posts: 208; Member since: 05 Oct 2014)


Not going to happen. If the phone during the fall doesn't spin in the first place or spins just slightly (which is mostly the case) there requred mass shift and the change of the center of the mass will simply not be there.
It looks neat but it will never see the light of day.
Now, if someone figures out how to spin the phone in the mid air ... :) ... should I patent this?

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:05 2

13. SPASE (Posts: 205; Member since: 03 May 2013)


This implementation could also increase phone drops.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 06:53 1

22. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 3702; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)


After so long time something really innovative, good thing. What happens if the phone is thrown towards anybody or against wall instead of just a free fall?

The distance, speed and time should be considered properly in this.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:08

29. iLovesarcasm (Posts: 447; Member since: 20 Oct 2014)


Now that's innovation.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 08:51

37. dirtydirty00 (Posts: 418; Member since: 21 Jan 2011)


how about just making better glass? i have never cracked a screen... i also have never had an iphone. i see those screens spider webbed all the time.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 12:39 2

44. Ragnarkov (Posts: 15; Member since: 02 Dec 2014)


Also remember. This is simply Apple patenting an idea. Doesn't mean they even plan for it to see the light of day. Its simply covering their ass, so in the future, they can move forward with an idea when technology allows, or sue someone else for infringing on something regarding their patent. They may or may not make such an item, but from now on, THEY hold the rights to this particular idea. And you know how well they implement the judicial system regarding patents and such. :)

But in truth, cool idea. I see someone eventually coming up with something viable, and it being game-changing.

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 13:09

46. nlbates66 (Posts: 328; Member since: 15 Aug 2012)


And then apple suing them :-)

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 12:53

45. TRUVILLE (Posts: 146; Member since: 11 Sep 2014)


Interesting Apple let the innovation race Begin

posted on 02 Dec 2014, 16:15

49. medtxa (Posts: 1105; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)


not gonna happen, patent troll!

posted on 03 Dec 2014, 00:54

51. kent-gaga (Posts: 481; Member since: 10 Apr 2012)


they should have some kind of air bag that pop out of the phone when it's falling

posted on 03 Dec 2014, 07:44

53. Jango_Fred (Posts: 58; Member since: 17 Dec 2008)


This is genuinely so much more enjoyable than the usual ignoramuses that post in response to Phone Arena articles. Thank you

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