New Apple patents: squeezable iPhones and drop immunity?

New Apple patents: squeezable iPhones and drop immunity?
A few new patents have been granted to Apple, revealing what kind of technologies the company may be working on for future iPhones. Among them, we have a squeeze feature, a-la Google Pixel 2 and HTC U12+, some pretty impressive indoor navigational tech, and camera flash improvements. Let's see what they are about!

Squeeze gently


It seems that Apple may be looking into an Edge Sense-like feature. One of the patents outlines a device that has a soft "concentration point". When the chassis is squeezed, the concentration point deforms and activates underlying sensors, which in turn speak to the device's software. It's unknown whether Apple wants to use this for Siri activation or any other function.

It's worth noting that Google's squeeze for Assistant and HTC's Edge Sense work in a slightly different manner — they utilize pressure sensors, placed along the devices' frames. It does sound like Apple's implementation could strive for better accuracy, but we'd say that the Google / HTC solution is already quite sensitive.

A flash in the pan


Apple is no stranger to pushing for improved LED flashes on its iPhones. The True Tone flash that the company has been using since the iPhone 5s uses one white and one amber LED to create a more balanced lighting. The iPhone 7 got an upgrade, upping the LED count to 4 for a brighter flash. Now, it seems the company is working on an even more advanced solution.



The patent outlines a quad-flash, like the one on the iPhone 7 generation and up, but each module is covered by a material that diffuses light differently. The software would choose how bright each LED needs to be to achieve the best balance in a scene. Alternatively, the patent talks about giving manual controls over this component to the user.

Manual camera controls? We must be dreaming...

Where is aisle 5 anyway?


Another patent outlines an interesting solution for navigating interior spaces. An array of wireless nodes would be installed in, say, a shop. Once the user device comes into range of the nodes, detected via a digital fence, it would be able to ping them separately and pinpoint the user's exact location inside the store. Then, they would be able to get precise navigation to what they are looking for, we assume with the help of a store-specific app, or an upgrade to Apple Maps.

I am the Juggernaut!


Last but not least, we have a new patent that outlines a feature that'd protect phones and tablets from drops. Now, we've seen something similar in a patent before — a component that would spray gas internally and spin the iPhone mid-air in order to have it land in a way that would be less damaging.



This one takes things to another level. In this patent, a special processor will calculate impact geometry, if the phone is hit with enough force. If the processor detects too much pressure around a sensitive component, it will move an internal component around so that the impact geometry is changed and the force is shifted towards another component, which is designed to absorb most of the brunt. Now, we imagine that'd have to work super-fast. We also imagine we won't be seeing it in iPhones any time soon.

sources: USPTO (1, 2, 3, 4) via Digital Trends

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24 Comments

1. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Like squeezing oranges in the morning wasn't enough...

5. sgodsell

Posts: 7034; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I think Motorola's shatter shield is easier and better than trying to move the phone in mid air while it is falling. That patend seems dumb. There have been patents for some laptops for years, where if the laptop senses a drop, it will try to protect the hard drive by moving the heads away from the platters. The other thing to remember is there is no moving parts in any smartphones today. The most susceptible thing on any smartphone is the display, and if the camera sticks out, then that is a problem for the cameras as well. Also the HTC U12 has no movable buttons, the volume and power buttons are only there for show. You squeeze them, and the sensors on the side of the phone pick that information up, and will either adjust the volume or turn off the display. It knows where the user is touching.

10. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

These aren't for practical purposes, it is just for patent security. These companies know the patent office doesn't have the resources to look into these, they'll just grant them and wait for the litigation to look into it. None of these features are coming to iPhones for years.

21. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2314; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Isn’t the Motorola Shatter shield scratch prone though?

24. WingMan

Posts: 263; Member since: Mar 28, 2008

Yes, It is crack proof cause it is plastic, but scratches easily

22. Leo_MC

Posts: 6935; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

When the repair shop tells you you also need to pay €200 for the taptic engine and €100 for new speakers (on top of €150 for the cracked display) because the fall has affected them, you'll change your mind.

2. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Edge Sense of U11 was considered gimmick.. This one has to be too when phone is reviewed.

3. NateDiaz

Posts: 1084; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

People cry innovation but call them gimmicks when implemented.

6. sgodsell

Posts: 7034; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

That latest HTC U12 has no physical power button or volume buttons. There is buttons there, but they are for looks only. The sequeeze sensors on the sides of the U12 pick that information up and know if you are pressing the power or volume buttons. That is actually pretty cool.

18. acme64

Posts: 124; Member since: Jul 13, 2015

was something wrong with buttons?

23. sgodsell

Posts: 7034; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Well if you want a complete water proof phone, then having absolutely no buttons means those areas are guaranteed to get NO water damage.

4. torr310

Posts: 1633; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Android fans take some innovation as gimmick; Apple fans take every gimmick as innovation. :P

7. AVVA1

Posts: 228; Member since: Aug 01, 2017

I think you can actually see innovation on those gimmicks but their implementation is somewhat lackluster?

9. worldpeace

Posts: 3106; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Too much innovations on one side, and lack of innovation on other... They need to call it innovation even if it's just useless gimmick because that's all they got :-/

8. tedkord

Posts: 17198; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Wow, a squeezable phone! Apple inventing something totally new that no one ever thought of or did before, certainly not HTC. Thank goodness they patented it, or some unethical, shady company might copy it!

11. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1313; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Indoor GPS sounds like a gimmick but it could be very useful for people with certain disabilities.

19. acme64

Posts: 124; Member since: Jul 13, 2015

if it has a use then by definition it isn't a gimmick,

12. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3094; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Thanks to HTC for pushing innovation forward.

13. RevolutionA

Posts: 390; Member since: Sep 30, 2017

Who cares. Apple will make it a trend. Then everyone will thank Apple obviously as they'll do it right way

14. tedkord

Posts: 17198; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Is the sky especially pink in your world?

15. sissy246

Posts: 7035; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

+100000000 His and a few others.

16. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1025; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

So they want to put moving mechanisms within the phone that will relocate sensitive components after a serious enough impact? 1. sounds like the component would be saved too late 2. I couldn't imagine how they could add any more internal components (sensors and the moving mechanisms) without compromising on overall size, or Battery size

17. fyah_king unregistered

Innovation!!!!!

20. Panzer

Posts: 280; Member since: May 13, 2016

Download Side Squeeze from the Playstore. It uses the barometric sensor in your waterproof device to mimic the function. Obviously if you are using a bulky case it won't work well. But I tried out with my Note 8 and Speck case worked reliably and didn't notice a battery drain. Not for me but maybe someone else likes it.

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