Apple plans iPhone that always falls on its feet
Apple is working on a system that detects when a dropped iPhone is falling, then spins it around so that it lands safely without smashing the screen.
The idea sounds like an early April Fool - or maybe something that only a cat can do – but it in fact comes from plans filed by Apple to the US Patent Office.
The “Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device” patent application says it aims to prevent some or all of the damage to any electronic device with a processor – such as a tablet or a laptop – but specifically mentions the iPhone.
The system needs a sensor to detect when the device is falling and how it is positioned relative to the ground, according to the website Appleinsider.com.
Position and speed of falling could be measured using simple gyroscopes, accelerometers or position sensors, although the patent also mentions more sophisticated equipment such as GPS and imaging sensors.
Data on how and when impact is going to occur is fed into a processor that must make a decision on how best to hit the ground to avoid damage.
The system must then - and this is the really difficult part - reorientate the device in mid-air so it lands as flat as possible.
Here, the patent application suggests a number of solutions: the movement of a weighted mass within the device; aeroplane-like foils that extend out from the surface of the device; and a thrust mechanism such as a small gas-propulsion device.
Other methods mentioned look to counter the problem of a device being pulled onto the floor by a trailing power or headphone cable.
The patent explores the possibility that cables could be forcibly ejected when rapid movement is detected to prevent the device being pulled to the ground.
The system does not appear to be close to going into production, and leaks about such a seemingly fanciful system may be met with some cynicism at a time when Apple is under fire for ceding ground to rival Samsung.
A phone that never smashed, however, would certainly capture the imagination of the smartphone-buying public.
Richard Holt, Telegraph.co.uk