Breaking news: bumpers for iPhones

Apple has secured a patent worthy of James Bond’s Q for a system that deploys protective bumpers while an iPhone is hurtling towards the pavement.

It could save owners from joining the cracked-screen brigade who put up with handset displays that they struggle to see or control, rather than pay Apple’s repair fees of £136-plus.

The patent indicates that shock absorbers would be built into the phone’s corners and pop out before impact to protect both the casing and the glass.

The phone’s accelerometer and other sensors would detect when the device is in free fall and determine whether to trigger the mechanism.

“The length of time in free fall may be used to calculate the height and velocity of movement and thus to make a determination whether the device has been dropped or merely set down,” according to the filing.

A second element of the design could prevent phones coming a cropper in bathroom or other aquatic mishaps.

The patent states: “The shock absorbers may include buoyant material which permits the portable electronic device to float in the event that it is dropped or otherwise exposed to water. Devices may be dropped into a lake, ocean, or even a bathtub or sink within the home.

“By enabling the device to float, this may permit the user time to retrieve the device and prevent damage.”

Although this delicately avoids mention of the loo, around 15 to 20 per cent of mobile users have at some point dropped their handset down the pan, according to surveys.

This is not the company’s first fall-breaking patent. Last year it secured rights to a device that would shift the phone’s centre of gravity during a fall to protect vulnerable components on impact — in other words, to make the phone turn in the air like a falling cat.

Apple is not the only company to have considered extreme measures to protect devices from tumbles. Amazon has previously patented airbags that could inflate when its Kindle e-reader is dropped from a height.

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