All smartphone owners have experienced that heart-in-mouth moment when their mobile slips from their hand and plummets toward the ground. Apple has been looking at an outlandish new solution that could help prevent the worst possible outcome in these situations with a spring-loaded bumper system that deploys when it detects the phone is in free-fall.
The patent, spotted by Silicon Beat, describes a special type of phone casing that features four shock-absorbing bumpers built into the corners. When sensors in the iPhone sense a sharp increase in velocity acceleration consistent with the device being dropped, the bumpers pop out to shield it from the impact, similar to a car's airbag.
The system doesn't just protect the phone from solid ground either, doubling as a flotation device in the event that you drop your iPhone in the pool, bath or even toilet. "The shock absorbers may include buoyant materials which permits the portable electronic device to float in the event that it is dropped or otherwise exposed to a water environment," the document reads.
This would make it easier for you to fish your iPhone out of the water, particularly if you dropped it in a lake or river, where it might be difficult or otherwise dangerous to try to retrieve it. The system could also be applied to other electronic devices such as tablets and laptops.
The patent was filed with the United States Trademark and Patent Office in May 2014 and awarded to on 4 April this year, but there's no guarantee that Apple will actually develop such a product. It should be noted that you could get the same, if not a better level of protection from a decent smartphone case, and that most smartphones now come with some level of water-resistance anyway.
They still won't float, but at least it'll protect you against most water-related mishaps.