As anybody who has ever sat through an aeroplane safety briefing will know, the brace position can limit the damage should you come hurtling to Earth at speed.
Phones facing shorter journeys are considerably less protected, as the burgeoning industry of screen replacement services proves. Foldable phones are even more at risk, not just because of the delicate components that give them their superpower, but because the cost of replacing said screens is prohibitively expensive.
Apple is seemingly working on a way to counter this, which is a bit weird given it doesn’t have any foldable devices yet. But hey: no harm patenting something now, just so its lawyers can be at the ready should anybody produce anything similar.
Spotted by Patently Apple, the patent, titled “Self-Retracting Display Device And Techniques For Protecting Screen Using Drop Detection”, has two solutions for foldable devices. Upon detecting a fall, the device either folds itself to limit the damage or the screen physically breaks away from the device.
“Mobile devices with foldable and rollable displays can use a sensor to detect vertical acceleration (e.g., acceleration with respect to the ground) to determine if the mobile device has been dropped,” the Apple patent explains. This could allow a foldable device to “retract at least partially.”
But for devices that are essentially two screens stuck together — well, they could just fall apart in the air. The process, Apple writes, “can include activating a release mechanism for a hinged connection between a first display and a second display of the electronic device when the vertical acceleration exceeds a predetermined threshold.”
Would this make a difference? Yes, says Apple. “Even folding the display to an angle less the 180 degrees can afford some protection,” the company claims, “because the mobile device can strike edges of the mobile device instead of the display itself.”
But, of course, not all drops are the same. A short sharp drop may cause less damage in general, but the sensors will have less time to kick in and react. A long drop, meanwhile, will give the phone plenty of time to get in position and contact its next of kin, but is far more likely to be fatal.
All the same, it’s an interesting idea, and if done right could make folding devices seem that bit more appealing in the long run. Apple has plenty of patents for foldables, but is yet to actually make one — though some people seem to think a foldable iPad is a likely first step.