Fallen, but unbroken? – Apple’s patent on shatterproof glass for iPhones

broken-phone-1241554These days every individual is in possession of a touchscreen phone, be it an Android phone or the ever popular Apple iPhone. The one worry clouding every mind is the increased responsibility of securing the phone from accidental screen shattering or cracking. In an attempt to altogether banish this problem, Apple recently got published, a patent under the aegis of the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), for “Active Screen Protection for Electronic Device”.[i]

The patent comprises of numerous screen guards placed directly above the main screen, which are transferable between a protracted and retracted position. Also included is a method for sensing as to when the device has been dropped and is in peril of damage; in other words Apple has invented something of a shock absorber. The said screen protector contains various flaps at each junction of the display screen.[ii] The radar/sensor identifying the fall or drop may utilize an inertial sensor, camera, altitude sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS sensor, or motion sensor. Apple asserts that at least one motor would be used to move the screen protectors, hence reiterating the likelihood of multiple motors.

Operating the tab movements are aforementioned motors/actuators, in other words, catalysts, which are attached to an apparatus, similar to a rack and pinion drive. Therefore, each motor is feasibly connected to the said pinion, which in turn interlocks with one or more screen protectors, hence transforming rotational motion into linear motion. On the other hand, an actuator may openly border with a given tab.

The task of sensing a fall or a drop, cascades to an assortment of constituents, maximum of which previously come mounted in current Apple devices. Location sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes, or environmental detectors like altitude sensors, are therefore apt for the job, although Apple opines that cameras are able to perceive propinquity with a fast-incoming object (e.g., the ground) with expert motion capturing software. They also state that audio mechanisms could be utilised in order to regulate height, speed and other similar metrics by radiating and netting reproductions of ultrasonic pulsates. Hence, after sensing the fall or drop occurrence, spreading a device’s screen protectors and engaging the drop or fall, Apple’s system again taps its sensors to check whether the motion has stopped. Once a fall or drop occurrence concludes, or a pre-set timer terminates, the apparatus restores the screen protectors to a withdrawn/retracted position.

According to patent experts and tech-savvy geeks, when Apple may implement this technology on iPhone’s is unknown as the said patent was filed early in 2014; as patents are not always exploited considering the constantly changing technology world over, also a reason whilst the goings on in the patent approval procedure. Quoting Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert comic strip, who proclaimed that; “we’re a planet of nearly six billion ninnies living in a civilisation that was designed by a few thousand amazingly smart deviants”,[iii] it would be safe to state that, going by this principle, despite all progressions, mankind’s intellectual acumen is not in stride with the fast paced technology or vice versa!


[i] U.S. Patent Application No. 20150301565, USPTO, Published in USPTO: October 22, 2015.

[ii] Constituted from plastic, plastic film, polyethylene terephthalate, a polymer, thin metal or metal.

[iii]Dilbert, Scott Adams, Dilbert Quotes, Available at: http://homepage.eircom.net/~odyssey/Quotes/Popular/Comics/Dilbert_Other.html.