Apple has just been granted a new patent by the USPTO for a system that allows an iPhone to re-orient itself during freefall, helping reduce the risk of damage upon impact. The patent filing describes how the device will change its angle mid-flight while also calculating how best to shift itself to make sure damage is minimized.
The system works using existing technology, which is the iPhone's in-built vibrator motor to alter the angle of the fall. However, it's not that easy, given that the tech requires variation of the vibration from the motors that were present in iPhones launched before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. (The new iPhones use a different sort of tech to provide users with haptic feedback).
Using the vibrator motors is only half the story however, as the tech will also require the use of the phone's various sensors. These include the accelerometer, GPS, gyroscopes, and one we haven't seen in any iPhone yet – an ultrasonic emitter. These sensors will determine the phone’s trajectory, spin and angle of descent in real-time.
The information will then have to be processed, and instruct the vibrator motors in such a way that they alter the device's center of gravity. The proposed solution to help reduce damage upon dropping an iPhone is a novel, and seemingly over-engineered method to do so.
However, it's mostly the display which ends up breaking in an impact, and unless those get stronger (Sapphire strong), the iPhone's mid-flight reorientation prowess will be just a mere party trick.