Although the iPhone is specifically mentioned in the patent language, this technology could extend to any device. It works via a sensor that detects when a device is in free fall. Better still, it knows how the device is positioned relative to the ground, and makes internal adjustments accordingly.
When this happens, the mechanism can re-position the device while in flight and have the impact only affect a non-vital area or portion of the handset. It does so by changing its angular velocity, device positioning or device rotation.
From the patent, Apple states:In one example, the protective mechanism is configured to alter the device orientation as the device is falling. This may allow a less vulnerable portion of the device to impact the surface at the end of a freefall. For example, the protective mechanism may be activated to rotate the device so that it may impact a surface on its edge, rather than on a screen portion.
Don’t expect to see the invention in iOS devices anytime soon. Apple’s patent application was filed in September 2011. It credits Nicholas V. King, and Fletcher Rothkopf as its inventors.