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Jeff Bezos Wants To Put an Airbag In Your iPhone 102

theodp writes "Don't want to pay Apple $199 to repair the cracked screen of the $199 iPhone you dropped? Neither, apparently, does Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. A patent application made public Thursday lists Bezos as an inventor of 'a system and method for protecting devices from impact damage,' which proposes using airbags, springs, and even a jet propulsion system to keep your iPhones, iPads, and other portable devices safe and out of the clutches of the Genius Bar. Let's hope there's an API — those gas cartridges could be a game-changer for fart apps!"
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Jeff Bezos Wants To Put an Airbag In Your iPhone

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  • Wow a nice protective case is not enough?
    • The force of deceleration is a function of how fast you are going and over how short a distance you stop. People's desire to not have huge, bulbous cases sharply limits the amount of nice, gentle, elastic deceleration the case gets to provide before the 'concrete period' of the descent begins...

      At the cost of additional complexity, airbags would theoretically give you all the advantages of having a case so comically thick that you would never use it, in a case that you would actually use.
    • by Gerzel ( 240421 )

      Often not.

      And this means that if anyone actually succeeds in making a usable airbag/spring system/jet system to do this then they will have to pay Jeff Bezos for the idea even if JB wasn't involved at all.

    • that's already been patented
  • Great. So if I toss my phone to someone it'll react like it's going to hit the ground. And, in the unlikely event that it just deploys spontaneously I don't want an airbag up against my ear.
  • Gas cartidge? (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by kimvette ( 919543 )

    They won't give iPhone or iPad users an SD slot or the ability to replace the battery without completely dismantling the phone, but will give us a gas cartridge?

    • by uncanny ( 954868 )
      Well of course, they would love to provide you with that service, just come into any store and have someone obviously vastly superior to yourself (hence, genius) simply install a new gas cartridge in your iphone for a small fee of $200!
    • And this gas cartridge is also an awesome excuse for the TSA to keep phones off of airplanes entirely! I see the plan here...
    • islaves are all full of hot air anyway so they'll just supply a hose to plug into your arse
  • by Oh Gawwd Peak Oil ( 1000227 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @03:53PM (#37072938)

    TFA, and TF Linked Patent Application, don't contain the words "Apple," "iPhone" or "iPad" at all. The headline of TFA says, "Smartphone."

    Did Slashdot substitute that with "iPhone" just to get the nerds all riled up? Wouldn't be the first time.

    • by jadin ( 65295 )

      It's probably meant for the Kindle. Mabye even a future 'smartphone' variety of the Kindle brand.

      Suggesting he's designing inventions for Apple seems fairly absurd considering.

    • You must be new here.
    • Did Slashdot substitute that with "iPhone" just to get the nerds all riled up?

      Heh. Check out apple.slashdot.org, the average comment count per-story is significantly higher than on the main page.

      Oh the fun of ad-supported news sites.

      • who doesn't like taking the piss out of islaves and microsoftcocks? -begins writing dodgy slashdot submission about apple discontinuing support for iphone 4 to force users to upgrade to new iphone running windows phone 7, which apparently runs on top of the linux kernel and violates gpl... flamewars are fun
  • Prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tangent3 ( 449222 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @03:54PM (#37072954)
  • How about a bug that causes the springs to deploy when your face is close to the screen while using Facetime. How about setting off the airbag in someone's pants both getting a good guffaw over the obvious fart-joke implication while simultaneously sterilizing the target. What about getting springs lodged in your leg while dancing or tripping down stairs. Oh yeah, nothing can pos-i-blie go wrong.
  • If you really want to minimize damage, how about just making devices more impact resistant instead? The concept of using complicated active-protection just ads more weight, complexity, and cost. Impact resistant materials would make for a better solution.

    • Like most smartphone manufacturers, they're already using the strongest glass that is economically viable which is almost always the part that breaks when a modern phone is dropped. And to be fair, it's a bit of a crap shoot, a small fall at just the right angle can shatter the glass while a dozen falls from a higher height may not. I, for one, have scratches and chips in the metal bezel of my phone, but not a single mark on the glass, and it's over 2 years old now.

    • /dad_mode

      If you really want to minimize damage, quit screwin' around and don't drop your fancy toys in the first place!

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @04:16PM (#37073236) Journal
      There are certainly designs and materials that are better and worse in terms of how well they make this tradeoff; but one problem with impact resistance(abundantly seen in recent trends in phone design) is that a number of the things that make a phone good at resisting impact ironically make it feel like cheap shit in use.

      Your basic free-on-contract snap-on-ABS-modular-carrier-branding-panels-and-not-especially-tight-tolerances dumbphone is actually pretty good at being resistant to drops. The ABS flexes, absorbing some of the energy, the battery door pops off and goes flying, and the LCD is a dinky little module loosely held behind a plastic cover by a ribbon cable and a couple of pegs. You can practically feel the thing flex when you try to use it; but it simply flexes and springs back when dropped.

      Your canonical contemporary smartphone, by contrast, is designed to feel like a solid 2001-but-with-a-touchscreen slab of the future. No flex, no wasted volume that acts as a 'crumple zone', toughened glass that is much more scuff resistant than plastic; but shatters rather than denting/scratching, etc. Feels impenetrable in use; but inelastic collisions are painful...
      • Sure, makes sense to me. So why not have the internal guts dampen the shock? Aside from the case and screen, most of the mass is from the battery. The rest of the weight is made up of the screen and circuit board. Maybe something as simple as silicone gel pads placed inside the device might be enough. Silicone gel has remarkable properties of impact shock absorption.

        Regardless of the nature of the design and their intrinsic tradeoffs, does anyone here seriously think "airbags" is the way to go? The concept

        • Some ruggedized systems do pretty much that. Lots of silicone or other rubber padding(there are also some neat non-newtonian gel materials in limited use, whose properties conveniently change according to the strength and speed of impact), flex space for vulnerable components like HDDs, and use of suitably flexible polycarbonate or other aesthetically-questionable-but-not-brittle case materials.

          All that adds bulk, though. As best I can tell(in the same way that everybody loaths wall-wart AC adapters; but
  • ....easy field-stripping and parts replacement?

    • Like the Motorolla Blur, perhaps? We've got them at work and we've had to replace a screen already (we've been using the Blur for about a month so far). $50, quick and easy. Generator service technicians are really hard on their phones. I'm sure it's not the only repairable phone out there, but it is the one in my pocket at the moment.

    • ....easy field-stripping

      What is the location of the field where this will be taking place?

  • by jaskelling ( 1927116 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @03:59PM (#37073040)
    If the phone senses it is falling, it will automatically dial your mother in law. Airbag deployed - phone saved. You're welcome. ;)
  • I believe the Acme mail order company shipped a similar set of springs to Wile E. Coyote back in the late 60s or early 70s for prior art. Coyote put them on his feet to try and catch Road Runner, but they didn't work. (I wonder what Acme's return policy was like?)
  • by oGMo ( 379 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @04:10PM (#37073178)


    The phone can at most, when dropped (as opposed to "be thrown"), accelerate at 1G, no? You can exceed that in a car. Or taking off in a plane. Rollercoasters can get upward of 4. Nothing like this thing exploding in your pocket when the light turns green.

    And the directional stuff I've seen on most are pretty laggy. Is there really time for it to wake up, determine which way is down, that it's heading there, that it's not a whale or bowl of petunias, and deploy an airbag?

    Another word: GLOVES. [thedailywtf.com]

    • Its not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end.

      When the phone lands it stops suddenly, leading to more (possibly much more) than 1G of acceleration in the opposite direction.

      • You've missed the point. In your car, the airbag deploys after the impact of the car with the tree/other car/other obstacle, but before you impact with the steering wheel or the side of the car. If the smartphone airbag deployed on impact, it would be too late -- the damage is done. The smartphone therefore has to predict the impact, which it can only do by detecting the fall. Unfortunately, the accelerometers in the phone don't know the difference between falling and other forms of acceleration....


    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Think about what you said. What does the phone see when you drop it? 1G? Nope, that's when you're holding it. It sees zero. If you're accelerating straight down in your car at 1G you're going to need more than airbags on your phone.

      But yes, probably not good to take in the vomit comet.

  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @04:12PM (#37073202)

    "pay Apple $199 to repair the cracked screen of the $199 iPhone you dropped?" is utterly wrong. A new iPhone with no new contract attached to it costs much more than $199 -- $649 to be precise.

    Paying $199 to have it replaced if totally destroyed is not that bad actually.

  • ...it's called phone insurance. You know, that lone option that 95% of people feel is a complete ripoff and don't buy it...You know, the same people who are more than willing to bend over and spend $200 on the latest iHipsterGadget, along with paying $80/month for the service.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Insurance shouldn't normally cost 10% of the total replacement cost per year. It also shouldn't come with the massive amount of fine print and red tape that it has.

      It's hardly a solution. Of course, neither is reactive armor.

  • Given Amazon's recent forays into Android space, I would assume Mr. Bezos carries an Android phone. If his phone is an iPhone, it would destroy the credibility of Amazon's Android market - in a lot of people's eyes, anyway.

  • Like many others have said, a case would be fine. Or even tether it to your pants if you're really paranoid about dropping or losing it. This invention would likely cost more than the alternatives. It would add to the weight and bulk of your phone. It's also likely that it would not be allowed on airplanes as airliners understandably have policies that disallow pressurized items from being on a plane (particularly in a carry-on, but the TSAs might get suspicious if they scan it in your baggage as well).

    • Yes. ORM-D [wikimedia.org] items - which include compressed CO2 cartridges - are prohibited from airplanes. You cannot even ship them via air freight.
  • If you said to a group of Freshman Mechanical Engineers, "Come up with a couple ideas to protect a device from impact," don't you think EVERY SINGLE ONE would propose this crap? How is this even close to being non-obvious. I can't think of a solution that is LESS obvious.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      I hope not. I'd fail them all for this idea.

      • I agree... I was kind of thinking of the brainstorming phases...

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )


          Way back in undergrad I took a robotics course, with the robots built out of lego (pre-mindstorms, we used HC11 based micro controller boards and lego we modified with a dremel). The first lab assignment was to build a chassis that could survive the metre and a half fall from the lab bench to the concrete floor. When you thought you had something that would work, the professor would walk over and... knock your robot off the bench. Airbags were not considered.

  • So you could buy a newer one.

  • There are ruggedized phones. Apple just doesn't make one.

    For what they charge, the screen should be sapphire, not glass. Sapphire sheet is neither rare nor expensive. Supermarket checkout scanners [seamarkonline.com] (and, especially, Home Depot) usually use sapphire windows. You can drag metal cans and tools across those for years without scratching them.

    Then there's the whole silliness of needing a case to protect an iPhone. If the thing was designed right [pcmag.com], you wouldn't need a case to protect it. There are phones that [pcmag.com]

    • A lot of phones use Gorilla glass - the toughest glass made. It is not designed to be weak or designed poorly it is designed to be on par with typical smart phones. They don't sell a rugged version of the iPhone. Bug apple if you want one; otherwise get something else.

  • Thank you thank you, I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip the waitress!

  • by ArcCoyote ( 634356 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @05:17PM (#37074014)

    But I do want that going off in a phone thief's trousers!
    Can we get the "iED" option added to Find My iPhone?

    (FYI: airbag cartridges are an "are you fscking kidding me" item for carry-on or checked baggage.)

    CAPTCHA: blister. Yeah, I bet it would.

  • I guess he misunderstood the "information superhighway" metaphor.

  • mite b coo- err, DANGEROUS.
  • like cars, phones are designed for high maintenance costs. you don't really think apple because the richest company in the world because it sells quality products do you?

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