Imagine a future iPhone that would automatically detect your clumsiness, knowing when it was dropped. Then in a split second the device inflates a liquid bladder between the glass display and the chassis of the iPhone to protect the screen from impact. This high-tech shock mount would absorb the vibrations from the impact and prevent cracked screens.
Sound like science fiction? Although we haven't seen this invention released on any mobile computing products, according to Patently Apple the company filed a patent for this drop protection system in the first half of 2010. It could be just what the doctor ordered if Apple continues to use glass so prominently in its mobile computing products.
An iPhone shock mount could be devised of new materials including foam, gel, polymer or silicone rubber and would be an incredibly thin layer between the display glass and device body. Drop detection would take place via the accelerometer, which would be tasked with noting an abnormally quick movement towards the ground. Sounds like a complicated system, however attempts to strengthen glass have only been able to achieve so much.
Regardless of the fact that Apple has strengthened glass on recent iPhone models using alumino silicate glass (now known as Gorilla glass), they continue to look at options in the patent to make the screen even more resistant to breakage. Treating the glass with a potassium-containing solution or using borosilicate or sodalime glass could increase shock resistance. The key remains the innovative shock mount, which would be tunable to specific frequencies of glass vibration and cancel out the effects on the screen surface.