Analysis

Saving smartphones from the plague of broken screens

5th July 2018
Alex Lynn

Everyone who owns a smartphone has experienced that moment of terror when it slips from your hand and is thrown by the unforgiving force of gravity onto the pavement, sometimes with a merry little bounce and other times with a deafening smack. Then you pick up your smartphone, dust off what you think for a hopeful moment is dirt but is actually little chips of the screen breaking away because sure enough, the ground had its way with the phone.

Currently, the main protection offered to your smartphone against inevitable butter-fingers is limited to extremely bulky, rubbery cases, which while usually adept at protecting your phone, come at the sacrifice of aesthetic, and the more practical concern of not actually being able to fit your phone into your pocket.

But a new piece of tech has been emerged, which may spare both your phone screen and your blood pressure as you watch it fall.

Philip Frenzel, a student at Germany’s Aalen University, dropped and cracked so many of his phones that he decided to take matters into his own hands and invent a solution. Frenzel’s phone protector comes in the form of a discreet phone case which springs to life when it senses itself being dropped.

Unlike the much bulkier designs for mini airbag systems, patented by Amazon and Sony involving pressurised air, the system developed by Frenzel instead sees eight arms spring out of the discreet case. When the phone detects freefall, two arms snap out from each corner, curling in opposite directions, so that your phone is protected whichever way up it lands as the arms act like bumpers, absorbing the shock of the fall.

You don’t even have to replace the case each time you drop your phone either, instead the device allows you to simply push the extended arms back into the case, ready for the next time you drop your phone. This also means that if the case falsely senses freefall, such as if it is jostling around in a bag, the case can simply be reset with no loss or hassle.

For his innovative protective phone case, Frenzel has been awarded the honour of outstanding work in the field of mechatronics by the German Society for Mechatronics.

Frenzel is reportedly working out the kinks with the case while he is waiting for the patent for his invention to be approved, after which he intends to begin crowdfunding via Kickstarter, likely within a month.

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