There are many smartphone cases out there on the market today, but can they really shield your expensive handset from impact damage during accidental drops and falls?
Well, the genuinely protective ones tend to add considerable bulk and weight to your phone, not to mention the aesthetic compromise you have to make for protection that is, perhaps, not total.
The sleek and elegant ones that are visually pleasing are even worse, offering much too little in the way of protecting your phone if you happen to drop it.
All of that will, apparently, change with the Active Damping Case, designed to automatically pop out eight hook-like springy legs, or bumpers if you like, to cushion the impact when a free falling phone hits the ground.
The brainchild of Philip Franzel, a student from Aalen University in Germany, the ADcase has built-in sensors that can automatically detect when your device is in a free fall and immediately deploy the bi-directional bouncy bumpers from all four corners of the case before it can, actually, hit the ground.
A possible downside to the ADcase could be more frequent drops, as the user is likely to get, somewhat, careless with that kind of protection.
Here’s a video that shows how the phone bounces around harmlessly after a drop, and how the user can pick it up as it comes to a rest, and fold the bumpers/legs back into the ADcase to get it ready for the next drop.
Franzel, who likes to call his prototype an airbag for smartphones, won the top honor from the German Society for Mechatronics for his, potentially, game-changing invention.
While the case appears to offer near perfect protection when it comes to saving your phone from damage when dropped on a flat surface, no footage has been made available to indicate that the outcome would be as great if you, by chance, drop your phone on a jagged or an uneven surface.
What Franzel’s prototype clearly demonstrates is that no part of your phone’s chassis or screen can come in contact with an even surface, provided the bumpers deploy correctly, and in time.
As mentioned earlier, there are four pairs of these retractable legs – one for each corner – with each pair popping-out in opposite directions to give protection to, both, the front and rear of your phone.
Nothing has been said, however, about the kind of measures put in place to prevent the bumpers from popping out accidentally, in the pocket, in the hand, or elsewhere.
The ADcase prototype is a mere 4.9mm in thickness and uses a battery for the integrated sensors to detect when your phone is in a free fall.
Franzel has patented the technology and is preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign, as early as July this year, and we should soon see the commercial version of ADcase in the not too distant future, hopefully.
As of now, there is no information on pricing, as well.
According to the ADcase website, the bouncing case will initially be offered for the following iPhone models, including iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus; iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; iPhone 8 and 8 Plus; and, of course, the iPhone X.
While Franzel’s work is commendable in all respects, and while he is definitely deserving of the honor bestowed on him by German Mechatronics, his invention cannot be called one of its kind in an absolute sense of the phrase.
Back in 2015, Apple patented a design for a system that was capable of protecting iPhone screens with the help of motorized retractable tabs that would deploy when the phone’s onboard sensors detected a free fall.
The patent, which Apple applied for under the title “Active screen protection for electronic devices,” stated that the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer and gyroscope had the potential to sense when the phone was falling.
The basic premise of Apple’s concept was to attach an iPhone or a similar device with a set of retractable tabs that could deploy outward, above the device screen, thereby leaving a gap between the screen and the surface the phone fell on.
The movable tabs were to be powered by actuators, or motors, attached to a mechanism not different from a rack and pinion drive, reported AppleInsider, at the time.
“Each motor is operably connected to a pinion that in turn meshes with one or more screen protectors, translating rotational motion into linear motion. Alternatively, an actuator might directly interface with a given tab,” the news and rumor website for Apple products and services wrote.
Drop sensing is a, rather, complex system that can, potentially, involve a variety of physical components, including positioning sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes; altitude sensors for environmental detection; as well as cameras that, together with specialized motion capture software, are quite capable of detecting fast-approaching objects, like the ground rushing up to meet a falling device, for example.
By emitting and capturing reflections of ultrasonic pulses, even audio components can be deployed to gauge height, speed and other metrics of a falling device.
While Apple has shown considerable interest in dynamic fall-protecting systems for its portable devices, over the years, it has never incorporated any patented technology involving complex mechanical solutions into its devices.
Instead, the company has concentrated its focus on less glamorous solutions, though just as high-tech, by incorporating material improvements to its devices to give it more protection from accidental damage.
To cite an example, the latest iPhones, 6s and upwards, are equipped with specialized Corning glass that is scratch- and break-resistant.
However, now that ADcase is making waves in the world of smartphone cases, Apple may take a relook at things as they stand and, for all we know, the Cupertino-based company may come up with an answer to Franzel’s creation.
However, until that happens, we can rest assured in the fact that we do have a near-perfect solution for falling phones to look forward to.