I have dropped more phones than I care to remember, which is definitely a questionable quality in somebody who, in part, reviews phones for a living. Fortunately – or unfortunately depending on how you look at it – every handset that has got up close and personal with concrete has belonged to me. Ian the iPhone 3GS, Norman the Note 2 and Gary the Galaxy S7 all required expensive surgery to fix the glass thanks to Alan the Klutz over here.
I’m not the only butterfingered person in the world, of course, and phone repair shops are thriving – even taking up residence in disused phone boxes. We know that prevention is better than the cure, but in the world of smartphone cases, prevention sure is ugly. Prevention typically involved coating your phone in layers of hideous plastic – it’s like wearing a sumo suit at all times to avoid grazing your knee.
What if there was a better way? Enter Philip Frenzel, an engineer from Aalen University. His vision: a smart-looking iPhone case which only deploys its safety measures when it detects that its slipped through your fingers – like an airbag for your smartphone.
It sounds too good to be true, right? But apparently not. It’s won the top award from the German Society for Mechatronics, and you can see it in action here or in the animation below.
As you can see, it’s not quite an airbag. Instead, sensors within the case detect the handset is in freefall, prompting it to spring eight protective horns ensuring it harmlessly bounces to safety. Pick it back up, clip the horns back in and carry on with your day, making a mental note that you’ve just saved a mess screen-fixing money you can now fritter away elsewhere.
A patent is on the way, and in July the case will appear on Kickstarter. It certainly looks very impressive, although currently we just have the video and German Society of Mechatronics’ word that it’ll work so brilliantly in real-world conditions. If it does – and isn’t prone to painful pocket-scraping false positives – then this could very well be the future of phone cases, where every phone takes its inspiration from Transformers…