An Airbag for Your iPhone Is an Absurd Idea

Two Amazon executives want to fix the shattered screen problem

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Everybody has a friend with a cracked iPhone screen--or Android or whatever. This is what happens when you drop the expensive little things on the ground. A quick solution to keep this from happening? Buy a case and/or be careful. A completely complicated and ridiculous solution? Invent a smartphone airbag system.

That's exactly what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and executive Greg Heart are proposing in a patent application made public this week. The proposed invention would use the phone's various sensors--gyroscope, infrared, camera--to detect if if the phone is moving and determine the risk of impact. If it decides that the device is hurtling towards the sidewalk, it would trigger one of three proposed safety devices: an airbag system (Fig. 2B), jets of cushioning air (Fig. 3) or Inspector Gadget-style springs (Fig. 4).

If this seems a little absurd, that's because it is. However, absurdity is in fashion when it comes to smartphone protection schemes. A Japanese company is now offering a case that looks like a human hand. (You can choose between a woman's hand and a child's hand.) Another weird start-up is selling "Phoneballs." (Ten percent of every purchase goes to testicular cancer research.) You can also try the Bruce Willis-inspired Gadget Holster, which is "designed to combine the features and functionality of a protective iPhone case, a traditional men's pocket wallet, and a comfortable 'carry all' shoulder holster." Or there's the Little Black Book, literally a bound book in which to store your phone.

The competion for strange smartphone protection looks tough. But hey, if the iPhone airbag system idea doesn't work out, Bezos can always fall back on his fledgling spaceship company. Or his $18 billion net worth.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.