This is Scientific American's 60-Second Tech. I'm Larry Greenemeier. Got a minute?
You probably know at least half a dozen people walking around with cracked smartphone screens.
These devices may be everywhere, but they're not built to last.
Smartphone companies figure you'll just buy a new one.
Still, Apple is at least thinking about ways to make their gadgets more resilient.
The U.S.Patent and Trademark Office recently awarded the company a patent for an electronic device that could determine when it is in freefall and then prepare itself for impact.
The future device would quickly rearrange or even eject internal components to change its center of mass.
It might even alter its trajectory with an airfoil or mini compressed-gas thruster.
Either way, the gadget would land in a way that causes the least damage.
Such a system is a lot more complicated than simply making a more durable screen, which is high on a lot of customers' wish lists.
Apple had been toying with tougher screens that use what's called sapphire glass for the iPhone 6,
but its supplier apparently couldn't correctly produce the necessary synthetic sapphire.
So iPhone users now get the industry-standard Gorilla Glass touchscreen and a glimpse at a future potentially populated with smartphones that even fall intelligently.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American's 60-Second Tech. I'm Larry Greenemeier.