Apple looking to improve water sensors for detecting iPhone damage

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014


Apple has shown interest in detecting water damage on portable devices like an iPhone or iPad through circuitry rather than the current color-coded liquid contact indicators found on existing devices.



The pursuit of a better, more fair and more accurate water sensor was revealed this week in a new patent application discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Mechanisms for Detecting Exposure to Water in an Electronic Device," it describes circuit-based methods, including the use of a water-soluble glue, as potentially a better way of detecting water damage.



Apple's filing notes that when a customer attempts to return a malfunctioning product, personnel at the point of sale are sometimes unqualified to properly check whether or not the device has water damage. As a result, customers frequently receive replacements for products that were damaged in methods not covered under warranty.



These erroneous replacements can prove costly to a company, and so Apple has shown interest in devising a better and more accurate way of assessing water damage to its portable devices. Pictured in the patent applications are an iPhone, iPad and iPod.



In one potential solution, Apple describes an "immersion detection mechanism" included as part of the internal components of a device. This water sensor could be covered in a water-soluble conductive glue that would electrically insulate the gap between two conducting pieces.



In the event that an iPhone or another device were to be submerged in water, this conductive glue would be permanently eroded by the water. The system would detect a change in impedance of the path, and would signal an alert to a data processor that would log water exposure events within the device.











Another potential method described by Apple involves several water sensors arranged and connected as a randomly accessible sensor array. A current can be passed through these conductive paths, and a change in impedance can be detected, which would signal an alert to a data processor that would log potential water damage events.



The application, made public this week, was first filed in August of 2010. It is credited to inventor Timothy M. Johnson.











Currently, all of Apple's mobile products come LSIs (Liquid Submersion Indicators) or LCIs (Liquid Contact Indicators) that turn from white or silver to a pinkish red when they come in contact with liquid. The sensors are used by Apple to make it easier for its retail store "Geniuses" and third-party repair technicians to determine whether a device has failed as a result of liquid damage, which isn't covered under warranty.



But those sensors occasionally result in false positives, an issue that has led to at least one lawsuit. Apple's proposed invention could be a fairer and more accurate way of detecting water damage.



Apple has apparently shown interest in water-proofing future devices with technology made by HzO. Their product, called "WaterBlock," was shown off at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.



Officials with HzO indicated that they have been in talks with Apple about using WaterBlock in future devices like the iPhone. In fact, the company used the iPhone 4S, along with iPads and iPods, for demonstrations of their product at the show.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • eriamjheriamjh Posts: 966member
    Innovations for detecting water damage are great if they do not have false positives invalidating legitamate warranty claims. Apple can absorb false negatives.
  • charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,083member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post




    But those sensors occasionally result in false positives, an issue that has led to at least one lawsuit. Apple's proposed invention could be a fairer and more accurate way of detecting water damage.



    This is why, according to my sources, they open all phones to check for internal liquid damage if only one of the two external sensors is tripped or if it is only a light color (the more water the darker the color of the sensor). particularly if the sensor tripped isn't related to the issue being reported. So tripping the sensor in the dock connector wouldn't affect the headphone jack not working and thus shouldn't be the only reason for refusing service. Tripping the sensor and the phone won't charge is a different case. Tripping the dock connector sensor and there is water in the phone, tripped sensors in the phone or signs that someone replaced the sensors inside and you are SOL
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    That's clever. They could plug in the phone and see what the results are without looking inside the device with a flashlight and magnifying glass. They might be able to get a time stamp when the impedance happened.
  • beakernx01beakernx01 Posts: 56member
    This is good news. My iPhone 4 went totally bonkers a couple of months ago. When I took it into the Apple Store, they said the moisture sensors in the phone jack and dock connector were both showing exposure to moisture. Having never gotten my phone wet, I couldn't believe it. They said it could have been condensation if I had left the iPhone on the bathroom counter while I took a shower, the steam causing it to trip. So they'd replace the phone for $150. When the tech went back to make the exchange, he opened the phone and saw that there was absolutely no water damage and that the *internal* moisture sensors were NOT flipped. So he gave me a new iPhone 4 under my regular Applecare warranty. For a while I was really disappointed, but I'm glad he did a double-check on the insides and made the right call. I hope better sensors can alleviate these kinds of false-positives.
  • wally626wally626 Posts: 72member
    Apple should invest the time and money on water detectors in just making the devices waterproof. iPads, iPhones, etc. are not openable by the user and only have three openings, the headphone jack, the 30-pin connector and the micro sim slot. Make these water resistant. It does not have to have a 15m rating, just as good as some of the weather resistant cameras. I you can make a DSLR weather resistant with all the doors, speakers, ports and buttons on them a iPhone should be easy.
  • hill60hill60 Posts: 6,974member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    That's clever. They could plug in the phone and see what the results are without looking inside the device with a flashlight and magnifying glass. They might be able to get a time stamp when the impedance happened.



    What happens when it fails to switch on?
  • cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    They could still crack it open. If there were visible signs of water seepage, they wouldn't need to verify it with circuitry.



    If there were no visible signs, it would be judged as a manufacturing defect since there would be little or no evidence of water damage. Full immersion would almost certainly leave some visual trace of damage though.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


    What happens when it fails to switch on?



    If the sensors fail to switch on and your phone is dead then Apple Geniuses will have no evidence that there is water damage so you're more likely to get a replacement.
  • mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,653member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wally626 View Post


    Apple should invest the time and money on water detectors in just making the devices waterproof.



    Exactly. From the end of the article:



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple has apparently shown interest in water-proofing future devices with technology made by HzO. Their product, called "WaterBlock," was shown off at last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.



    Officials with HzO indicated that they have been in talks with Apple about using WaterBlock in future devices like the iPhone. In fact, the company used the iPhone 4S, along with iPads and iPods, for demonstrations of their product at the show.



    Apple should get their act together and just do it. Stop fiddling about with water sensors and just make the devices waterproof!
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    Apple should get their act together and just do it. Stop fiddling about with water sensors and just make the devices waterproof!



    Apple is the most successful company in the world and this was just shown at CES in January so I don't understand your "get your act together" comment. I don't think this type of tech would need too much testing to make sure it doesn't cause other issues or make the equipment that can handle what Apple needs for all its devices but there would surely be some, perhaps no less than 6 months.



    For instance, how would the battery work with this coating? Can it work just as well with the connectors on both end are coated or would Apple have to solder it again like it did with the original iPhone... which made people unhappy.
  • mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,653member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Apple is the most successful company in the world and this was just shown at CES in January so I don't understand your "get your act together" comment.



    Yes, only shown at CES in January but I've known about this tech. for years so Apple really should have as well.
  • hodarhodar Posts: 187member
    I thought some of the newer water repelling treatments, which allow the electronics to operate, while submerged in liquid water, would make this effort completely wasted.



    http://www.phonesreview.co.uk/2012/0...roof-liquipel/
  • damn_its_hotdamn_its_hot Posts: 1,110member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    Yes, only shown at CES in January but I've known about this tech. for years so Apple really should have as well.



    This might be a company worth purchasing if they have a patent on the product. Apple certainly has the cash - try to copy that Samsung, HTC, Moto, etc?
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    Yes, only shown at CES in January but I've known about this tech. for years so Apple really should have as well.



    Then I wonder why Apple and or haven't contracted them at this point. I don't think I've read of any companies that sell waterproof CE that are also using this tech as an added precaution in case your sealed electronics obtain moisture.
  • desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    In one potential solution, Apple describes an "immersion detection mechanism" included as part of the internal components of a device. This water sensor could be covered in a water-soluble conductive glue that would electrically insulate the gap between two conducting pieces.



    Hmmm . . .

    electrically conductive glue that electrically insulates the gap between two conductors.

    That would indeed be a trick!
  • chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,527member
    Quote:

    The sensors are used by Apple to make it easier for its retail store "Geniuses" and third-party repair technicians to determine whether a device has failed as a result of liquid damage



    This is in incorrect.

    It allows the technicians to see if the device was exposed to water.

    It does nothing to indicate if the water caused the damage.

    It is simply an easier way to void the the warranty for the device manufacturer.
  • gtrgtr Posts: 3,211member
    Anybody know if Apple use these with any other products? (like keyboards)
  • ismofamismofam Posts: 39member
    I wish the article was written as "Apple looking to improve water resistance to eliminate iPhone damage" . If that is difficult, then add sensors that turn off circuitry before the damage can occur and provide the way to dry the phone.
  • gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,314member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    Then I wonder why Apple and or haven't contracted them at this point. I don't think I've read of any companies that sell waterproof CE that are also using this tech as an added precaution in case your sealed electronics obtain moisture.



    Samsung already said they planned to use HzO waterproofing in some of their phones this year. That should probably be a big ol' flag that Apple will end up buying them before letting Samsung use it.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Samsung already said they planned to use HzO waterproofing in some of their phones this year. That should probably be a big ol' flag that Apple will end up buying them before letting Samsung use it.



    Samsung says a lot of things.
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