Future iPhones might notify users when their coverglass cracks

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 16
An Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday details a method of detecting and notifying users of cracks in a device coverglass, even if the break is a hairline fracture.


Source: USPTO


Display damage due to drops, impacts and other sudden shocks is the bane of many a smartphone user. Apple is working on technology to help users determine when a device is cracked and perhaps prevent such events from occurring in the first place.

Described in Apple's filing for "Coverglass fracture detection," the proposed system utilizes a comprehensive network of sensors and software to detect the formation of cracks, or potential cracks, in a protective display cover.

As noted by Apple, screens are more susceptible to damage than other components when a device is subjected to strong external forces. Despite extensive research into the subject, and rapid development of robust screen cover materials, manufacturers are not always able to determine the series of events that lead to screen fractures.

In some embodiments, the invention uses touch sensors already embedded in device displays to detect cracks, as such fissures are also likely to separate portions of the active matrix substrate. Alternatively, piezoelectric actuators can be positioned under the coverglass and send out vibrations targeting various sections of the screen. Cracks, chips and other defects might be detected depending on vibratory response.


Illustration of ideal piezoelectric actuator placement in Apple's crack detection system.


In yet another embodiment, emitters positioned on one end of the display fire pulses of light, perhaps off mirrors or through prisms, to partner sensors on the opposite end. Measurements are taken as the light propagates through the display, with expected path deflections indicating imperfections. Light readings are useful in detecting breaks that extend to the interior of the display cover, Apple says.

Importantly, the detection system is in some instances capable of discerning hairline cracks from webbed cracking, as well as fracture depth, length, width and propagation rate.

In some cases, the detection system is triggered when motion, proximity and orientation sensors detect a sudden deceleration indicative of a fall.

If a crack is detected, the system might be configured to notify a user and pinpoint the damaged location onscreen, beneficial in the case of hairline fractures. In addition to a notification, a message might be generated including information about sensors or other equipment that might be rendered unusable due to the cracking.


Emitters bounce light off mirrors (410) and across screens to receivers to detect damage.


In some embodiments users could be asked to confirm perceived cracks highlighted onscreen, perhaps by circling the area with their finger. This information, along with diagnostic data gleaned from onboard sensors, can be used to create a composite timeline of events leading up to the break. Apple might then leverage this knowledge to design a screen more resistant to cracking.

Whether Apple plans to introduce the system to consumers is unknown, though screen damage is a real issue for smartphone owners. Display replacement and repair accounts for a good chunk of after-sale service and is common enough that screen cracking is its own line item in Apple's AppleCare+ warranty program.

Apple's screen cracking detection patent application was first filed for in August 2015 and credits Benjamin J. Pope and Miguel C. Christophy as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    This is also a nice way to increase repair revenue, instilling a bit of fear. Although I see many people walk around with horribly broken screens continuing to use them to avoid repair costs. Still, if this increases even a single-digit percentage of screen repairs that is easy money..
    Fatman
  • Reply 2 of 19
    This strikes me as a possible diagnostic mode, better suited to the Genius Bar than to the end user.
    mkrewsonFatman
  • Reply 3 of 19
    I'm waiting for the Apple Watch app that notifies the wearer when their heart stops beating. That will be the "killer" app.
    mwhiteGeorgeBMacFatmanwatto_cobra80s_Apple_Guy
  • Reply 4 of 19
    ...err I don't need my phone to message me saying I have a big a$$ crack in it. It's pretty evident
    Fatman
  • Reply 5 of 19
    My daughter didn't need a app to tell her that her screen broke, when the pepper shaker fell out of the cupboard 3 days ago and broke it  :s
    Apple makes pretty good profit by charging $130 to fix it.
  • Reply 6 of 19
    mobiusmobius Posts: 341member
    jsmythe00 said:
    ...err I don't need my phone to message me saying I have a big a$$ crack in it. It's pretty evident
    The reaction of somebody who only read the headline.
    randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    Agree with the above comments. The only way I can see this being useful is if there was a hairline crack taht wasn't visible but was otherwise affecting the functioning of the phone. Otherwise I can see the crack just fine, and iPhones have an amazing ability to keep working just fine, even with a shattered screen. In the event they it doesn't work just fine, the big spiderweb crack will give me a pretty good clue as to why.

    This is definitely not something for which I'd be willing to pay extra or sacrifice other features.
  • Reply 8 of 19
    Hey, how about this brilliant innovation ... don't make smart phones out of glass! Hire the Motorola team - they've already figured it out.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    michelb76 said:
    This is also a nice way to increase repair revenue, instilling a bit of fear. Although I see many people walk around with horribly broken screens continuing to use them to avoid repair costs. Still, if this increases even a single-digit percentage of screen repairs that is easy money..

    I can't agree less.  I expect that repairs at Apple are considered a nuisance primarily rather than a profit center.  They charge a lot to discourage frivolous repairs.  So I am very confident that no one proffered the argument that you are making.

    If Apple cared about repairs profits they would brag about it on the quarterly financial calls and break out those terrific profit numbers.

    watto_cobramacxpressStrangeDays
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Fatman said:
    Hey, how about this brilliant innovation ... don't make smart phones out of glass! Hire the Motorola team - they've already figured it out.

    Transparent aluminum is available now?
    watto_cobramacxpressStrangeDays
  • Reply 11 of 19
    mobius said:
    jsmythe00 said:
    ...err I don't need my phone to message me saying I have a big a$$ crack in it. It's pretty evident
    The reaction of somebody who only read the headline.

    Exactly.  This isn't about alerting the user.  It's about the device understanding its own state (and knowing when it happened).  Instrumenting (AKA allowing things to collect data about their own operations and condition) is very common and important for certain software and servers and whatnot.  This just extends it to an end-user device.
    watto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 12 of 19
     
    mobius said:
    jsmythe00 said:
    ...err I don't need my phone to message me saying I have a big a$$ crack in it. It's pretty evident
    The reaction of somebody who only read the headline.
    If it's a visible crack, I know I have it.

    If it's not a visible crack, I don't care if I have it.

    The only possible function of this is to void your warranty if there's an invisible crack.
    teaearlegreyhot
  • Reply 13 of 19
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 1,448member
    Fatman said:
    Hey, how about this brilliant innovation ... don't make smart phones out of glass! Hire the Motorola team - they've already figured it out.

    Transparent aluminum is available now?
    Yup, a facepalm moment. :-(
    macxpress
  • Reply 14 of 19
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 1,448member

    darkvader said:
     
    mobius said:
    jsmythe00 said:
    ...err I don't need my phone to message me saying I have a big a$$ crack in it. It's pretty evident
    The reaction of somebody who only read the headline.
    If it's a visible crack, I know I have it.

    If it's not a visible crack, I don't care if I have it.

    The only possible function of this is to void your warranty if there's an invisible crack.
    If you bring a phone in with a cracked screen, they're not going to fix it under warranty anyway. If there's an invisible crack then it's still a crack, so I'm not sure how this is a dastardly scheme to void warranties. 
    pscooter63
  • Reply 15 of 19
    MacProMacPro Posts: 15,983member
    Surely self-healing glass must be on the drawing board by now?  ;)
  • Reply 16 of 19
    Is this intended for the blind? 
  • Reply 17 of 19
    Fatman said:
    Hey, how about this brilliant innovation ... don't make smart phones out of glass! Hire the Motorola team - they've already figured it out.

    Transparent aluminum is available now?
    Plastics, glass/plastic 'alloys'using transparent films. Hire a damn engineering team to figure it out.Glass is antiquated - they been using it since medieval times. Motorola's Droid uses layers. Corning has made some progress. Hey, I'm the biggest Apple fan boy out their but I have no problem calling them out when they can do better.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 1,448member
    Fatman said:
    Fatman said:
    Hey, how about this brilliant innovation ... don't make smart phones out of glass! Hire the Motorola team - they've already figured it out.

    Transparent aluminum is available now?
    Plastics, glass/plastic 'alloys'using transparent films. Hire a damn engineering team to figure it out.Glass is antiquated - they been using it since medieval times. Motorola's Droid uses layers. Corning has made some progress. Hey, I'm the biggest Apple fan boy out their but I have no problem calling them out when they can do better.
    I would have expected the biggest Apple fanboy to know that Apple already uses Corning glass. 

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/16/07/20/corning-unveils-gorilla-glass-5-evolutionary-successor-for-iphone-screens

  • Reply 19 of 19
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 3,072member
    Fatman said:
    Fatman said:
    Hey, how about this brilliant innovation ... don't make smart phones out of glass! Hire the Motorola team - they've already figured it out.

    Transparent aluminum is available now?
    Plastics, glass/plastic 'alloys'using transparent films. Hire a damn engineering team to figure it out.Glass is antiquated - they been using it since medieval times. Motorola's Droid uses layers. Corning has made some progress. Hey, I'm the biggest Apple fan boy out their but I have no problem calling them out when they can do better.
    So little clue yet you speak with such confidence!! Must be something in the air in 2017.
    "Glass is antiquated"... Just like silicon is antiquated (sic), their not using blown glass on these phones, but Corning's latest glass.
    They tried doing something incredible by using Saphire (that good old "transparent aluminum...) and it turned into a billion dollar disaster. If every was so easy, they would already have done it.
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